I am a Tricker.
This means that I can jump into the air, rotate 360 degrees along whatever axis I please, and land without damaging myself.
This is the least of what flying has taught me.
For me, tricking has a long history. If you boil tricking down to its essential concepts, it is simply:
I started both at a young age. In fact, many do. Both are very natural motions: jumping, and rolling, really. As a child, I copied a move from Sonic the Hedgehog while play fighting with my older brother. I employed the Sonic Dash (AKA front roll) on him until he sidestepped and I ran into a wall. That was tricking, pain and all.
Tricking was there when I started to copy moves from the martial arts movies I’d seen. The fancy kicks, jumps, and spins. Tricking was there when my brother taught me the butterfly kick, which I would tweak and improve through the years. But mostly, Tricking was there when I hobbled on a bad ankle, bruised shins/waist/knees, dirty and scuffed arms.
Tricking was there when I looked up at myself in my reflection and thought about how cool it would be to place a foot on a reflected surface, foot to foot, almost like my reflection actually was a real body, equally and oppositely balancing me. Then running at it, placing my foot beautifully just so, living that dream, and then, with nowhere else to go, flipping over backward.
Tricking was also there when I tried the second time and landed on my face. In fact, Tricking was laughing at me. I had failed the second time because I had hesitated.
What flying taught me was fear. Visceral fear. Fear of death. Fear of injury. Fear of the unknown. But most of all, what Tricking taught me was to be afraid of fear itself. Besides the cliche, the physical reality is that hesitation and fear must be erased from physical performance in tricking, otherwise injuries increase many times. Incomplete moves are much more injurious than completed or overly rotated moves. If you stop halfway through a backflip, you are upside down and headed for the hospital at 9.8 meters per second squared.
What flying taught me was to fear, then, as I picked myself up off of the floor, dusted myself off, and cataloged my injuries, to hate fear. To hate the small voice inside that clung to me as I leapt, froze my muscles as I tucked in tight, screamed bloody murder as I saw the ground rushing up for me, then smugly said “I told you so. Don’t try that again,” as I lie, broken, on the floor.
What flying taught me was to hate the weakness in me that limited me to what I knew. It taught me to assess the risks and the rewards. It taught me that when you rise to the occasion, you do so with your entire heart and soul or you risk pain and suffering and debilitating mental and physical scars. It taught me that to even barely succeed, you must first set your sights as high as you can, and then leap toward it with everything you’ve got.
That’s why I walked to Chicago. That’s why I lived out of my car for a semester. That’s why, every year, I write a book in a month. That’s why I will continue to live my life to the fullest that I can, because I don’t even know what I’m capable of until I push myself higher. And I plead that you do the same.
This is what flying taught me.