I’ve always considered myself to be very fortunate and for that I am thankful. It’s not as if every child in the United States has a summer home in upstate New York, where one can abandon everything and take a trip with loved ones to a new and separate life of risk and change. Since I was four we have been making this trip up and down the state, as I consistently asked my father “Are we there yet?” until even I was tired of the question. On our journey, we always drove through Manhattan to visit my cousins, where we would pass Fordham University. I remember this because I have always loved New York City, a city that I consider my backyard and hope to never abandon.
One summer when I was fourteen, we made the trip, and finally approached our summer home off Paradox Lake. I experienced the familiar feelings of freedom and joy, but, also had emotions that weren’t as pleasant. I knew now, at the age of fourteen I must uphold a family tradition of jumping off “Big Ben”, a 50-foot-tall cliff into a body of water that up till that point, had given me feelings of safety and love for so many years. This looming task shadowed my thoughts throughout the whole trip until it became a reality.
If my mother had asked me right then or at any other time, “Hey Lou, are you a daredevil?” I would have answered with complete reassurance that I am not. I had never done anything life-threatening or been in a situation that called for it until this moment. I grappled with my own emotions, telling myself, “You’re a coward.” Words such as “scared” and “terrified” went through my mind as I sat on the edge of the cliff an ever increasing pedestal of anxiety and fear, the ledge between life and death, of shame and approval. Knowing that my father was watching from below with feelings of anticipation, waiting for his own flesh and blood to commit to what his family had done for generations, finalized my decision. I launched.
Once I made that one and only jump, I leaped out...