In the months leading up to my 18th birthday, the second semester strain of my Senioritis was in full effect. I knew the foreboding shift into adulthood and college was coming fast, yet I still felt like a kid. I couldn’t even keep my room organized, so how was I supposed to do real grownup stuff, like organize my finances or my life in general? The biggest decisions I ever had to make were, “Should I add guac in my burrito at Chipotle?” or “Should I watch an entire season of Orange is the New Black in one night?” (The answer to both of those questions is always “yes.”) But after months of deliberation, I figured the only way out of this rut was to make a life changing decision: to conquer one of my greatest fears… my fear of falling.

Even though I’ve loved heights and roller coasters my entire life, the idea of actually free-falling makes me want to crawl into a corner, assume fetal position, and accept imminent doom. So, that’s how I got the idea to go bungee jumping with my friends for my 18th birthday. It was the perfect choice for two reasons 1.) I had a definite deadline and 2.) My friends wouldn’t let me chicken out at the last-minute.

Being both incredibly worried and a control freak, I spent weeks organizing all the details, but finally my big day arrived. Before dawn, my friends and I drove up to the mountains. Once we started our hike, there was no cellphone reception: No Snapchat, no Instagram, just our own secret adventure. The hike was gorgeous, and my friends constantly stopped to take pictures (and help calm my fears). After 5 miles we made it to the jumping bridge (which inherently inspired my group to make endless references to Justin Timberlake’s song, “Sexy Back”). I gazed over the side of the bridge at the twelve stories below and saw a rushing river staring up at me.

Everyone on the bridge received preliminary jumping instructions, and we all proceeded to wait for our turn to jump. As my group neared the front of the line, a worker with a harness approached us, and of course, my friends all pointed at me and said “The birthday girl has to go first!” I anxiously put on all the required gear, crawled over the side of the bridge, and stood on the ledge. The man handling my bungee cord asked me which type of jump I wanted to do. In return I asked, “What’s the scariest jump I can do?” And he replied, “The forward-facing dive. For sure.” Without hesitation I accepted his offer.

And this was the moment.

The months of distress, the weeks of planning, the two-hour hike… all accumulated to this. One jump. But for me this was more than just “a jump.” The workers started counting me off, but the only thing running through my head was “Jump as far as you can.” And finally, I jumped.

For the first three seconds it actually felt like I was flying, but then good ol’ gravity kicked in (and that’s where the real adventure started). I completely forgot that I was connected to a rope, and I felt free (utterly terrified, but still very free). Throughout out the jump my vocabulary diminished to two phrases: “I’m OK” and “Oh my God!” And after the stomach churning bouncing was done I realized that I had done it. Mission. Accomplished.

After I got back up to the bridge, I looked around at the other jumpers and realized that I was the youngest jumper there. The other jumpers were celebrating turning 50 years old, their wedding anniversaries, divorces, or finally fulfilling their bucket list. But there I was, celebrating turning 18. I knew bungee jumping wouldn’t magically transform me into an adult or give me Dumbledore-esque wisdom, but it gave me the opportunity to be proactive with my life. For once I was procrastinating life, and in that moment, I felt more adult than ever before.

(Images via here.)