Three hundred sixty days ago, if you told me I’d be riding a zipline, I would have laughed. I would have just told you that things like that will happen in the next lifetime, or an alternate universe. I would have reminded you that there are other things to do in a nature park, like taking pictures of animals, exploring food options, or – preferably – getting out of there fast.
At three in the afternoon, though, the attendants were fitting me onto a harness. The pulleys were strapped, safety checks were made, and I was lowered into position. My body was tense. I was breaking out into a cold sweat just thinking about the things that could happen. The cables could break. The safety harness could be too loose, and will snap. Either way, I figured out certain doom more than the thrillride that lay ahead.
And then, the guide let go.
* * *
I never really believed in that whole “new year, new me” claptrap. Or New Year’s Resolutions. If it takes a new year – a January 1st – to change your whole outlook in life (much less motivate it), you need a little more faith in the way time works. Claptrap though these things may be, I think many of us make them because we want to hang on to that one thing that fills the pockets of uncertainty and ignorance on our part: hope.
“Wait and hope,” Alexandre Dumas once wrote. I think all the hoping is made on January 1, but all the waiting happens in the 364 days that remain after that one day of hope. It can be quite an eventful wait: where we all become witnesses to birth, growth, love, conflict, pride, aging, a second innocence and mere oblivion.
I guess it’s like ziplines: you just have under a minute, and everything whizzes you by as you swoop along, tethered to uncertainty. Everything about it is tenuous, dangerous even. Surely you can go about ziplining to admire the view, but there’s a thrill inside that’s waiting to be released. There are things waiting for you on the other edge, not the least of which is the chance for you to be back on the certainty of your own two feet, and solid ground.
I guess that’s why I don’t believe in “new year, new me:” I didn’t come out of the trials and tribulations of 2014 a “changed man.” A little burned, a little singed, maybe. At certain parts, maybe even irreparably broken, beaten, and scarred. But once everything is cast off, nothing really changed: the chinks and rust in the armor have to be removed to show the glint beneath. Just like the way swords have to be sharpened to bring out the edge, and pieces have to be reshaped in a lathe every now and then. It’s all just the old you: the you all along.
Time just gives you the license to cast off the burdens of the past, carry its lessons, and head off to the other end of the line.
* * *
The guide let go, and when I spread my arms I decided to let everything go. The rage, the heartache, the odium, the ennui, the anger, the enmity, the things that kept me away. The things that held me down were cast aside; I wasn’t about to carry the weight of a year with me come 2015, much less the zipline ride. With a final shove, the thrillride began.
Midway into the zipline ride it felt like the ride stopped, and for a very brief moment I had a chance to look around. It was just that: I was surrounded by sky, suspended in the middle of a valley somewhere, alone. The lush forests, the clear river, the swimming pools from the resort beneath all framed a guy swooping down the line.
But those things never really mattered: the journey was within. The alternate universe happened. The next lifetime happened. There I was, in a place I thought I can never be in, doing something I never thought I would do. There I was – save for a couple of pulleys and cables – alive and free.
For the first time in a long time, a smile crept through my face. I let out a whoop, and seconds later, found myself on the other side. No cold sweat, muscles all relaxed. Either way, from that long ride down the line, the second zipline awaited.
At least for that day, that was certain.