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  • Heather Mistretta

Zip Lining: An Analogy of Life

Life offers us clues and lessons in the strangest places…So, I took my son and his friend to a place touted as offering one of the best zip lining courses in the country this past summer. But what we actually encountered, indirectly on my part for a host of reasons that seemed to magically appear in my mind as the fear of embarrassment and failure grew as I approached the challenge nestled amid trees, was a park devoted to adventure enthusiasts, dare devils and a rash of people caught unaware.

But I didn’t let the picturesque, Thoreau-like scene fool me. I caught on to what lurked behind the yellow-dappled leaves and towering trees. I had done zip lining before, but this was something different. It was an episode of Extreme Sports without the glitz of television, adoring fans and campy names and haircuts.

From precarious, shaky bridges to monkey bars suspended 100 feet in the air, the anxiety, and for some, excitement, brought on by this adventure was real. The fear of the unknown screamed out from behind the leaves, and the hidden hallows of the forests seemed to whisper beware.

But as I sat there waiting for them to finish their adventure feeling an ever so slight tinge of guilt for not embracing the challenge, it got me thinking, how different was this course from life?

The zip lining park was tangible proof that a challenge can provoke many different responses.

At the beginning, we were encouraged to stay in a tidy group and follow the rules of the leader. But the sub-leaders quickly emerged as they shrugged off any hesitation and promptly walked toward their challenge with confidence, squared shoulders and heads held high. Most others followed in a pack while a few trailed behind checking and rechecking their equipment with grimaces and sighs.

What ensued was a several hour-long string of adventures. Each obstacle was met with a blend of apprehension, nervous laughter and at times a steely bravado that worked well at masking the fear that likely lurked inside.

But for others the journey was not as romantic. Some were not so lucky or successful…as is the case in life.

One woman, in spite of her enthusiasm and determination, was left clenching onto a rope with her muscles shaking from sheer exhaustion and overuse. The woman, who looked fairly fit, had to be rescued. And saving her from her impending doom, a nosedive into the forest below, was a young man most likely half her age and perhaps toting half her attention span. And I sighed a sense of relief again as I realized that could have easily been me.

The analogies to life abounded that day in the zip lining park as the participants stretched, jumped, breathed heavily and high-fived each other for a job well done. Some embraced the challenge, while others were content to stick closer to the sidelines. Still others wavered somewhere in between.

The one lesson I learned that day…I need to do it next time.

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