Iwas sure I was going to die — not from impact but from fear.
WhenI again comparably faced my fright of heights years later, four people did diethe following day.
Butat that moment in 2007, I was rocketing face-first toward the water of QinglongGorge in rural Beijing with a bungee attached to my legs.
Or,so I hoped.
Asudden jolt let me know it was, indeed, connected.
Iyo-yoed skyward, elation replacing terror.
Ieven did a backward summersault, giggling, on the second ricochet.
Whenthe momentum expired, I was in shock. I dangled from the rope, sporadicallytwitching and feeling like I was outside of my body. I empathized with what atrout swaying from a fishing line must feel like.
Thecord lowered. A speedboat shot out to retrieve me.
Myfirst step on land failed. My legs gave out. They were bags of soup.
Icrawled on my hands and knees up the hill.
Istill don't know why I did it that day. Perhaps pure impulse.
ButI didn't realize what I had done for myself long term, until moments after my"leap of faith".
I'djoined friends to visit the scenic area, declaring days before our departurethere was "no way" I'd bungee jump, as others were planning.
I'vebeen horrified by heights for as long as I can remember. That day, walking upto the bungee platform, I reeled as I came close to the edge of the reservoir.I forced myself to peer down.
Vertigoseized me. I swirled while standing still.
But,to my surprise, on the walk down after the jump, I felt zero fear when I gazedover the dam's edge. I even leaned against it, laughing.
Callit accidental extreme-exposure therapy.
Yetthe residual apprehension I still experience in high places probably qualifiesas extreme, since it's often irrational.
Chinahas provided many voluntary opportunities — and often forced me — to face myfear of heights.
It'sa land of glass bridges, mountainside temples and zip lines.
These,frankly, still give me jitters. I do them, anyway.
Myfirst trip to Beijing in 2005 required boarding a puddle jumper. When the planeleaned one way, I leaned the other. At one point, I apologized to the womannext to me for tilting into her space.
"Heightsreally freak me out."
Sheseemed sympathetic rather than annoyed.
Now,I fall asleep during takeoff.
In2006, I spent hours working up the courage to take a cable car to the peak ofTaishan Mountain in Shandong province.
Now,I ride these with ease.
Butthe most afraid I've been, other than bungee jumping, was floating in a hot airballoon in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's Yangshuo with my wife andparents around National Day in 2009.
Thefollowing day, four Dutch tourists died there, when a hot air balloon burstinto flames midair.
Still,I've recently set about finding places around Beijing to try paragliding,parasailing or ultra-lighting.
I'vedecided to face my fear head on, full throttle.
PsychologistCarl Jung once said: "Only one who has risked the fight with the dragonand is not overcome by it wins … the treasure hard to attain."
Andexistentialist Jean-Paul Sarte argued: "To know what life is worth, youhave to risk it once in a while."
Chinahas, literally and metaphorically, enabled me to take the plunge and soar tonew heights over the past 13 years. Even moving here was diving into theunknown.
Asfar as I'm concerned, in terms of facing my anxieties, there's only one wayforward — up, up and away!