Take the Plunge

Written By: Shauna Bhattacharya

SMACK! The pain was so intense. I could feel the back of my legs stinging like they were on fire! I regretted my decision instantly, as my cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. Why did I ever think jumping off a cliff was a good idea?


It all began in Jamaica! I am part of a group called Teach With Jamaica, and in the summer we go to Montego Bay to conduct a teaching conference. This was my first trip to Jamaica and Friday had finally arrived...our vacation day! We had all decided to spend the day in Nigril, 2 hours away and famous for it's 7 mile beaches. After a fun-filled day at the beach, we ventured to Rick's Cafe, which is world renowned for breath-taking sunsets.

Immediately, when we walked through the stone archway, the cliff diving was the main attraction. We went to the stairway to observe the amazing spectacle. Professional divers were doing flips and twists, leaping from cliffs that had over 70 foot drops into the sea below. People from all around the world were enjoying watching others jump, cliff diving themselves, or watching the professionals. Everyone cheered each other on. Everyone I spoke with said that you must experience the rush of diving from the cliff at least once. I was determined to jump! Only, there was one tiny problem...I am terrified of heights!!

The Jump

After I decided to jump, my heart leaped into my throat and I suddenly thought, "Are you insane?" The little voice in my head was telling me,"This is not a good idea!" However, watching other jumpers from the stairs, it didn't seem to bad. Yet, convincing myself to make that jump was another story! My mind was like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth, would I jump? YES!.. No!..YES!.. No way! Maybe? One of the other girls in our group, named Becky, wanted to try jumping from the cliff, but she really wanted someone else to go with her. Suddenly, my curse of selflessness kicked in and overturned the inner voice trying to dissuade me from the jump. Without another thought, I made the final decision I would jump no matter what!!

As Becky and I slowly trekked up the stairs to get to the top of the cliff, my heart was a hammer in my chest causing a thundering in my mind. The butterflies in my stomach transformed into full-grown, raging bats violent thrashing around. It felt like those bats were trying to rip me apart from the inside out. My inner voice was screaming at me to turn around and run. I swallowed hard, pushed down my fear, and kept trudging onward up the stairs. My head began spinning with apprehension as we approached the top and got in line. The closer I moved to the edge of the cliff the more terrified I became. I counted and watched as each person before me jumped and hit the crystal clear water below. Finally, Becky and I were up at the front. The cliff diving guide explained the directions and mechanics of a safe jump. It was if my body thought it was already underwater because my ears were filled with a thundering white noise. I could not make sense of anything the guide was saying. The next thing I knew, Becky was halfway through the descent of her jump and 30 feet below making a huge splash in the ocean. It was now my turn, as I stood on the brink of the cliff looking out at the horizon then down to the churning waves below, my knees grew weak. I wrapped my arms around my body and gave myself an encouraging squeeze. I closed my eyes letting the calming lapping of the waves against the rocks lull me in to a calmer state. Still, with my eyes shut, I crouched and with all my might jumped off the cliff, soaring away from my fears to the sea below.

AHHHH!!! Panic overtook me as the wind rushed up to me. The guide's words suddenly came back to me and, pencil jump, straight, stiff, " are the words that ran through my mind. It took less than 30 seconds to fall 30 feet but in the last few seconds I realized my arms were all wrong. I thrust them down to my sides, stiff and straight, to resemble a pencil jump from the guide's instructions. The sudden movement threw my body off balance and I hit the water with a loud SMACK!

Ouch! I felt the sudden slap as my skin met the ocean's surface with a forceful blow. My legs stung as if they were on fire. The watching crowd yelled, "Aah, Owe! Oh!" I could hear the crowd's gasp as they held their breath as the waited for me to resurface. When I was fully submerged under the water I could hear the roar of boat engines and waves smashing against the rocks. The waves tousled my body, but the frigidness numbed the stinging in my legs. I pumped and kicked my legs as hard as I could and finally broke through to the surface. The crowd cheered! I made it!

As, I reached the ladder and pulled my self back ashore, I realized how idiotic I must have looked doing a sitting backflop instead of a dive. My cheeks flushed red with embarrassment and I was silently kicking myself for thinking I could do this! But I did, and that was apparent when I was greeted by my TWJ group. Their eyes shined with pride and admiration. They were also concerned about my legs, which we watched turn from ghost white to angry red welts, then purple bruises. As my legs changed colors, we watched the video replay of my adventure and laughed. No one believed I had jumped after I revealed that I was terrified of heights. The pride shined brighter in their eyes. Even though my legs were throbbing, I felt like I was on top of the world.


The trip home was a bit painful, but finally, we were home! Even with bruised legs and pain whenever I sat, the laughs continued. As I told my family and friends about my cliff diving experience, they stared at me in disbelief! Surprisingly, with each rendition of the story, I discovered how proud I was of myself! I was proud that I was able to overcome my fears and take a leap into the unknown. This experience has definitely changed me and taught me to "Take the Plunge" in life, bad things could happen, and you might get a little bruised and banged up, but facing and conquering your fears is always worth it in the end! Today, because of my jump I don't let my fears stop me from achieving my goals.