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Learning to Leap

A memory.

By Lena FolkertPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
5
"Breathing Underwater" © Lena Folkert, 2023. Created w/ Wombo Dream Ai

The metal steps flashed in the sun’s bright rays, blinding me. I froze like a deer suddenly swept up in a pair of high beams and stared at the ladder that loomed in front of me, taunting.

The tiny droplets of sweat that had broken out on my skin had all merged, creating a salty and slick sheet that hung upon me like a second skin, and no matter how much I blinked, I could not clear the curtain of moisture that clouded my vision.

I forced my foot in front of me, stretching my courage with my limbs. The trembling in my knees was too much for me, and I pulled my foot back and closed my eyes. My chest was weak, my heart pounding so hard and fast in my chest, and I focused on my breathing.

Inhale through your nose.

Exhale through your mouth.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

I stretched my foot out once more and placed it upon the first step, yelping and recoiling as the bright metal seared my bare flesh like a branding iron. I stood still for a long moment, balancing my right foot against my stomach like a perched bird, cursing myself.

This is NOT supposed to be that hard!

I wiped the salt from my eyes with the back of my hand, telling myself that it was the sweat and not tears that had gathered behind my lashes and blurred my vision.

My father’s words echoed in my mind until I could taste their bitterness.

“You’re not a baby anymore, Lena. Grow up, and stop letting fear control you! For god's sake, jump from the high board once in a while.”

I knew he hadn’t meant it literally, but the judgement behind his words had seared through my core. I was determined to show him that I wasn’t afraid anymore. To show myself.

You’re not a baby anymore…

I recited the words through clenched teeth, forcing the fear from my mind and placing my feet upon the steps. Paralysis threatened to grip me once more as I looked up and saw the ladder looming high above me.

It’s time to grow up…

The metal burned my feet, but I embraced the pain, letting it propel my shaking and sweat-covered legs up the steps, ignoring the pounding in my chest as I climbed higher and higher. I gripped the sides of the ladder tighter with every step, my breathing coming as nothing more than raspy wheezes, and my vision darkening as the fear fogged my mind.

Stop letting fear control you…

As I pulled myself over the final step with shaking arms and wobbly knees and an urgent nausea bubbling in my gut, I stared out across the open space between me and the water below. Panic welled within me, burning holes in my chest as I scanned the loungers around the pool until his eyes caught my own.

Brown and wide and full of the same fear I felt, they followed my every movement as I shakily stepped to the edge of the board, emboldened by my determination to prove him wrong.

Jump from the high board…

I closed my eyes and stepped forward into the void. His words no longer echoed in my mind. All I heard was the air as it whooshed past me, pressing against my body like a heavy blanket.

Finally, my feet slipped into the cool water. I was swallowed whole, the water bubbling around me like a welcome massage. I sank motionless, my feet still beneath me until I felt the rough and cool stone at the bottom. I shoved my feet hard into the surface, propelling myself upward as I exhaled.

The air escaped in a fury of bubbles, and I almost laughed.

Inhale.

Exhale!!

The fear faded away, and suddenly all I felt was...

Freedom.

****

Words & Art © Lena Folkert, 2023

Autobiography
5

About the Creator

Lena Folkert

Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose

Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker

Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker

Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer

Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (4)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred5 months ago

    A great story, I remember being in a queue for a free abseil of The Tyne Bridge. Three people in front of me decided they couldn't so I got thrown over the side mentally unprepared. A great story with a wonderful ending

  • Great story. I have a couple of questions. How many people were waiting behind you for their turn at the high board? Were you able to breathe on the way down? (I never could.)

  • E.A. Wilcox6 months ago

    Ahh, this was so gorgeous to read. Well done! Absolutely love this.

  • L.C. Schäfer6 months ago

    This is excellent. Did you enter it in the challenge? Good luck if so 😁

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