I lost my daredevil instincts decades ago. Before I was old enough to do it, I wanted to jump out of an airplane. Since becoming an adult, not so much.

The most physically daring thing I’ve done in years is zip lining and the other challenges at the Sandy Spring Adventure Park ropes course. (Readers in the DC area should go—it’s great fun.)

Then, a few weeks ago, we were trying to figure out a surprise for my friend’s 40th birthday that would be more fun than just drinks and dinner. Winning suggestion: a group lesson at the Trapeze School New York (but in DC—there wasn’t time for a trip to the Big Apple).

(Side note: as great as DC is, this winning suggestion also was the only suggestion since her actual birthday was on a Tuesday.)

Unlike many I’ve talked to since this experience, I have not always wanted to try flying on a trapeze. The Sex and the City episode in which Carrie goes to trapeze school didn’t inspire anything in me.

But, for my friends, I’ll do (almost) anything. So I found myself at TSNY, being briefed on how to jump off a very high, very small platform. And I was told I would enjoy it.

The climb up the ladder was close to terrifying. It’s a long way up, and the ladder shakes. A lot. I stepped one rung at a time, like a child might, and only looked up.

Letting go of the bar and holding onto the trapeze with both hands was close to terrifying. I felt safe with the staff person grasping my belt, but I also felt how the trapeze wanted to swing.

Jumping off was close to terrifying. I made him count me off twice. And I definitely closed my eyes the moment I jumped off. I also might have squealed. I am not sure because I don’t remember much of what happened as I was flying through the air.

Close to terrified

Close to terrified

But once I was standing on solid ground again, the surge of adrenalin and hindsight made the experience seem exhilarating. I was ready to go again.

The next pass was captured on video. I had not processed how to do the flip dismount and didn’t tuck. You can see that they lower me down so slowly and lightly. No bouncing up and down in the net for me.

My final pass was the best. I’m not sure if I kept my eyes open or not when I leapt. But once flying, I smiled, enjoyed it and tucked when instructed. Perfect ending. Even though there was time for one or two more passes, we left to start the drinking and dining part of the celebration.

Although I didn’t seek this out, and it wasn’t part of my, “I don’t have to go to work tomorrow so what should I do?” activities, it fully qualifies as a “do something new and different” experience. I might even go back again. It would be cool to do a catch and release move.

BTW, it turns out this was not a winning surprise for the birthday girl: she is afraid of heights. She climbed the ladder, stood on the platform, held the trapeze with her right hand and let go of the rail with her left hand for a few seconds. She then decided three things:

  1. that was enough—she’d faced a fear and didn’t need to do anything more,
  2. at 40 she doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t feel like doing, and
  3. she doesn’t need to feel bad about it.

I’ll drink to that!


Full trapeze school photo album (from 10/14/2014):