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My Story in the Search of Happiness

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Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness, culminating almost everything in our lives, is a key element to human existence as we know it. We are given the inalienable right to pursue it, and we must, for it is in our very nature to do so. As I suspect for most people, there are very rare moments where we truly get the chance to pursue happiness. Despite this, I had the rare chance to have a genuine experience of my own in a place where I least expected it to occur. A chance to soar. A chance to sail in the vast skies where few have gone before.

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This wonderful passion started in the Philippines, in 2012. A family trip to the land where civilization is constantly waging a beautiful battle with the tendrils of nature, and the lack of rules allows for near endless opportunity. Adrenaline was already pumping when we arrived at the park and checked in to the front desk. Soon after, I was in the back of a pickup trudging up a steep mountainside to a small shack with a couple of wires stretching to a peak on the opposite side of a deep valley. We sat in harnesses at the front of a small shack that overlooked the rainforest clad mountaintops of the surrounding skyline while the guides quickly zipped to the other side of the valley across the rickety zip line. My cousins went first, letting out whoops and hollers as they rocketed over the edge of the cliff and the cable creaked and sagged under their weight. I kneeled down in the back of the shed while the driver of the truck strapped me in, waited for my cue to go, and leapt out of the shed to be free in the sky. I went “superman style,” which means that I was face first, belly down, flying through the sky, putting all my faith in a simple knot on my back that meant the the difference between flying and falling to certain death. Adrenaline surged through my veins as the air, sweet and fresh, whipped through my hair and beat at my face. Everything went as a blur as I accelerated across the deep valley. The tree line was a green blur underneath me, hundreds of feet below. The lack of restrictions and the knowledge of the immediate danger that I was in only made the experience more thrilling and free. I was young and invincible. Nothing could stop me… or so I thought. All of a sudden, I could feel myself slowing down, but the opposite side of the valley was still a good couple of hundred feet away. All of a sudden, I came to a stop and slowly started traveling in the direction I had come from. I accelerated back towards the middle and lowest point of the zip line cable, and I was left dangling there. My hands shaking, I contemplated if this was truly the end of my meager existence and what would happen if everything suddenly came to an end. Birds flew past me and I could hear the vegetation sway with the wind as I dangled there, helpless. I lay in my harness for a good 10 minutes while I waited for assistance from someone… ANYONE! A tour guide reluctantly rode out to meet me and we were slowly winched to safety. We hiked the rest of the way down the mountain, back to the park.

The experience holds a significant value for me even today. Dangling there, I learned for the first time how danger is always imminent when we take risks, and how everything could very quickly turn itself inside out. Practicing caution in risky activities became a staple for me, because I absolutely abhorred the sinking feeling I experienced when sliding back down to the middle of the zip line only to be stranded. The adrenaline rush, however, was something I continued to crave intensely. So in 2014, I went back to the Philippines, but not to the same location. I was no longer invincible, and would never be again. I went to a different park where the entire system was on an automated zip line, and in this way I was able to feel the wind on my face once more, without the danger. But something was wrong, it just didn’t feel the same. The extra safety measures made the experience feel artificial, as if that sense of danger was no longer present. I felt like I was wrapped in bubble wrap with packing peanuts stuffed inside my mouth. It was as if that sense of danger was the driving force between the rush of freedom I felt the first time I did this sort of thing. We live in a paradoxical world where we want all of the rush and the joy at taking a huge risk and having it pay off, but we never want to experience the other side of things: failure. Yet, we know that we must be ready to experience one with the other, and in order to have a true sense of reality, we have to be ready to take that step out into nothingness. However, few people actually do that in their lives, and instead live in this artificial existence where everything is safe and good, not knowing that they have not truly lived. So at that park, I took that next step.

Near the entrance to the park there was a tower standing at around 150 ft. in the air. A rope dangled from a platform at the top down to a dirty mattress and a skeleton at ground level. As I climbed into my harness at the top of the tower, there was a lady going before me who chickened out of the massive free fall drop. So it was my turn to go. My harness was strapped to the rope, and I reluctantly stepped both feet out into the air outside of the platform. The protective bubble was gone, and the only thing that was holding me up was a tour guide’s hand on the rope. I got into the skydiving position and was told to look at the cameraman on the platform for a quick picture before I took my descent. 3… 2…1…Say cheese! I felt my stomach flip upside down as the roar of the wind filled my ears. The ground was rushing towards me rapidly, and my whole body tensed up in preparation for the impact with the mattress at the bottom of the drop. Then, as suddenly as it started, it all came to a halt. The world fell silent, and all I could hear was the rapid beat of my heart. I just sat there, shocked, with my eyes resting only a couple inches from the mattress. Slowly I stood up and untangled myself from the wires, still visibly shaken. Suddenly, something welled up in my lungs that I didn’t know would be there. I let out whoops and hollers of excitement at what I had just accomplished. It was real; it was authentic; it was exciting! I was taking risks and experiencing life to its fullest! I knew there was danger there and that it was a possibility that I might hit the mattress instead of being caught, but I took the chance and it paid off! I was ecstatic as I walked towards the exit while the adrenaline was still coursing through me. A final sense of relief took over after I appreciated the fact that I made it out alive and in one piece. This was the life I wanted; the risks taking and the sense of pride and relief I felt afterwards were something that I needed.

So it hasn’t ended. The craving has pushed me to develop a new lifestyle to work hard, calculate risk, and take steps that others normally would question. All to reap the profit and benefit in the long run. The adrenaline was something else that I seek, so as a long term goal, I will commit myself to go skydiving a lot. The lessons learned in those intense moments are key facts of life and how to see it at its fullest. Each person must step out of their comfort zone in order to fully understand life and the emotions of others. Taking those steps will ultimately lead you in a direction towards the key element to human existence: happiness.

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