Image by Finavon via Wikipedia
Ask At Your Own Risk

Waterfalls, or how I learnt to stop worrying and love the jump

Screw you TLC, I'll do what I want...

By Charlie Knights

I’ve always been terrified of heights. I like to put it down to weighing in at only five foot eight (with good shoes), and anything over about six foot above the ground makes my stomach clench. It doesn’t matter if I am in the safest harness in the world, or just looking down out of a window, my stomach does somersaults (stomachsaults?). I tried to fight it a million times, going on Go Ape and zip wires, peering over walls, and watching those videos where people climb to the top of towers in Dubai. Nothing helped, and although this was a small thing that hardly effected my life on the day to day, it was still the thing brought up when anyone asks if you have any phobias. Spiders, horror movies, the number thirteen, nada. A reasonably high ledge? Quaking.

A few weeks ago, when it was shockingly hot for Cardiff, my house and I took off for a day trip to go walk around the waterfalls in the Brecon beacons. With a cooler of beers, and a pair of cheap aviators, we set off to go for a day out and pretend that we didn’t usually spend our days inside pretending to revise whilst marathoning our respective Netflix series.

Eventually we got to a waterfall that my housemates wanted to jump off. 10-15 meters into water, and after a bit of coercion I managed to convince myself that throwing myself off was a great idea, albeit once I had watched the other four do it and manage to successfully not die. Whilst in the air I was terrified, pretty convinced this was the end of the sad tale of Charlie Knights, and then the adrenaline kicked in and I found myself enjoying the height as I fell. It was over in a second and not as bad as I initially thought it would be, and if anything, I kind of wanted to do it again. That doesn’t mean that the next time I looked over a ledge I wasn’t still just as scared as I was before, but at least I had tried, and I knew inside that I could do it.

Anyway, long rambling story about me conquering an insignificant fear aside, what I’m trying to say is that sometimes you need to ignore TLC’s advice and go chase those waterfalls (but heed them on the no scrubs thing). Take the dive off the edge to surprise you and show off. Fear is something that more and more we find governing the everyday life of what we do. Sometimes it’s being too scared of getting out of bed, just in case life takes a baseball bat and home runs you right back down. And of course, that struggle is yours to face, and it’s no less valid than someone’s fear of ballons, or ducks staring at them (Anatidaephobia apparently).

I was having this conversation with one of the news editors for Gair Rhydd, George Watkins. For him, travelling is a big issue. Recently he managed to start taking train journeys, and is slowly getting better at the journey home. I wrote in my last column the incredibly cheesy line of needing to go home to know where you are going at university, and try and imagine wanting to or needing to go and see your family (side note: George has a really cute dog which is like 80% of the reason for our friendship so I see photos) but not being able to face the train or a car on the way.

Comment editor Jess Warren said that for her it’s the issue of anything unknown or uncertain, and researches everything she can before anything new. “Sometimes that even involves walking down the street on Google Maps if I am going to an unfamiliar location!” she wrote, talking about just checking knowing the 20 steps coming up to arrival at a destination.

We all have little things that we try to combat on the everyday. A lot of this manifests in depression and anxiety, which statistics has shown has risen by 70% in the last 25 years. I know that reading an online article from a university aspiring journalist telling you to take the leap (literally in my case, figuratively in yours) is incredibly cliched. If you’re a Cardiff student, and you really have something that is effecting your course or your life at university, whatever it is, pop in to student advice, or the wellbeing service. No one will judge you because you stop to go around a black cat’s path.

The real world is made up of these fears. Don’t be afraid to speak up, to ask for help, or even just to trust your dumbass housemates and throw yourself into mid-air.

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