For how long can you hold your breath underwater?
Two summers ago I went Cannoning in the beautiful Gorges in the south of France, in a small village called Céret, near Perpignan!
Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m terrified of heights! I still can’t climb a tree today! On this trip, I had to jump and climb down cliffs and each cliff kept getting higher! On the final and most dangerous jump, our tour guide warned us to be careful, with a very strong but sexy French accent.
“zis iz zee ardest one yet, aim for zee middle because zere are lots of rocks down zere”.
When I looked over the edge of that cliff and I saw the height that we were to jump from; I peed myself, thank goodness my suit was already wet.
An intimidating 23 meter (75feet) high rocky descent with no protection save a helmet, a wet suit and ropes! I had seen enough movies to imagine all that could go wrong with ropes! My eyes and fingers were twitching as they encouraged me to jump, there was no other way down.
I stood there trembling for 15 minutes contemplating whether I should turn back; but the journey back would be very long and impossible alone.
So I Jumped…..
Everything went silent…….
Then I felt the splash….
It is entirely an unforgettable experience but the one moment etched in the halls of my mind was being underwater. I held my breath before the jump and I was so terrified I forgot to take another breath right before I went under. When I realised I couldn’t breathe, I was even more scared and I panicked but I held my breath!
With all my strength I swam to the surface because I wanted nothing more than to live.
Finally at the surface, petrified and desperately gasping for air; the rush of adrenaline invaded my bloodstream and I screamed, better yet I hollered and laughed until my sides hurt. I had made it.
I felt invincible although moments before my lungs felt like they were collapsing and I fought for my life! When I looked up, I hallowed that 23m cliff and tears of joy washed away my tears of fear.
Nothing else mattered at that moment because those fifteen seconds I spent swimming to the surface felt like fifteen minutes and I held my breath!
It’s been three years since I took another big jump against the will of many because they never understood my dream! I’ve been holding my breath for three years with fingers and toes crossed hoping I can swim back to the top because I need to breathe
Every day I feel my lungs collapsing but I might just reach the surface if I hold on just a bit longer
I’ve been holding my breath and I don’t regret it; because I’ve never felt so alive. I have found good success, I have stories to tell, I’ve met interesting people, formed unlikely bonds and I’m still on the way to the surface.
I’ve broken hearts and I’ve got my heart broken, danced on countertops and spilled beer. I ran down the street of Toulouse drunk as hell and I nearly broke my arm! Then Sat at Place du Capitol in Toulouse and screamed like a kitten while a Mexican brunette and a Northern Irish Ginger girl nursed my arm back to life, then we took a cold and windy boat ride on La Garonne.
Kissed a total stranger outside a bar, I still don’t know who it was (#TheShame hahaha). Almost got kidnapped in Panama (#TrueStory). Trekked across Berlin in the middle of winter with snow and ice everywhere (#ICaughtA2WeeksLongCold).
Have you ever sat in a big traditional Italian country house with an Italian family and wine-producing grandparents who speak no English but you bond over the home-cooked meals while you laugh your pants off at every word they say and vice versa?
Have you ever taught Jamaican Christmas carols to a large extend Italian family after Christmas dinner and watched as everyone sang and danced along?
I even played rugby, can you imagine gentle old me playing rugby? Climbed Les Dunes du pilat in Bordeaux (#HighestDunesInEurope) at least 3 times.
I found a deeply sincere and unlikely friendship in a half-Vietnamese and half-Italian, French-born, bedtime smoker and yellow vest enthusiast who hates drinking cider and has a big open heart!
I’ve had students come up to me year after year to tell me how profoundly I’ve affected their lives and I’ve watched them cry tears of sadness when they learn that our year together is over.
Among so many other eccentric and eternal memories that all can’t make the page
And all because I jumped and I’m still holding my breath
because I’m not yet at the surface!
Now it’s your turn, so dive!