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Wednesday, June 9,2010

Such great heights

A story about dropping down all 23 stories of Boji Tower

by Kent A. Love

“Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by its breathtaking moments.”


In a momentary lapse of judgment — or was it inspiration? — I agreed to jump from the tallest skyscraper in the city, the Boji Tower.


The thing about towers is they’re tall: 23 stories, to be precise.


Technically, it’s called rappelling, but for someone with a fear of heights and no previous experience descending without assistance from an elevator, I was preparing to plummet to the cold hard concrete below.


Why did I agree to participate? One of the best moments of my life — my wedding reception — occurred on the 22nd floor of that very building. Plus, I wasn’t getting any younger. I was going “over the edge,” but also “over the hill” with my Big 4-0.


Perhaps more important, the event raised money for a good cause. The Team Foundation, a division of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, promotes tourism development and provides scholarships to students pursuing hospitality and tourism careers. They’re doing wonderful work to make our community a better place to live, work and play.


I guess you could say my reasoning was one part charity, one part nostalgia, and one part mid-life crisis — a lethal combination!


The day of the descent started like any other: shower, shave, a light breakfast. What to wear? Time warp back to the ‘80s in a pair of parachute pants? It couldn’t hurt to have a backup chute just in case. No, a red, white and blue Superman t-shirt would suffice. Can’t go wrong with All- American superhero!


I was assured the brief training session prior to my descent would prepare me. In the months preceding the event, everyone kept asking about my big jump. “It’s a rappel, not a jump,” I would calmly correct, the mere thought sending terror through every bone in my body.


After signing my life away, I was fitted with a full-body harness, helmet and gloves. A quick equipment briefing — carabiner, ascender, and most importantly, the breaking system simply called a descender, and I was ready for my training rappel down one story of the inside stairwell. One story I could handle!


Everything seemed to work as planned, other than remembering to keep my right hand loose next to my hip to feed the rope. Check!


Once I reached the platform, a crew member rechecked my equipment and connected my harness to the lines. (Yes, I checked the ropes for frays.) After a nervous wave to family and friends below, over went my left leg, followed by my right leg. The crew member calming instructed me to let go of the railing and lean back.


WHAT? LET GO AND LEAN BACK? ARE YOU MAD?


Without a doubt, the most terrifying moment was hanging from the side of the building and being asked to “let go and lean back.”


I knew my best defense against the fear was to trust the equipment and believe in myself. I slowly released my death grip, leaned back and shifted my weight into the harness. Step by small step, I started rappelling down the side of a 23-story building.


Truth be told, I was terrified, but extreme sports are about pushing your limits and living life to its fullest. I dug deep and found the courage to enjoy the moment. Looking side to side was breathtaking. Looking down was another matter entirely.


As I continued my descent, I found my terror transformed into total exhilaration. I was doing it! I was facing my fear — just me, all alone hanging off the side of a building!


Halfway through my rappel, I told myself to simply live in the moment and savor the rush of adrenaline. I was overcome with personal pride. Not the boastful kind of pride that requires an audience and accolades, but rather a deep inner conquest over a part of me that was holding back.


Was it worth it? Yes. Did I conquer my fear of heights? Probably not.


But the experience has stirred in me a desire to face more fears, take more risks, and live life more fully. Sometimes reaching a goal isn’t about taking a leap of faith. It’s more like rappelling off a tall tower — one small step after another until you’re on solid ground and better prepared for whatever comes next!


Thank you to my friends and family for helping me reach my goal as a top fundraiser. Thank you also to the Lansing Team Foundation, the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the crew of Over The Edge for making it all possible.


Reprinted with the permission of Outdoor Athlete Magazine (www.outdoorathlete.com).

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