Auckland, New Zealand

January 1, 2017

2017, and One Big Wish

I stretched out on a darkened hillside overlooking St. Heilers Bay, Auckland's skyline glinting over the water, and looked back over 2016 - from its rooftop fireworks cacophony in Medellin, Colombia, to the closing seconds with new friends, plastic champagne cups, and a tiny speaker full of memories wrapped in music.

2016 was the year of my life most packed full, a mix of triumph and adventure played over a world that crackled, oozed in ways that both hurt us and made a new space to grow. A forest fire. A lava flow.

Here, the morning after that long night, I'm looking into 2017 less certain than ever what it holds.

There are plans - a few months here in New Zealand, then Tunisia, then Southern France. But if there's been one true thing in these travels, it's that the plan is never how it actually goes. And for the first time in a long time, I don't have a clear feel of the next steps strung out in front of me.

Yesterday afternoon, before the midnight grassy celebration, I finally got the courage to jump out of a perfectly good plane - my very first skydiving experience.

Skydiving - and heights - have always been my biggest fear, and yesterday, sitting in an empty plane with my tandem instructor, climbing up to 16,000 feet, I was vaguely proud that I'd faced down the fear, and that one way or another, I was going to jump out of the plane.

Three minutes later, the parachute deployed, we snapped upright, and began our glide down to earth. My instructor and a half-dozen of the staff at the sky diving shop asked me how it was. "Intense", I offered. "Not what I expected." They were in truth, roundabout answers, because as I've relived the experience over and over, I'm left with an unsettling truth:

I ducked.

Jumping out of a plane is supposed to be a terrifying, overwhelming, life-affirming experience. One where fear gets to have its way with you, and heart-pounding on the glide down, you remember that you're alive, really alive.

But it never felt that way for me. I'd found a way to go through the entire experience, keeping busy, finding some little thing to focus on or do to just get through it, and in the process, I missed the whole point.

Here, in the quiet afternoon, New Year's headache finally fading, I'm reminded of the truth about vulnerability. That it is the key that lets us actually unlock and have deeply powerful, amazing experiences.

So for 2017, let's you and I share this wish - let this be the year where, even if it leaves us ragged at times, we put our whole hearts out there.

To look down. To see and feel the fear - and to jump.

Happy New Year :)

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was actually a debate on twitter. No, really. See, it was among biologists, on which spotted animal is the cutest. Enjoy. :)

Enjoy this letter? Tell a friend.