Four days after we’d arrived in Brazil, Chris and I decided to go hang gliding. We took a cab down to a beach where a Google search had told us gliders congregate and, after 15 minutes, $100 dollars, and a few hastily signed release forms, we were in cars headed to the top of a mountain with two men who spoke hardly any English. The language barrier made it very difficult to understand even basic instructions about how to hang glide, with my handler, Paulo, saying only, "Just run, guy. Don't stop running." By that, he meant that I should not hesitate when it came time to run off the cliff. This is what Paulo's English and my Portuguese were too poor to illuminate for me before we'd begun our ascent: To get a hang glider airborne, you stand about 40 feet from the edge of a cliff and run off of it at full speed.
The same voice that had paralyzed me years before on the football field once again crept up my stomach and into my throat, and I told Chris I didn't think I could go through with it. "It's not natural," I said. "It makes no sense to deliberately fling yourself off a cliff." Chris laughed at me and smiled the way he always does when I tell him about some fear that's gripping me at that particular moment. And then, as he always does, he channeled Leo, whom in that second was thousands of miles away and probably far more scared than me: "Just jump," Chris said. "And if you die, you died fucking hang gliding over Rio, so who cares anyway?"
In the end I ran, I jumped, I did not die, and I now think of the incident fondly for providing me with two of my favorite bits of advice this year: "just jump" and "don't stop running."
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