December 28, 2016 by John Nicholas Prassas
“I can’t wait to jump off Black Rock!” I kept telling my wife excitedly after we booked reservations to our Niece’s wedding in Waikiki, Hawaii and extended our trip to Maui (where Black Rock curves into the ocean just north of Lahaina), to celebrate our anniversary.
And she kept rolling her eyes at my curious obsession.
My interest in Black Rock had grown since a visit 15 years earlier when my schedule hadn’t allowed a chance to jump off the rock, so it stood as unfinished ‘bucket-list’ business to me.
The adventure had grown in my mind over the years to almost mythical status as I imagined the thrill of jumping off the famous black lava cliff into warm Turquoise waters, surrounded by Angel fish, sea turtles and admiring spectators in the water and on the beach nearby.
But then we saw Black Rock in person last week. From a distance we watched a few tentative teenagers muster up courage to jump – landing dangerously close to the rocks below.
“There’s no way you’re doing that!” My safety-conscious wife and sweetheart exclaimed. “Please tell me you won’t do that – I don’t want to lose you smashing into the rocks.”
Surprisingly I agreed, without any argument.
Why did I ditch my dream without fighting to defend it?
First, the cliff really did look HIGH and the rocks below looked deadly. I could easily imagine the news flash, ‘Foolish old thrill-seeker belly-flops (and dies) at Black Rock.’
Second, after 35 years I’ve learned to appreciate my wife’s good sense and sincere interest in my health and welfare, and I also felt sorry for dragging her through so many risky ventures over the years.
So I ditched my cliff-diving dream scenario without putting up a fuss. “OK,” I said, “I don’t need to do it.” I even felt a little relieved by the decision.
But later I wondered, privately. Did my concession signal a wholesale surrender of my remaining life goals and aspirations? Was I quitting too easily, like an old dog choosing a nap over more dramatic endeavors? Was Black Rock my turning point to oblivion?
These thoughts percolated as we enjoyed much safer pursuits like whale watching, shopping, walking on the beach and eating at seafood restaurants.
But then we returned to Black Rock to go snorkeling and things took a surprising turn.
From the water the cliff didn’t look so ominous. And a fair number of people were climbing up and jumping off – without any fatalities.
“You should do it,” my wife said to me as we swam past the jump zone on our way out to snorkel. “It doesn’t look so bad.”
“Really?” I said as we glided through the water in search of turtles.
Now that I had the green light – and even my wife’s active encouragement – it was decision time. Did I really want to swim through a swift current to climb up the craggy rock face and jump 20-plus feet back down? My answer manifested as I grabbed hand and foot holds on the rock and pulled myself out of the water.
“You going to do a back-flip?” My wife yelled up to me from the water as I tossed my mask and fins down to her from the top of Black Rock, huffing and puffing from the strenuous climb. Her confidence now exceeded mine and gave me an emotional boost.
“Not this time,” I answered, as I tried to get one of the younger jumpers to go ahead of me so I could watch their approach. But they insisted I go, no doubt honoring my seniority.
So without further ado – and without time for second-guessing – I launched myself off the ledge, flailing and yelling as I dropped like a piano and survived the splash-landing below. I had realized my dream – and lived to write about it!
So what’s the redemptive point of my story?
I guess just to exhort you to have fun, to seek adventure and to take an occasional leap of faith.
But I also want to note the power of encouragement (and discouragement) and remind you how delicately we must treat our dreams and balance the risks, rewards and inputs given to and from the people we care about.
Dare to dream but listen to your loved ones. Look at things from various angles. And dare to encourage dreamers whenever you can – knowing it can give them wings to fly.
Aloha, Mahalo and God bless you!
Got any related thoughts or experiences? Please comment at bottom of page.
And be sure to sign up below to receive my blog posts: