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Swimming with Sharks

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“How much will it hurt if someone gets bitten by one of these sharks?” I ask one of our shark experts.

“It would just feel like a lot of pressure–it wouldn’t be “painful” really. But people have to worry for infection after getting bitten by a shark.”

“How likely is it that one of us will get bitten?”

“Not likely.”

I continue quizzing our instructors for a bit, with a smile on my face. Part of me is joking around, and the other part of me is serious. I mean–I am about to jump into a tank full of sharks!

But the truth is–I am not scared at all. A lot of people ask me how I feel before I dive into the more extreme activities–and honestly–I feel fine. It’s the more intimate–1 on 1’s that get me.

To me, jumping out of a plane (as I am doing this coming weekend–pending hurricane Sandy doesn’t destroy my plans), or swimming with sharks–is much easier than sitting down–or standing with a good friend and taking a lesson. I am much more intimidated by the talent driven hobbies than I am by the thrill seeking ones. At first this may seem surprising, but because the number one fear in the world–over dying–is public speaking, I get it.

As humans, we want to be accepted, we don’t want to be judged poorly, and we want to succeed at everything we try–I know I do. But if there’s anything this project has taught me–it’s that the only person judging us most times–is oneself.

At this current moment, with sharks swimming below me–I really just can’t wait to jump in.

I pull on my wetsuit, throw on my snorkel, and wait for my cue to duck underwater and take a look. When I finally do, I am amazed. I can see sharks swimming in the distance. And then I spot one swimming our way. He looks like he’s smiling. I laugh to myself. The laughter causes a small leak in my mouth piece, so I surface momentarily–causing me to laugh at myself again. I readjust and reenter the water. A fish flashes across my face–and then another one. And then from the side I see a shark with a nose shaped like a saw swimming toward our way. He’s waving his serrated edges back and forth as if he knows food is near. Our instructors pull us back until the shark is out of harm’s way.

We go back below. A shark comes toward me, and I imagine speaking to it.

“Hello Mr. Shark.” I quote Little Red Riding Hood, “How big your teeth are, Mr. Shark”

“All the better to eat you with, my dear.”

I laugh to myself, this time keeping my mouth on my snorkel. “Good thing sharks can’t really talk–and good thing this isn’t the rising action in a fairytale.”

But it is–it’s the rising action in my project–or what we should just refer to as my life.

I sit back in the shark tank and continue to take in the view. I ask myself how I got here–in a tank full of sharks.

“Easily,” I answer. “All I had to do was say yes.”

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Camden Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, New Jersey

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“You can’t go anywhere in neutral”

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Our introduction to motorcycle teacher looks at us: “You can’t go anywhere in neutral.” I laugh. Metaphors are everywhere.

When you get knocked down, the oldest lesson in the world is to get back up again. Since the season is just about over at Mountain Creek, where I crashed the downhill mountain bike over Labor Day, I had to find a way to get back up on a bike–even if it wasn’t the same bike. Since that little crash, I’ve been even hesitant in getting on my own bicycle. The trails at Mountain Creek are taken care of–and the roads in New York City are terrifying on a bicycle. Has anyone seen Premium Rush? or Paper Boy? I think I’ll stick to the safer bike paths–which I just haven’t had time to get to between hobbying–and more hobbying.

Even still, when it comes to bike riding, I’ve felt a bit stuck in neutral. I often look at Miss Penny Lane, the Paperback Rider (my red beauty of a bicycle that yes I have given a name), and sadly apologize for not taking her out more. Unlike a dog, she has no way of showing her sadness, but I know that those drooping handlebars are saying much more than just  “You left me in the wrong position.” They are really just saying, “You left me.”

So it was time to get back on a bike–even if it wasn’t Miss Penny Lane–the Paperback Rider. Last Saturday, I headed to the Motorcycle Safety School in Brooklyn with my Living Social Deal in hand. Our instructor introduced himself, allowed us to introduce ourselves, we watched a short video and then we shook hands with the clutch on a motorcycle.

Bad.Ass, I thought out loud. My co-riders smiled at me. This was going to rock.

We barely picked our feet off the ground, but we did go from neutral to first gear, and from one end of a parking lot to another. “This is awesome,” I laughed out loud, thinking how I had sadly written motorcycle riding and driving off during my freshman year of college when I wrote about the dangers of it for a writing class. “I could do this forever,” I added to my thoughts.

It felt good to switch gears.

The truth is–you can’t go anywhere in neutral. You have to switch gears–pick your feet off the ground–and feel the wind in your face. There’s no looking back–only ahead–at the wide open road.

I believe I see a twinkle in my eye

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Special Thanks
Motorcycle Safety School
ridemss.com

All that matters is that you jump: Trapeze

“All that matters is that you jump.”

One of my trapeze instructors whispers this to me as I am suddenly about to swing off a platform that feels as though it is miles from the ground.

I take a deep breath, bend my knees and then leap-I leap for my fears of heights- for my fears of falling- I leap for my friends – for proving that my last turbulent experience dealing with heights hasn’t held me back- and I leap for myself. And I soar- like a bird. I feel the air rush past my face. I hear for my commands from below. Legs up. See my hands. Let go. Look for Brooklyn. Enjoy the ride. And boy was I enjoying the the ride.

I listen for my commands again– Legs down, and “up,” which in trapeze lingo means… Drop.

“Awesome,” I proclaim and I get giddy about trying it again.

Trapeze was one of the greatest activities I’ve tried this year. Joined by good friends, I knew that this was the best way to kick off a Saturday morning. And not only was it fun–but it taught me a great lesson as well.

“All that matters it that you jump.”

The words continue to echo.

A metaphor flashes before my eyes.

Every day asks us to jump- to make a choice.

We can either stand still or make a change. It may not literally mean a jump from the sky- but it could rather be as simple as a phone call to an old friend, or family member we’ve lost touch with. It could be taking a new job–or having the courage to ask for a raise at your current one.

In the end, all that matters is having the courage to jump.

Amy

Lindsay

 Rena

 Christine

Special Thanks
Brent Hankins

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Trapeze School New York
TSNY
http://www.trapezeschool.com

Bruises, Blood, & Smiles – Learning to Get Back Up: Skateboarding

 

Falling can be terrifying. It can be accelerating. It can be painful. It can lead to fear. It can lead to injury. And it can lead to pride.

On the evening that I headed out to Williamsburg to take a skateboarding lesson with my good friend Michael Bonner,a sense of pride overwhelmed me. As the skateboard began to slip out from underneath my feet, I felt my arms flare, and then my body hit the ground–hard. With little hesitation, I got back up, threw on a helmet, and hopped back on the board. Moments later, the board came out from underneath me again–and I went kaboom. Still–I got back up–and tried it again.

Life is all about taking the hits–getting a little bruised here and there, and then coming back–leaving the past behind and standing on two feet. I hate to be cliche–but if you fall off the horse–then get right back on it. And that’s exactly what I did–with bruises, blood–and smiles.

 

 

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Special Thanks
Michael Bonner
takebacksproductions.tumblr.com

Greg Payton
www.c3stories.com

Finding my Voice: A Singing Lesson

It’s nearly been a year since I walked myself down to Occupy Wall Street the morning after the park was raided and the media was blacked out in downtown New York City. I was horrified at the unimaginable thought that people were beat and kicked out of their home at the late hours of the night–without a voice being able to tell what was going on.

After visiting the site, I proclaimed that “no one could take your voice” in a blog post. Several days later, my good friend Laura joined me as we marched with the union across the Brooklyn Bridge to voice our beliefs. So it’s no wonder that the same person who helped me to find my voice during Occupy Wall Street–is the same person who helped me to find my voice during a singing lesson on a Tuesday night.

As a kid, I always wanted to be in the talent show–as a singer. I remember walking up to the mic in 3rd grade, and raspilly singing, “I Believe I can Fly,” pretty terribly. Somehow, I didn’t let it scar me for life–and in 4th grade I convinced a group of four girls to let me sing Celion Dion’s “My Heart Will go On” in auditions for the show. We didn’t get in. But I still sang on. I found comfort in blasting music and vocals in my car when I finally had a license–and singing at the top of my lungs.

And then I discovered karaoke in college—which of course allowed me to choose fun songs–rather than serious songs, and just have a good time. Hello ‘N Sync–Helllllo Spice Girls.

But deep down inside, I’d always wanted to be in plays–in musicals in high school, but I never had the courage to try out–because I knew my voice was no match for the last year’s lead. So I never tried out, and for good reason–I had already convinced myself that I was tone deaf–and when we’ve already preconceived beliefs–they tend to come true.

I never found my voice.

That is until, I headed over to Laura’s apartment and she took the time to teach me correct breathing–explain why I might be nasally–showed me how to find a note–did several vocal exercises–and then took me through the chorus of the popular Michael Jackson song, “Billie Jean.” By the end, I was exhausted–I could feel my vocal chords screaming for a break. But inside my heart was beating quickly. It was a good exhaustion–the kind where you feel like you’ve pushed past a barrier–and exceeded your own expectations–the kind where you’re thankful you had a friend along for the journey.

I had found my voice–at least for that night. Thanks Laura.

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Special Thanks

Laura Fisher

www.assortedanimals.com

Bruises Really do Make for Better Conversation: Downhill Mountain Biking

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Disclaimer: Title of this blog post is based on song “Bruises” by Train.

Ski mountains have always been a bit terrifying for me. The first time I tried to go down something other than the bunny hill, in 6th grade, I fell so hard that my skis popped off. I decided that this was the moment that instead of going down the hill–I’d walk back up it and straight into the lodge. After a dinner full of persuasion, my best friend had me back out on the mountain in no time.

A year later, my brother broke his arm and leg skiing.

And the following year, I took a tumble down a black diamond that had all my co-skiiers questioning how I’d ever survived the fall without breaking my neck. I laughed and said, “Let’s do it again.”

Even still, ski mountains are kryptonite to me. Smiling, I can take on any hill, but inside all my organs are twisting.

When I signed up for downhill mountain biking–I really didn’t know what I was getting in to. A Twitter follower had suggested it–and had suggested the perfect place as well. I reached out to Mountain Creek Bike Park and they were ecstatic about having me come out for a trial lesson and run on the mountain.

When I told my friend what I’d be doing, his response was:  “Oh that’s awesome! You know it’s like a ski mountain right?!”

HUH?

“Like a bunny hill though, right?”

“No–a ski slope.”

Oh…Right…I’ll be fine.
As I approached Mountain Creek Park on Sunday afternoon, I could feel myself bubbling with both anxiety and excitement.

I suited up, met my instructor Jon–and headed outside for a quick tutorial on the basics. Following our flat ground lesson, Jon took me to the lift–and said it was time to head up to the top of the mountain. Again, my insides bubbled. I remained calm and continued to talk to Jon along our ride.

We pulled our bikes off the lift-hopped on and headed toward the green hill. As we approached, I smiled and said to myself “Libs, you got this.” And then we were off. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself. After a few turns, a couple of stops, some high fives, and a short  glance at a double – black diamond- that Jon has taken a ride down before–we took off for our next couple turns.

“Oh god. Oh Jesus. Oh God. Oh Jesus” (that was the most the holy man had heard from me in a long time). With each bump, my “oh Gods” became more frequent. As I came around a turn I began to lose control, my feet came off the pedals, and I came off the side of the bike as it fell to the ground. ‘Deep breath,’ I thought to myself as Jon asked me “what happened?”

“I hit the breaks too hard and I panicked.” That was the easy answer. But within moments, I was back on the bike, ready to take on the next challenging turns…I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

And then it hit me–no not a lightning bolt–but instead my own bike.

As I went over a rocky area, I lost control of the bike, and took a turn persay–without taking a turn, sending me off track. As I tried to stop myself I felt my butt fall behind the seat–and as the breaks eventually caught, I felt the bike seat jam directly back into my groin muscle and–babymaker–aka pelvic bone. Pain immediately swelled over the lower half of my body. Jon came over and helped me to get out of this unpleasant situation….and I attempted to walk it off.

Realizing I couldn’t really lift my leg–I began to tear behind my helmet. “Just give me a moment. I got this…” But I didn’t. The pain didn’t subside, and the movement in my leg, due to the crushed muscle, was limited–My bike ride was over.

Jon understood. But my disappointment level was high. I do a really good job of laughing and smiling about things–even when I am experiencing multiple levels of pain-and frustration–but really I just wanted to curl up in a ball. The thought of physically not being able to get back up was just as painful as the bruised pelvic bone I’d have for the rest of the day.

Even still, there is a lesson in this. We’re not invincible–I’m not invincible. And it’s these falls–and these bruises that teach us about our pain tolerance–both mentally–and physically. It’s these falls and these bruises that teach us about the risk–in taking risks. And most of all, it’s these fells and bruises that give us something to go back and conquer later. This won’t be my last time at Mountain Creek Bike Park. I still have unfinished business to attend to.

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Mountain Creek Bike Park

bikepark.mountaincreek.com

What the professionals look like doing it:

It’s All About the Rebound: Stunt Trampoline Jumping

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A trampoline can teach someone a lot about life. I didn’t know that, of course, until I made my way back to the Hollywood Stunt Center, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn this past weekend for my lesson. What’s great about a trampoline is that it teaches you the true nature of a fall–of getting back up–and the even more successful rebound (Of course I will be taking an urban rebounding class this fall!)

During many moments in life, I often feel like my feet have been swept out from right underneath me, even when they are still, right there beneath me–fully in contact with the pavement. Too often I forget to feel my feet on the ground, and the pounding of my heart against my chest–even when it’s the first lesson I learned this year in acting class.

It wasn’t until my legs and feet literally came out from underneath me, at this lesson–that I realized how important their strength in holding me up–and pushing me, really significantly matters–and has always mattered.

After several falls–regaining my balance, flexing my muscles, I found myself jumping–not only successfully–but even higher–the way I imagine the success I may find in life. It’s all about the rebound from the fall–all about the rebound. Jump up–Jump up and get around.

Special Thanks

Brent Hankins

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Hollywood Stunts
www.hollywoodstunts.com

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