Reader Interview: Cliffhanging

Cliffhanging for real
Cliffhanging for real
Everyone has taken a risk or two. I have a couple of stories that end with the question “How exactly am I still alive?”

How about you? What is the craziest, riskiest, most exciting, or most over-the-top thing you’ve ever done…and why did you do it?

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144 responses to “Reader Interview: Cliffhanging”

  1. manekochan Avatar

    I was 16. I decided that I had been somewhere so many times that I could drive there with my eyes closed. I also decided to do a “zen” thing and let go of the wheel, too.
    After letting it go for a small portion of a minute, I decided that, since my sister and friend were in the car, all parents involved would hate me so I went back to driving normally. That was probably the most reckless thing I’ve ever done, even for those few seconds.

  2. SJ Collins Avatar

    I don’t know if this counts but in 2010 I moved to England where I knew absolutely no one to enlist in the British Army. I didn’t make it, but I’m still proud that I tried.

  3. Deborah Turner Avatar

    I grew up in Ethiopia. Lots of incredibly exciting things there — and some tragic ones as well. We swam with hippos, went to see crocdiles, ran through the bush with vipers, pythons, and mambas littered about, dodged massive spiders (I still hate spiders to this day). My mother (a nurse) was confronted by a leopard one night on her way back from the hospital, I’ve been stopped by jibs (hyenas) and my father was nearly bitten by a cobra! That’s just the wild life. I lived through and survived a revolution and listened as sixty high-ranking (former) government officials were shot one night on a crazy man’s orders.

    But I wouldn’t have given up my childhood (even the horrific, tragic stuff) for anything. It made me who I am today. I like who I am today: wife, mother, friend, writer…

  4. Texanne Avatar

    I started to tell the truth to this question, but not every story needs to be told. So let’s go with this, which is also true.

    The cliffs at a particular CA spot were not very tall, maybe 300 feet max, but still there were signs forbidding anyone to climb on them. I used to be afraid of heights, so a friend said I should climb the cliffs to get over it. This process works well for me, so I climbed them at every opportunity, and the fear quickly evaporated. Down is harder than up. Anyway, evidently the signs had some basis in common sense. Let’s just say that the operative word in “sandstone” is “sand” and when the rock slides out from under you, you are out of luck. You are also out a lot of skin and a couple of teeth. It was a fair trade, IMO, because those cliff experiences are still some of my favorite memories. Lest anyone think I marred the cliffs, relax. I did it in shorts and bare feet and with no equipment whatsoever. No cliffs were harmed in the making of this story.

  5. doug Avatar

    I played hood ornament on a submarine trying to secure a deck plate as the Captain had to speed up to avoid a collision to the point the bow wave went over my safety man and I. The thoughts of the Captain and I later were not without some horror of being washed off hard enough to be drug back into the screw (propeller).

  6. K. Klein Avatar
    K. Klein

    Hmm, in the “I knew it was risky but I did it anyway” category, I grew up pretty far off in the backwoods of Northern California. I liked to go hiking alone in those woods a lot, and my parents let me as long as I took some bear spray with me and told them what direction I was going in.
    So one day I set out, and realized about a mile away that I had forgotten my bear spray and walking stick. Big deal, I had never actually needed them before — so I kept going.

    About three miles from my house, I nearly walked into a pair of mountain lions having a territorial fight. They were on the other side of some bushes from me, so I never actually saw them, but the screeches and growls and hisses were unmistakable. Picture the sound of a pair of tomcats fighting, and magnify it by about a thousand times.

    I don’t know how much good the bear spray would have done, had they noticed me, but I got back to my house with record speed and never left it home again.

    Another time I accidentally wandered into a massive marijuana growing operation – not one of the little ones some of the neighbors sometimes put up, but one of the big ones the Mexican Mafia ran. Thankfully, no-one was watching over it at that point, because those guys are seriously scary people.

    There were several other times I also almost got myself killed off in the woods, by mountain lions, bears, gun-wielding neighbors, or just sheer bad luck, but I never stopped going out. I just liked to explore at first, and in later years I was in the commercial matsutake mushroom picking business, so the motivation was earning money for my family to buy groceries.

    In the “I didn’t even know it was dangerous” category, I moved to a mall town as a young adult. Everyone told me how quiet and complete safe a place it was, and somehow I believed them. Right up until the day I was taking a walk alone, and some guy pulled up and tried to get me to get into his car with him. I said no way, and walked on…he drove off, and I relaxed. But he only went around the block, and pulled up to the curb again behind me. When he started to get out and come towards me, I would have won an Olympic medal for the sprint I managed all the back to my apartment.
    He showed up on my front porch at three in the morning a few nights later and tried to get in the door, but eventually gave up and I never saw him again.

    And that one is why I sleep better with a machete by my bed.

    1. JB Delatta Avatar
      JB Delatta

      Wow! What a great opening line for a book; “I sleep with a machete under my bed. Let me tell you why.” I’d be instantly hooked by that!

    2. Jana Avatar

      Yeah, a machete sounds like a great weapon of choice when it comes to defending yourself. Wish I had one. but then again, why would I need one?

  7. Nissa Annakindt Avatar

    The most emotionally risky thing was when I decided to come out of the closet as a celibate Christian gay person on my blog. My Christian writer friends now think I’m brave, other folk, well, the best they think is that I’m weird and emotionally crippled.

    The most physically risky probably involved moving male sheep from the pen they were in to another pen. Them sheep horns can be an ouch!

    1. Pinkspider Avatar

      that was very brave…..

  8. Gene Stewart Avatar

    Clung to the outside of a rickety wooden railroad trestle as a train crossed it, inches from my nose, the vibrations nearly knocking me off. I was with my father on a fishing trip. We thought we could make it across before the train arrived. We were wrong. Not sure I would have died had I fallen but the drop was probably 100 feet.

  9. Deb Gallardo Avatar

    I’m a big chicken who typically lives within the boundaries dictated by pure, unashamed wimpiness. But I’m preparing, at age 62, to retire and move (alone) across the country, from the Midwest to southeastern Arizona. I’ll be swapping 4 seasons for 1 1/2 and frequent high humidity for next to none. I think I’ll need to invest in body lotion stocks. Oh, and I’m committing to writing full-time. For me, that’s about as risky as you can get.

    1. Yoly Avatar

      Heh. I did this myself, last year, except from the Pacific Northwest. And it was in my top 5 choices for riskiest things I’ve done in this life. It was and is harrowing. A real dichotomy environmentally, politically, and socially. But plenty to write about! Oh, and yes, bring the body-lotion sox!

  10. John W Dye Avatar

    I’m about to move to Seattle with no job, school, or apartment waiting for me. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I have to get out of Louisiana.

    1. Colin Hayvice Avatar
      Colin Hayvice

      Hi John, Why do you have to get out of Louisiana?
      I have a friend in Seattle but wouldn’t introduce anyone I didn’t know.
      Regards Colin

    2. Donald E. Allen Avatar
      Donald E. Allen

      I would have thought going to Louisiana would have been more reckless.

    3. hira Avatar

      that’s quite a challenge…… but it may turn out to be fun! best of luck!

    4. Glen Avatar

      Odd. I’m also about to move to Seattle, and I may or may not have a job or apartment waiting for me by the time I head out. It’s absolutely terrifying.

      But I absolutely have to get out of this region.

  11. Beth Avatar

    At a christening party I left the bar in which the party was and went to the beach, which was not so much of a beach but more like a cliff over water. I was with a girl who I had just met that evening and she suggested that we climb down onto the small patch of sand.
    I have no idea why I agreed to go, but you see I am a sit at home and read a book type girl. So I suppose it was the adrenaline, the rush of actually doing something.
    Of course it wasn’t as simple as climbing down. As we were halfway down the cliff the sea seemed to suddenly begin to race towards the rocks and stunned by the turn of events we climbed for our lives. Still to this day I remember the ache in my heart as I tried to climb faster and faster, knowing that I couldn’t. Luckily we reached the top and fell back into the street, I demanded that we go back to the party and I never saw her again.

    1. hira Avatar

      thats sounds like fun……… at least better than a party anyway 😉

  12. tom Avatar

    Rode with a good friend coast-to-coast on our motorcycles starting in Charleston, SC, going to San Francisco, CA and back. Rode some of route 66.

    Confronted a street thug once while in High School. He was armed with a knife, I was armed with a pistol. Neither of us knew the other was armed.

    Worked out OK could have been really bad.

  13. V Wells Avatar
    V Wells

    Sleeping with my ex-fiance or AKA falling for a pretty face and a hint of danger without knowing that the hint you could see on the surface was just the tip of the iceburg…and yes, this was physically DANGEROUS…he’s still in the pen 10 yrs later. I guess the PG version of that is :Not knowing what you are letting into your life, and ignoring the warning signs.

  14. Bruce Andis Avatar
    Bruce Andis

    I got married for the first time at age 42, six weeks after meeting my bride-to-be — and she was six months pregnant. It was, by far, the craziest, riskiest, most over-the-top thing that I have ever done. I did it for love. And 15 years later, we’re still married.

    1. Donald E. Allen Avatar
      Donald E. Allen

      Congratulations to the both of you!

      1. Bruce Andis Avatar
        Bruce Andis

        Thanks, Don, but all of the credit goes to my wife. I can be a pain in the butt to live with.

  15. Hugh Avatar

    Does it count if you don’t know it’s risky until later?

    I was out walking with some friends one night and were all inebriated. This was in my college days and we were on campus. A week or so earlier I had found a lovely little pool, stocked with carp and with a little waterfall, that no one that I knew had seen. I thought I knew a short cut to it.

    We came to this embankment, overgrown with vines, but when I went to climb up it, my friends were unaccountably reluctant to do so. I chided them all for being chicken, and proceeded to climb to the top – about forty feet.

    When I got to the top I discovered why my friends had been reluctant. I started sinking into the ground. I quickly realized the vines had grown over the tops of some shrubbery, and I was actually a few feet above the ground. I revised that estimate as I continued to sink. When I sank below the surface, I learned I was up in a tree, and the vines that were covering it were slowly giving way and slowly lowering me into it.

    I had climbed up the outside of a tree thinking it was an embankment, and found myself forty feet in the air.

    1. Texanne Avatar

      And then what, Hugh?

    2. Jeanne Avatar

      How can you end your cliffhanging story with a cliffhanger?

      1. Hugh Avatar

        Well, I’m still here, so I guess you know it worked out in the end. They say God watches out for babies and drunks. I’d hate to count on that, but it worked that time.

        I was forty feet in the air, tangled in vines that were slowly giving way. Slowly is the operative term, and I sank into the tree slowly enough that my muddled wits could figure out what was happening and grab onto a branch. After that, it was just climbing down a tree.

  16. Kathryn Carson Avatar
    Kathryn Carson

    Craziest physical thing I’ve ever done was a rope swing. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Except it was a steel cable installed more than three stories up in the top of a pine tree by God-knows-whom and maintained by no one, that swung out over a springhead of the Wacissa River in Florida.

    Anyway, I’d never have done it except for one loudmouth bastard from another canoeing group. One man from our group had done the swing before, and hoped it was still there so he could do it again. The loudmouth’s group tagged along to watch. Our guy (have I mentioned he was an ex-Army-Ranger?) hauled on the cable to test it, clipped the end to a thin rope tied in the crown of a neighboring tree, clambered three stories up into that tree, dragged the cable up after himself, unclipped it, swung out and over the river (have I mentioned three stories high?!), and dropped off the end of that thing like a pro. The loudmouth immediately followed him, did it (though less gracefully, since he was a first-timer), and no sooner surfaced than he yelled something to the effect of, “And look at all those girls over there, sitting pretty in your canoe, you’ll never do anything like this.”

    Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than a misogynist. So I climbed that g**damn tree and did it. (I wasn’t the only girl who did, either.) The loudmouth shut up mighty fast. And what made me proudest was the fact that the ex-Army-Ranger–a gentle, very quiet man, who didn’t really look anybody in the eye, ever, because to him, it was a sign of respect–looked me in the eye for the rest of the day.

  17. Linda Avatar

    I’m not a risk taker by nature. The most adventurist things I’ve done have been zip-lining. The first time was when I was a teen on a school trip. We stood on a platform, buckled in with a safety line, and had to step off the platform. I managed to do it (not everyone did; one girl was crying when I left the platform, and ended up going back the way she came up there) but I screamed going forward until about half way when I started getting used to it – and my carabiner turned. I went backwards the rest of the way, screaming again.

    But I did it.

    The second time was last year. I was 5 months out from a shoulder surgery, not 100% healed, but when we booked the trip (an excursion on a cruise for our 30th anniversary), I thought I would be fine by then. That was the “risk” part. The actual process was easier than when I was 15. This time, you didn’t have to jump. They had you hooked up with two lines and gloves to use as a “hand brake”, and you leaned back while they held you, lifting your feet, and they gave you the old heave-ho. No screaming necessary.

    I’m a very boring person. Klutzy but boring.

  18. Julia Rachel Barrett Avatar

    I’ve done a whole lot of stuff in my life, but if you are looking for actually cliffhangers… I suffer from a fear of heights so I learned to rock climb. My first weekend out, I first free-climbed a 20 foot tall boulder, then I climbed a sheer 300 foot granite face and repelled back down. Of course I was belayed from above, but… I actually had a lot of fun but it took great concentration and mental effort not to give into my fear.

    1. Norah Avatar

      I’m afraid of heights as well and I don’t think I’d ever be able to do something like that. Your courage is exemplary. I salute you!

  19. Kathleen Avatar

    The riskiest thing I’ve ever done, in retrospect, was the 80’s. Seriously. I don’t know how I got out alive.

    1. Holly Avatar


      1. Viv Tyler Avatar
        Viv Tyler

        Oh the 80’s *sigh* I’m surprised any of us got out alive 🙂
        My niece still cackles over the pictures of me with a bleached, permed ‘poodle-do’ complete with wrapped rat-tail. Yikes.

  20. George J. Neary Avatar

    On a more commendable note. One day I quite randomly left 27 years of the life I had been building in England at the drop of a hat to move to Sweden to be with my girlfriend. I didnt know anyone else, the language and had next to no money but knew if I can survive a year of being homeless I could get by. It was a gamble but it worked.

    1. Hugh Avatar

      I know the feeling, but my decade was a few earlier

  21. Jobo Avatar

    Terrified of heights, yet refused to let my friends take up a new hobby without me: Rock Climbing. Rappelling azz-first down a nearly-vertical cliff wall in order to start the day, and then climbing back up difficulty-level 5.6 and 5.7 faces actually turned out to be quite thrilling and challenging once you learn to put faith in the equipment. Yet I topped my own efforts later on, and shocked my friends by volunteering to take the first rappel off the “Cro Magnon” overhang, an 85 foot cliff, upside-down. HEAD FIRST : I hadda leeeean forward while controlling my slack properly in order to keep my feet firmly planted flat on the rock-face as I walked forward and down… until there was no more rock! Then I needed to flip OVER, head down, manage to lock an ankle around the rope above me while holding my “brake” arm strong and out to the side for maximum friction (losing that rope would mean no friction through my figure-8 = free-fall!). Once I was set, I swung my brake-arm down under my head to ease the friction (but maintain a loose grip) and let myself fall 85 feet to the bottom, with the rope hissing through my glove, praying that I could keep a grip on it when it was time to tighten the “brake” again, hopefully stopping my descent before I hit the ground.

    Hadda do something to eliminate all the patronizing talk from my buddies, and that seem to do the trick!

  22. Dorianna Avatar

    I had a rough youth and was on my own at a very young age. That coupled with being a free-spirit and untamed, my entire life has been a risk-taker. Since I plan to write my memoirs or use most of the experiences in a fiction novel someday, I care not to share too much information. Suffice to say, I have hitchhiked from the east coast to the west coast, fought off a home invader who was attempting to rape me with his own gun, nearly drove into the Mississippi river, drove the Continental Divide in a snow storm, drove an 18 wheeler, climbed a radio tower, drove 200 miles on a solid sheet of ice and more. Why did I do these things, mostly out of necessity, running from someone intending harm, or for excitement or dare when high.

  23. Nancy Avatar

    Thirty years ago two people, one of them a dear friend and co-worker of mine, were killed by an active shooter in a public building in the small town where I worked. The motive of the killer created a tremendous scandal, and the murder was on the front page of every paper in the state. Putting my personal and professional reputation at risk, I testified at the murder trial. I did this because it was the right thing to do, but I was terrified. We were all living a made for television cliff-hanger hell.

    Now, however, enough time has passed,and I’ve started thinking about writing a novel about that year. Of course, all the names would be changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

    Writing a book about this could be the riskiest thing I’ve ever done or the bravest. Probably a little of both.

  24. Cris Avatar

    I’m thinking you are looking for stories that could result in life or limb.

    My friend makes leather armor, cuir bouilli style. Anyway, about a dozen or so years ago, we decided it was probable to don the armor, flip a circle shield over and use the arm straps for feet hooks, and road ski behind a pickup truck. At 30 miles an hour, the shield lip hit a pothole a I went for a tumble or six, if I remember correctly. Good news was that the armor held up.

    And my second story. Over in Germany, the military barracks are long hallways with doors on either side, and communal bathrooms at either end. They also had windows at either end that opened outward, with a foot and a half ledge someone could stand on. From my barracks you could see the McDonald’s across the street and watch the girls, if you stood on the ledge. Saturday afternoon, while drinking in the barracks with friends, I stumbled down the hallway to answer the call of nature, and afterwards, decided to check out the view. As I’m standing on the ledge, I hear a door open and close, and my friends yell out to me, “Don’t jump.” I turned around to see them running towards me. And as they reached me to pull me in, their drunken attempts pushed me off the ledge backwards for a 3 story fall. I landed mostly on the grass, although my hip caught the sidewalk, and gave me a nice scar. I picked myself up, climbed the stairs to my room, and stood outside because my friends had locked the door.

  25. Bill Avatar

    Literal cliff-hanging? In basic-training, we had some rappelling down an 80 foot cliff that was so hot our bootsoles were softening up.

    There are the usual military dangers – like the time on the demolition range when I realized I was surrounded by unexploded and sensitized land mines (they were too old and didn’t explode when they should have. The time a leafspring from a jeep flashed between me and my platoon sergeant (another bad explosives placement) or the time when we were too close to the detonation, and I was riding the running board of the truck, hauling a$$ through the woods while head-sized clods of dirt were impacting all around.

    Civilian life? How about driving up Mt Washington with NO HELP from the rest of the passengers? “How close are we to the edge?” “I’m not going to look!” That road needs guardrails or something….

    Then there’s hauling tail down Autobahn 7 at 135mph in a Porsche 924 (Yes, I know, it’s an Audi in a Porsche body), and getting passed at 250mph by a Porsche 959. The wake almost blew us off the road. I was at the ragged adge of control at that speed.

    Then there was the time I was on a bridge snooper (a platform that hooks over the edge of the bridge to look at the beams underneath. We’re about fifty feet off the water, and when the truck that we’re attached to starts to roll forward, the fulcrum wheel gets stuck on a sidewalk bump. We knew we were in trouble and grabbed hold just in time for the ten-foot lurch forward. Fun times.

    Of course, I know California folks will laugh, but us East Coasters aren’t used to being in multistory buildings during earthquakes….

  26. Chris Olson Avatar
    Chris Olson

    Heh. I’m 49 and still something of a fireworks nut. The most outrageous thing I’ve ever done was tied to my great love of reading, and a lack or reading material tied very tightly to a towering intellect mated with a lack of any common sense.

    Let me explain.

    In my senior year in high school I was taking a college credit chemistry course. Nothing new here … yet. I had also read through both the public and school libraries. I was bored at home and reading the ‘N’ volume of the encyclopedia (yup, reading the encyclopedia for enjoyment, go figure).

    I happened upon the article for nitroglycerin. And it’;s chemical formula. And I went, “Huh, you know, that looks a lot like the chemical formula’s for X, X, and X. I wonder what would happen if I mixed them?”

    Several days later I had a small vial of highly unstable, yellowish, oily liquid.

    Yup. I was carrying around in my backpack a vial of high explosive. Enough, I later figured, to remove the entire upper story of my high school. All of it able to be set of by a sharp blow.

    How do I now about the sharp blow? Good question.

    I put a drop on a board and hit it with a hammer. I have no idea where the hammer went. I wound up about a short distance away with my ears ringing. The was in two main pieces and about a million splinters.

    Shortly afterward, using up what little common sense I had, I carefully diluted the vial is a lot of water and slowly poured it into the gutter.

    Today, I’m partially deaf in my right ear and have a much healthier respect for explosives.

    Why did I do it? Curiosity and the full belief in my own immortality. Teenagers are scary people…

    1. K. Klein Avatar
      K. Klein

      When my uncle was a teenager, he managed to partially blow up his parents house with his home chemistry experiments. I think he was making nitroglycerin also.

      I don’t think he was allowed to do any more after that.

      1. Chris Olson Avatar
        Chris Olson

        Yeah, later research has revealed I’m lucky to have survived the manufacture, let alone the detonation and disposal of it …

  27. George J. Neary Avatar

    Where to start? Its a fair comment that I have never been one for the safe road. I guess one of the most ludicrous examples was on my 23rd birthday when through some silly kind of logic thought it would be a bright idea to go under a general anaesthetic after insufflating 4grams of ketamine and on top of that having a monster chest infection. Only selfishness and self-loathing can justify my actions which could have killed me and put other people benevolent careers in jeopady. We do strange things when we’re skimming rock bottom :-/

    1. Texanne Avatar

      I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about, but at least you can remember your 23rd birthday. That’s something. :)TX

  28. Marti Verlander Avatar

    I can’t think of much that I consider actually dangerous. Of course, I did jump from the top of a 10-foot ladder on a dare. I put on a bite sleeve for a Rottweiler attack (totally trusted the animal behaviorist who trained him), walked into a pen of wolves to pet them (socialized, but not tame), lay down in the middle of the road to see if cars would stop instead of run over me (boy, did I get in trouble for that!) and a few car and motorcycle incidents I’d prefer not to put in writing — but really, safer than you might think. Got thrown from a horse twice in the same place in the road, within 5 minutes). Nothing all that scary, really. Oh, I walked into a spinning heel kick once (steel-barred face mask) and was out cold for a full minute, but the guy who kicked me had bar stripes on the bottom of his foot for six months! The only really scary one, though, was driving alone from Kansas City to Colorado Springs for my first Pikes Peak Writers Conference, where I knew no one and had no idea what to expect. I only got up the courage to go because my best friend said, “You’re not going to let fear stop you, are you?” Couldn’t let that pass.

  29. Connie Cockrell Avatar

    I joined the US Air Force after high school graduation, that was 1973 and a really big deal to my friends and family. They thought it was a crazy idea, I just thought it was a great alternative to going to college. There was no money for that. I stayed in 20 years, met my husband there, had a daughter and traveled the world. A good deal for me I think.

    The second thing was in 2003, I quit working at age 48 and took up backpacking. I hiked the Northville – Lake Placid trail (upstate NY) by myself, most of the Vermont Long trail and joined a group training to hike the Appalachian Trail. I managed several parts of that one and met some great people I’m still friends with, found an entire sub-culture and learned some things about myself and people in general that I would never otherwise have known. These weren’t huge risks but they were outside my norm. Sometimes taking risks is a good thing!

  30. Therese Avatar

    The riskiest thing I’ve ever done was probably white water rafting in Tennessee. I’ve done it twice and both times ended up floating through the rapids because apparently my feet are too flat to properly wedge them in place. The first time was okay. The second time I was sucked under in class four rapids and there was a moment when I thought that I would not be coming back up. That moment lasted for a very long time.

    Other than that, shortly after graduating, I packed everything up and moved to Taiwan for a year. I went alone with no job, place to live, or concrete plans waiting for me. It turned out fine! ^_^

    1. Christina Avatar

      I went tubing on a river in Cherokee, NC. I got dumped out of the tube twice and almost didn’t grab it back again the 2nd time. I have never hurt so much. No desire to do it again.

    2. Holly Avatar

      I also did white water rafting. The first two times I was in a bigger raft with a guide in Class I and II rapids, which wasn’t much of a risk. But the last two times I was alone in a kayak with Class III rapids. I have no idea what I was thinking, “thinking” being the operative word, which I wasn’t. The good news is that on the Class III’s I was too busy navigating to be afraid. I was afraid after the fact. Why I did it a second time is still a mystery to me.

  31. Maestro Avatar

    By most people’s standards my decision was a high risk. To me, it was a no-brainer.

    When I was in my third week of design school, a professor stood in front of my class of 100 students. He gave us a dose of reality by stating the statistics: how many students would be able to make it through the intense course of study and actually graduate, plus how many would have a thick enough skin to actually find a job and sustain a career. The answer: five.

    I looked around the room and decided I would be one of those five. I did believe in my ability, but I knew I was not the most talented person of all those assembled. However, I knew I could work as hard, if not harder, than any of them. And I was in it for the long haul, so if a thick skin was what I needed to succeed in my profession, then a thick skin is what I would develop. And I did.

    I have had the good fortune to sustain a successful 20-year plus career as an art director in various advertising design studios. My latest gig has lasted over a decade at the same studio.

    Perhaps that is why my adventure into a sub-career as a writer is not so terrifying to me. If I could survive and succeed in a design profession, why not writing?

    I am by no means tooting my own horn here. I just want to illustrate what you can accomplish if you believe in yourself, the mentors you are learning from and most importantly…if you willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, whatever it may be.

    Some folks say my selection of a profession was like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute. I figured…I had the parachute and the confidence it would open before I hit the ground, so why not go for it? Besides…what did I really have to lose? It ain’t rocket science or brain surgery…it is a creative endeavor.

    1. Holly Avatar

      The Rangers I’ve known have all had the same line for this: “There is no such thing as a perfectly good plane.”

      Same with life. You jump because jumping is how you get from where you are to exactly where you want to be. So…yeah. What you said.


  32. Gayle H. Swift Avatar

    I’ve never been one who dreamed of bungee jumping or skydiving. Terra Firma is one of my favorite places—solid and reliable under my feet. Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not a complete wimp. A limited degree of adventure sufficed for me: whitewater rafting in Maine, zip lining in Costa Rica, helicoptering to a glacier in Alaska or hiking in the Andes Mountains. All of these provided a bit of adrenalin rush, racing heart and vivid sense of being present and alive.

    But I have my limits: jumping out of perfectly good airplanes being an absolute. Even a loaded gun aimed at my head wouldn’t motivate me to take that kind of leap of faith. Whenever I heard someone advocating such foolhardiness, I held a smug sense of I value my life too much to play so casually with my aging carcass.

    On a recent vacation when my daughter and niece chose to paraglide over the cliffs in Lima, Peru. I was stunned to realize that part of me wanted to screw up the courage and join them. Fear-busting at its best, right? Or was it lunacy? At first I blew it off like the absurd idea I was convinced that it was. My husband concurred. His face exploded in a wide-eyed grin as he asserted “Are you all nuts? Of course if you ladies want to do it, don’t let me stop you.”

    Crazy, I am not.

    My faculties are intact yet at age 61 I’ve come to understand that some risks are worth considering and a few of those are worth taking. My niece, an experienced skydiver and obviously not totally unbiased, encouraged me to go for it. She offered one observation: it would not feel at all like falling but rather like gravity no longer existed.

    As an author, I recognized a good “hook” when I heard it. That’s one powerful degree of freedom. I was seduced.

    In minutes, I was strapped into a tandem harness with a squat, muscular Peruana. His grizzled hair and wrinkled face indicated age and experience. His limited English informed me that he was an instructor who had taught for many years. I chose to believe he was both capable and truthful. An assistant spread the huge, arcing canopy behind us on the ground. My escort and I crab-walked a few feet to the edge of the cliff while the assistant lifted the chute over his head.

    As if a fairy godmother had waved her magic wand, the chute inflated. We popped off the ground and out over the Pacific. The sky was dotted with cottony clouds, the breeze was steady, the ocean choppy and the ride was exhilarating beyond anything I could have imagined. We soared along the coastline. Our reflection echoed back to us from the surface of rooftop pools and the mirrored façade of high rise buildings. Swirl and dip, soar and spin, the ride was smooth and gentle without the feeling of carnival-ride butterflies. Intoxicating.

    Too soon, the ride was over and we swooped toward the landing spot precisely where we had ascended minutes earlier. Touch down. I know this is an experience I will revisit often in my mind’s eye. It is good to know that I can fly.

  33. Jenifer Avatar

    I climbed an active volcano in Greece. My husband surprised me on our honeymoon with that adventure. I would have never choosen to do that, but it was actually kind of fun.

  34. AmyR Avatar

    We went whitewater rafting in West Virginia. It was a two-day excursion and the first day was on the easy part of the river. Overnight it rained upstream and the second day the rapids got rougher as the day progressed. Our guide became antsy and kept yelling to us, asking us if we wanted to make things more interesting. We shrugged, “Uh… OK.” He had apparently forgotten we were only fair swimmers and this was our first white water trip. He purposefully ditched us in the hole at the top of a long class 3, which had become a class 4 with the rain. I ended up at the bottom of the hole, realizing just in time to allow my vest to find the surface. My husband was missing for probably 8 minutes until they found him, dazed and full of water, farther downstream. He had apparently been through some outlet in the bottom of the hole. We almost hiked out, barefoot and injured. They swapped us with two people from a larger boat to avoid that. I could not stand the sound of running water for about 6 months afterwards.

  35. Stephanie Avatar

    I’m not the most outgoing person, nor would you ever call me a risk taker, so the most exciting and dangerous thing I’ve ever done was ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I loved it, and terrified as I was when that mule kept drifting to the very precipitous edge of the canyon trail, I’m glad I did it. And because I did, I got to spend the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. They serve good meals down there 🙂

    1. AmyR Avatar

      Our family went on the mules when I was about 13. Bring a rain poncho! The mules eat and drink like mad between trips, so you foot is hanging way out over their puffy little sides as you are on the trail. That means that if you look out past your foot, you are often looking at a long drop-off. It is a good bucket-list item, just don’t look down.

  36. John Avatar

    I think you have to break that down into two categories. 1) Things you did that are somewhat risky and knew it going in and 2) things you didn’t really plan on being life-threatening but they turned out that way.

    For me the winner in category one is probably one of the times I was in a race car at over 150mph. That’s happened a lot and it’s a calculated risk when you’re surrounded by a roll cage, have a firesuit and nomex one, helmet, fire suppression, been properly trained, etc., etc. While it never gets old, it’s a calculated risk just like most everything in category one.

    Category two is a whole different ball of wax. The closest I’ve come to not walking away was when I was in a helicopter warming it up to change the oil after an engine replacement and said new engine decided it didn’t want to run anymore. A hard autorotation into the ground that caused compression fractures in 5 vertebrae was the result of that inadvertant mishap followed immediately by a month in the hospital, numerous surgeries, and a back brace for about 5 months (punctuated but a 2 week stint back in the hospital when they found a DVT behind my right knee).

    The runner up to the helicopter came when a 3″ commercial fireworks mortar did its aerial burst a couple of inches from my right eye costing me that and most of the right side of my face. Plastic surgery is not just for inflating boobies anymore at that point.

    There are others, but those are the two most memorable.

    1. Holly Avatar


      1. Donald E. Allen Avatar
        Donald E. Allen

        Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

  37. Teresa Avatar

    I’ve always been a bit of a wild-child and still am at 49! But the one account that impresses my grandchildren most is the one where I bit off my uncle’s pet turtle’s head on a dare and refused to spit it out when all the grow ups in the room started screaming!

    1. Teresa Avatar

      I’d be remiss in not adding that the dare came from my same-age cousin who’d just returned from the hospital after dropping an axe on his foot and was carrying his pinkie toe in a matchbox.
      A little “piss and vinegar” went a long way for a six-year old girl in the 60s…

      1. Brittany Avatar

        Poor turtle. 🙁

  38. Kristina Avatar

    I guess going to New York three times by myself. Apparently people are very impressed when they hear I braved the city alone. I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal though.

    Other than that? I’ve had a pretty tame life, I guess. Maybe that’s why my writing is so bland.

  39. Justin Avatar

    I certainly haven’t lived the most exciting, cliffhanging life, but I dealt with what society calls “bullying” when I was much younger, around seven years of age. There were a few kids that would hang around together, and we referred to them as “Kevin’s Gang” because the one called Kevin seemed to be the one in charge.
    Anyways, one day I’d had enough of their harassment, so I decided to solve it the only way I knew how; violence (I grew up in a not-so-nice part of town, so this was the norm). I approached the group during recess, and specifically targeted the one called Chad, because he was the one I’d put up with the most. I said something to the effect of “hey, wanna fight?” and while he was laughing at me, I gave him a solid right fist to the nose. Unfortunately, I was alone, and there were 4 or 5 of them. I took in the sweet, sweet image of Chad’s hilariously surprised face before I ran away as fast as I possibly could. They eventually caught up with me and unpleasentries ensued. However, after that they never bothered me again.
    So why did I choose to put up such a hopeless fight? I don’t know, really. In retrospect it was completely stupid. I could, very realistically, been stabbed or something seriously life-altering. There was no way I was going to come out of the immediate incident on top. And even the fact that they left me alone amounts to nothing, because we moved far away about a year later. It was a hell of a punch though.

  40. Douglas Winslow Cooper Avatar

    Not having seen her for 16 years, I proposed to my college sweetheart shortly after she told me she has muttiple sclerosis. She accepted. When we finally met, we knew we had made the right decision. See
    We have been happily married 27 years, the last eight of which she has been quadriplegic, on a ventilator, at home.

    1. VivielTwixt Avatar

      That’s so sweet. Not only that courageous proposal, but the unconditional love all those years. She’s blessed to have such a loving husband.

    2. Therese Avatar

      Wow, Douglas! That is amazing! God bless y’all! ^_^

  41. Carol Englehaupt Avatar

    I don’t think I’ve ever done anything on purpose. At age 12 I did get on an unbroke donkey colt (brother dared me) No saddle, no bridle, (and apparently no brain) no mane. The donkey’s mane was roached. Brother told me I couldn’t ride it around the corner of the bird pen (Uncle was a professional dog trainer). With utter confidence I knew I could.

    What I didn’t count on was brother whooping and hollering and setting off the whole herd (7). They took off, with me shrieking and screaming all the way. I rode him around the pen, and halfway across the pasture (the majority of the ride was with me tipped to the side) When the donkey took me under a hedge tree, I had the thorn wounds to prove it, and my head was in danger of bouncing off the ground, I bailed. So technically, I jumped and wasn’t thrown. I rode the donkey and won the bet.

    Of course, my brother tells a different version. The worst part of the whole thing was limping back to the house and finding my cousins rolling around on the ground laughing their (pardon the pun) a**es off.

  42. M.A. Witty Avatar

    Riding in cars with boys. ‘Nuff said.

    Why? Just because I could, and I didn’t really care what happened to me. Boy, am I glad I grew out of that!

  43. Sir Chaos Avatar
    Sir Chaos

    The craziest thing… well, unless you count letting people know that I´m writing a book, and thus opening myself to the usual incredulous reactions, mine is fairly pedestrian: going on my first solo trip abroad, without any friends or family, without anyone around I´d ever met before, to attend a conference in Las Vegas (necessitating the usual “*sigh* no, I´m not going there just to gamble and see the strippers” explanations), nine time zones away from home, with people I´d only ever interacted with on the internet, with everyone speaking a language that wasn´t my native language and that I wasn´t sure I was going to understand and speak well enough to follow the speakers and and talk freely with people. And it all turned out pretty well in the end.
    Oh, sure, like Madison I might have done a thing or three that were crazier, but like her, I´m not talking about those.

  44. Dave Avatar

    Once upon a time, there was a young and innocent writer with his equally young and innocent girlfriend and they … well, you know… on the beach with a retaining wall less than three feet high being the only barrier to line-of-sight vieiwing of a picture-windowed fish and chip shop full of customers less than 50 feet away…

    Why? Because we were young, because we were passionate, because we were in too much of a punch-drunk-love stupor to actually notice the fish and chip shop until after the fun had been had…

    We did enjoy some fish and chips afterwards – damn that sand gets in everywhere!

  45. N.M. Niskanen Avatar

    Two times pop into mind, both due to my own stupidity.
    The first one we were bringing horses back in from the back paddock. We didn’t bring saddles or bridles but didn’t feel like walking back to the stable, so we rode them, bareback and with only a halter to steer with and, rather idiotically, no helmets either. I happened to be on a skittish horse and of course she bolted because of some birds or something. I hung on for a terrifying minute or two and flew off, my elbow landing in a hole that had a stone on its edge that caused my arm to break and dislocated. There were lots of rocks on that paddock and I was very lucky that I got off so easy.
    The second time we were in a ski-resort, walking to the base of the slopes. Our accommodation was located along the lake shore, not clear across but close enough, and since people had cut across it before we decided it would be safe even though the weather had been a bit warmer during that day. You can probably guess by now that around the midpoint of the trek across the ice started crackling under my feet and giving way a little. There was no turning back since the ice would surely give away if we walked back on it after it had started crackling, so we pressed on, spreading out from each other so that if one of us fell, we wouldn’t all go down at once. I turned my snowboard sideways so that if I did go through, I’d have a better chance of a) getting back up b) keeping my head afloat. Soon the crackling stopped and we were back ashore.
    Rather lame I admit, but still my biggest cliffhanger moments. 🙂

  46. Ann Beardsley Avatar
    Ann Beardsley

    At age 55, I signed up in May to do the Goofy Challenge–a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday, through all four Disney Parks in Orlando in January. I’d never run a step before in my life, nor had I ever completed anything beyond a 3.1 mile walk with 10-year-old my daughter (she beat me). I was 30-40 lbs. overweight (blamed it on baby fat, but my youngest was a teenager). I trained and I trained, and I did it. You know that feeling of “I can do anything!”? We don’t get that much as adults, but I sure got it when I finished on Sunday. I know this wasn’t a life-threatening, dangerous experience–but I put myself out there, and I did it. And it was scary.

  47. John Doe Avatar
    John Doe

    Hello. 25 years ago I worked in the local airport. I was in charge of selling grocery and drinks to the aircraft crews, so I drove a van around the runway from plane to plane delivering the goods. One day I crossed the runway without looking and forced a plane that was going towards the liftoff runway to stop abruptly. It always gives me the creeps to think that I almost caused a major airplane accident.

  48. 4burner Avatar

    I once proceeded -without- caution.

  49. Dennis Chekalov Avatar

    I quit my job and became a full-time writer.
    Why? I knew it was a right decision.

    1. Frederick Gonzalez Avatar
      Frederick Gonzalez

      Don’t you mean, a *write* decision?

  50. Madison Avatar

    Hehe. And you want me to post this here?! Sorry. No can do. But I look forward to the other post stories that won’t ruin the lives of those who post them.

    The PG version of the most exciting thing I ever did? Wait, I don’t think I have one. 😉

    1. Dave Avatar


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