When I was a kid, there were some local quarries towards the north side of town. They had mostly closed down, and had flooded with natural spring water, which made them perfect places for cooling off on hot days. Because of this, kids would flock there during the summer, and had done so for more than thirty years. They were excellent places to hang out with friends, party and get some relief from the hot summer sun.
Because of the way the quarries were cut when they were extracting granite from them, there were a number of different ledges surrounding the water. Some were real close to the surface and some rose above the quarry as much as forty feet or more. The big flat rocks down by the waters edge were perfect for laying out in the sun and catching a tan. Many of the girls liked to do this, so naturally, the guys would need to jump off the tall ledges in order to impress them.
It stands to reason that the taller the ledge you jumped off, the more impressive you would be to the girls. We really had no reason to believe this, except for the fact that if you jumped off a 10 foot ledge, and your buddy did a 20 footer, that technically made you kind of a candy-ass. If you noticed this, then the girls surely did too, so you needed to step up your game, and the only real way to do this was to jump off Ballsy.
Ballsy was a ledge at the top of the east side of the quarry. It was a good forty feet above the water, give or take, (I’m sure it gets taller every time I tell the story), and it was in perfect view of the rock across the quarry that the girls were on. Men had jumped off it for years in an effort to impress the ladies, and a well executed jump from this ledge had been known make women fall instantly in love with the daredevil who made the jump. Marriages had been made because of this feat due to the daring nature of the stunt, and the instant adoration of the girl who witnessed it.
Of course I can’t back any of this up, but it really was a pretty impressive jump. Not only because of its height, I mean forty feet isn’t all that big of a deal. It was the fact that given the way the ledge was, you couldn’t see the water below until you were in the air. Sure you could walk up to the edge and look down, but you couldn’t jump off the edge like that, because the real reason it was named “Ballsy” was about fifteen feet below was another ledge called “Tit”, (not named for its physical resemblance to anything, but because it was a rather easy jump).
This ledge stuck out about eight feet or so from the granite wall, and usually had people jumping from it as well. In order to clear it while jumping from Ballsy required an individual to get a running start and jump out at least ten feet. Because of this, you couldn’t see Tit, or the water below until you had launched yourself into the air. You needed to have total faith in yourself that you would be able to clear the ledge below and land safely in the water.
This was why it was not uncommon to see first time jumpers, do what I call the “Ballsy Dance” (This includes yours truly writing this). The dance was simple, Step back from the edge about fifteen feet or more (there was plenty of room at the top), run as fast as you can to the edge, and then somewhere before you got there, chicken out and apply the brakes. The closer you got to the edge before you locked up your legs determined how stupid you looked trying to stop. Then, you would turn around, go back to the starting line and do it again. You would keep doing this until you finally got balls big enough to launch yourself into the air, or you chickened out and quit.
But if you finally did it, the jump was amazing!
Most of the time it only took two or three attempts before the majority of people finally jumped. Some never made it due to their self doubt, and there were a few who never doubted their ability at all, and jumped the first time. They were the exception though, for the rest of us, it took some time to work up the courage and belief that you could make this jump. Once you did it however, you couldn’t stop. It was just too much fun.
The irony is, there was really nothing to be afraid of. Jumping ten feet out into the air is really not that hard at all to do, especially for a 16 year old kid, and even if you did hit the ledge it probably would hurt like hell, but it wouldn’t kill you. Aside from Tit, there were no jagged rocky edges and the depth of the quarry was in excess of two hundred feet deep, so you weren’t going to hit the bottom. In the end, there really wasn’t much to be scared of, and the reward was great. Jumping from Ballsy was an amazing experience, the water below was cool and refreshing, and you were guaranteed to impress all girls on the other side of the quarry. Except of course the ones who would also jump off Ballsy, for them you’d have to incorporate a backflip or some other type of aerial acrobatics. But that’s a whole different story.
Now you may be saying, “Why are you telling us all this Mark?”
Well, I’ve been harping a lot lately on our fear of change. Our limiting beliefs in our perceived shortcomings and constantly holding ourselves back from doing something we’ve always wanted to do. I see it in myself, and I see it in a lot of people around me, and today it reminded me of those summer days at the quarries, doing the Ballsy Dance.
What exactly are we afraid of ? Sure it’s scary. Doing something new can rattle anyone and is fraught with fears of the unknown, failure or being looked upon by others as doing something foolish.
But just like Ballsy, you really can’t get hurt. You have nothing to be afraid of, as long as you launch yourself as hard as you can. The thing that’s holding you back is a little voice in the back of your head telling you you can’t make it. You’re not going to clear the obstacles in your way.
Don’t let that stop you. Although they would probably wouldn’t admit it if you asked, the kids that never dared to jump off Ballsy probably regret it to this day. They are no different than the folks who have grown old and never started their own business, or ran a marathon, or traveled the world,even though they had the opportunity and were on the brink of doing it. Regret is the most painful thing in old age, believe me, even I am starting to feel it.
So, sign up for that 5K, go back to school, try surfing, write your book… You get the point.
You can clear the ledge below.
And do it just for the sake of doing it, just because it’s something you want to do. Because just for the record, I never impressed any of the girls at the quarries back then, no matter how many times I made that jump…
…and my wife never saw me do it.