Skydiving and Looking Down.
When we were still on the ground, my trainer and tandem jump pilot asked me which part of skydiving I thought would scare me most.
"When my feet start dangling out of the plane", I told him. "That's when I'll really freak out."
Fifteen minutes later, we'd climbed to 16,500 feet (5,000 meters), the last two people besides the pilot still in the plane.
The back door rolled open, and there in front of me was the horizon, Auckland somewhere three miles below.
We scooted toward the exit, reached the door, and bam - my feet hit the air.
My mind raced, worrying about my shoes getting ripped off. My eyes closed, and instead of taking a deep breath and looking down, I looked up at the door frame and mentally walked through my checklist.
Arms crossed, gripping the harness. Wait for three taps. Arms and feet out. Be like a banana.
I saw the plane fly away, us ripped off of it like a bowling ball, plunging, and then we turned, face down.
I still didn't fully, directly, look down.
My mind ran around thinking of things to go and check on - was my skydiving cap coming off? Was I breathing? Were my goggles secure? Were my shoes still on? Had I looked at the camera? Had I looked at the horizon?
Anything, everything to duck this reality:
I'd jumped out of a plane, and was now falling from the sky tied (in what felt like a pretty flimsy way) to a man I barely knew.
90 seconds later the drogue parachute deployed, then the main one, and we snapped upright. Hung in the air like snow, falling slower, still falling.
"How was it?", he asked. "Intense," I offered. "Not what I expected."
In truth, it was a roundabout answer. A half-truth.
Because as I've relived the experience over and over, I've left with an unsettling whole truth:
The whole point of jumping out of an airplane is to have that adrenaline-dumping, terrifying, life-affirming rush. It's to face your fear head-on, live to tell the story, and feet finally back on the ground, remember that you're alive, really alive.
But I hadn't done that. By letting my mind scurry around to find little things to focus on, I'd found a way to go through the entire experience without ever facing the reality of what was happening.
I jumped out of a plane - and I missed it.
In the days since, I've thought a lot about vulnerability. How it's the subtle but true key that lets us unlock and have deeply powerful experiences.
That to really, fully, live, sometimes we need to look down, see and feel the fear - and to jump.
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 take some chances, to take them fully, and to never let our fears rob us of our triumphs.
Let's go make an amazing year.