Leap of faith

Eileen Gault Burmeister
3 min readJul 29, 2023

It’s been a long time since I let peer pressure get the best of me, but a few years ago, I took a leap off of a 30-foot platform because of peer pressure from a bunch of teenagers.

I went zip lining.

Let’s get this straight: I had no intention of going zip lining when I agreed to go along on the youth group retreat in Oregon. I was there to help coordinate gym games, make some s’mores, and keep wiry teenagers in line (I’m looking at you, freshmen boys).

So how did I find myself willingly climbing a 30-foot ladder to a small wooden platform?

Peer pressure. That, and the philosophy of YOLO.

What is YOLO, you ask? YOLO is a ridiculously catchy phrase that teenagers have been using for a while that stands for “you only live once.” They throw this term around as they jump into wildly unstable conditions (i.e. a zip line) and chalk their stupid decisions up to YOLO.

However, as one astute 12th-grade girl pointed out on the retreat, “You hear people say YOLO as they do something that might kill them, so it really should stand for ‘you ought to look out.’”

Excellent point. And yet I did not heed it.

Instead a stepped into a harness that fit snugly around my waist, attached a rope to that harness, and grabbed a hard hat to start my 30-foot climb up a ladder.

And why? Because my 17-year-old son said, “Mom, you should try it.”

Here’s how my thought process went: He’s 17. He’ll be away at college next year, making this his last fall retreat and my last year chaperoning a retreat that he attends. This got me teary just thinking about it, so all rational thinking flew out the window. Next thing I knew I was thinking about him one day telling his children, “Did you know grandma once went zip lining through the Oregon forests with my youth group?” YOLO, indeed!

And with that, I put on my hard hat and started climbing.

As I climbed up the ladder I forced myself to not think about anything. I also refused to look down, only looking at each rung as I climbed higher. As I reached the top of the ladder, the camp employee told me to step on the platform with him as he tethered me to the zip line. I still refused to look where I was going and when he said “go” … I just jumped … eyes closed, of course, and screaming like a banshee.

I’m hoping that last part isn’t part of the story my son tells my grandkids, but judging from the photo he took at that moment, I’m not sure I’ll ever escape that part of the plot line now.

About halfway through the ride, when I realized I had not smacked into a tree, or lost control of my bodily functions, or fallen to the ground, I finally opened my eyes and was flying through the trees. It was magical, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

As I walked back up to meet the kids at the top of the hill, they were already planning their next move: the giant swing. “What’s that?” I asked. Found out it is a swing where you start swinging from a perch 75 feet up, and the swing pulls you about 65 feet up in the air.

I reasoned that YOLO, not twice, and settled on taking a nap in the cabin instead.

Plus, I figured I’d save the giant swing for when our grandkids go to camp. After all, YOLO!



Eileen Gault Burmeister

Storyteller, writer, editor, photographer, fascinated by words, forever reading the room.