Perform a Backflip

This one could be mistaken for another ‘low hanging fruit’ type things. But still waters run deep.

When I was a junior in high school, I had a dream that I ran up to one of the heaters that were stationed along the walls of my high school’s cafeteria (wish I could find a picture on the internet, but alas…), the type that everyone used to lean against despite the ‘do not sit’ signs plastered everywhere, and did a backflip. The next day, I was in the student government class that was held in the cafeteria and asked my friend, Dave, to hold my things. “I had a dream about this…” I said as I ran over, planted one foot on top of the heater and spun heels over head and landed back on my feet without incident. It’s the kind of thing that one only does at an age when they aren’t preoccupied by the idea of ‘ramifications’. Then me just went for it. Now me calculates risk. Now me has a wife, a child, a mortgage, probably no life insurance… Now me focuses on how I could easily have broken my neck.

Fast forward to 2016. I’m visiting with my family at my brother’s house. He has a trampoline, a nice big one with a safety net surrounding it. I was wearing a suit. We were mourning. It had been a long day, but I couldn’t resist jumping into the trampoline with my daughter, niece, and nephew. It’d been a few years, but I thought I’d do a backflip to entertain the kids. When I say, “it’d been a few years”, I mean, it had been a few years. I was not at any ‘peak performance’ level. I cannot confirm nor deny that alcoholic beverages may have been involved. Whatever the reason, or whatever the excuse, I did a backflip on that trampoline that day. Only… I over-rotated and my balance on landing was off in such a way that I was propelled backward, into the safety net… which proceeded to rip away from its beams, cocooning me in a swaddle of netting as I fell backward. My foot became trapped where the springs meet the canvas and I fell back, landing on my head and neck on the ground, arms wrapped-up in a way that they could do nothing to protect my big, dumb head. It all happened in slow-motion and in front of my family. Embarrassment shielded me from the stark reality of the situation- that is how people break their necks. It was a classic, “hold my beer…” moment. While we all laughed about it then (and now), it marked the last time I did a backflip (on a trampoline. I’ll do them into swimming pools when no one asks). It had been a move I would do all the time in high-school. Off benches. Off statues. Off stairways. If you dog was sitting still enough, they got a backflip. It was second nature, but fear had poisoned my confidence. I added “do a backflip on a trampoline” to my list less as an easy win and more of a ‘getting back on the horse’. I needed to get over my fears to get a win.

I’ve attached a video below so you can see it for yourself, but I did this one alone. I didn’t want to fail in front of anyone. Having the camera rolling helped light the fire. I *had* to do it. You can see that my first attempt was a face-plant. You can see that I’m still tentative- under rotating to avoid doing another over-rotation. You can see that it takes me several tries and even the one I’m calling official was pretty sloppy. You can also see that I’m going to have to lay off the nachos. It’s all there. I’m not proud of any of that. It’s what’s happening inside my head that I’m proud of. You can’t see it but it’s there: overcoming fear.

Difficulty: Depends on your physical condition, I suppose. Backflips can go so very wrong. But they are easier than they seem.

Lessons learned:

  • Determination needs to overcome common sense sometimes – Seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes new experiences mean overcoming fears and those fears are oftentimes completely rational. I’ve never jumped off a bridge while a bungee cord is wrapped around my legs (it’s on my list!), but I imagine it’s a similar situation, where you need to ignore that fundamental part of your brain that tries to keep you alive and force yourself to take that step.
  • Don’t over-think it – When trying to perform any physical activity, success is often achieved when you are able to get your brain to just… shut the fuck up! Becoming great at something is mountains of practice until your body can do things for itself. Sending too much time thinking about what your body needs to do is a recipe for being too tense and screwing-up. Ever think about what’s involved with running down stairs WHILE running down stairs? Don’t.