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A Moment of Choice

I’m standing at the edge of a building. I’m four stories up, looking down at what could be the end of me. There is a slight breeze in the air that’s carrying the smell of brick oven pizza from down below. My hands are sweaty, shaking and my heart’s racing. I try to slow its pace by taking deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. It doesn’t work.

I see my friend crouched with a camera in his hand on the building about ten feet away. He’s giving me a thumbs up, which means I can jump whenever I’m ready. People begin to gather from every direction, curious about what’s happening. It’s hard to see their faces from this high up, but I can tell they’re nervous and scared for what they think I’m about to do.

My friend yells to me from the other roof, “You can do it!”

He stands up and smiles, “Just relax, take your time, and go when you’re ready.”

To be able to jump you have to put your whole body into it, not just your legs. You have to remain calm and be confident in yourself. I step away from the edge of the building, close my eyes and take deep slow breaths as I clear my head. The people start to cheer, thinking I’ve decided not to kill myself.

Anyone who has ever seen me do parkour has called me “suicidal” or “crazy.” They think I don’t care about my life, but I do. People spend their whole lives “playing it safe” and go about their business as society tells them to. You have to go to college, get a steady paying job, start a family, have kids and live a long and safe life. Not many people take risks. Not many people do what they want when it scares them.

I hear a woman’s voice yelling to me from the street, “You don’t have to do this!” She sounds desperate. “You’re still young and have your whole life ahead of you!”

My heart rate is beginning to slow, and my hands stop shaking. I walk back to the edge again to eye-up the distance, and as I do everyone on the street falls silent, scared that I might jump. What’s there to be scared of? I’ve done this hundreds of times before, training on the ground first. I took it to roofs only when I was confident in my abilities.

There’s always the possibility of getting hurt or dying, but that’s the same with anything. People die every moment in the most unexpected circumstances. On average, 3,287 people die from car accidents every day and nearly 1.3 million each year. Driving is something we do routinely without even considering it. But then one day you’re driving to work and lose control and crash. Just like that, it’s over.

Every 60 seconds someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event. That’s 60 people every hour and 1,440 everyday. You can literally be anywhere and have a heart attack. You could be watching T.V, shopping, going to the bathroom, anywhere at all and it could happen. So why should Parkour be treated any different?

I walk away from the edge to give myself running space. I have about twenty feet before the edge of the building. The roof is black rubber and completely flat, which is perfect for the run up. I jog toward the edge – people on the street scream. They sound like nervous parents watching their kid play football for the first time, telling them to be careful and not to take it too seriously.

My father would always tell me that I wouldn’t amount to anything unless I went to college, and to stop acting like I was going to become rich and famous. He’d compare me to high school drop outs who thought they could make it and and never did. Now they’re 40 years old, still live with their parents; still convinced they’re going to make it.

People are scared of going after what they dream. When they see someone who’s not afraid, they’ll try to scare them. What people don’t realize is that you have to take risks to succeed. The band “Guns N Roses” had nothing when they first started. The first show they ever played was basically in front of no one. People didn’t think they were going to make it, but they didn’t care. After a lot of hard work and determination, they succeeded.

I stop right before the edge, trying to determine how much power I need to put into my jump: assessing the run up completely. In the distance I can hear sirens heading my way. My grandfather was taken to the hospital in an ambulance when he fell and broke his hip. He was in the hospital for months. He had surgery, couldn’t walk, got pneumonia and was close to the end. He was ready to give up on everything and everyone. As he struggled to speak he said, “Do everything you want to do and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. If you live life in fear of what might happen, then you’ll end up old and regret not trying.”

I hear the woman yelling again from the street, “Please don’t jump! Help is on the way!”

I can’t help but laugh to myself out of fear that this might be the most excitement they’ll ever have. They might never know what it’s like to step out of their comfort zones, to try things that they’d be scared of, or never thought they could do. They talk about all their imagined adventures: Traveling, sky diving, base jumping; but so many never realize them. When they finally see all the opportunities they’ve missed, it will be too late. They’ll understand suddenly that they’ve missed out on life, exploring the world and finding themselves.

The sirens are getting closer, which means it’s now or never. I step as far back as I can. My heart starts to race again and my hands are sweating even more than before. I wipe my shoes off as well as I possibly can, making sure I don’t slip. My hands are covered in black from the rubber and dirt on the roof. I take a deep breath in through the nose, out through the mouth.

I start to run, at first slow then faster as I get closer. My left foot takes the last step off the ledge and launches me into the air. For a moment, I’m flying and feel like nothing in the world can hurt me. All the negativity and doubts disappear with the ground beneath me — my father telling me I won’t succeed, the people on the street telling me not to jump, the worry and fear of growing old with regret, and not living life to the fullest are all gone once I’m in the air. That same moment I’m in the air, I’m also on the ground again. Pulled down from my nirvana. All the negativity and doubt return as I land on the other roof and make my escape.

Freedom is but a moment of choice.

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