"The Art of Living Fearlessly" // Skydivers forming a circle at sunset(Photo: Courtesy of Essence)

Zip-lining, trapeze-flying, fencing -- you name it, and New Yorker Christina Tapper has tried it. So last June, when a friend invited her and five others to join her for a skydive in Long Island, Christina didn't hesitate to sign up. "We were looking at each other going, 'Are we really going to jump?'" she recalls. As three others stepped out of the plane, Christina inched closer to the door. "At first I was completely shocked that I was doing this," she says. "But then, all of a sudden, I just went for it. I sped through the air at 120 miles per hour with the wind hitting my face, and it was exhilarating!" Eight minutes and 13,500 feet later, Christina had crossed one more item off her list of dream adventures.

What drove this intrepid 27-year-old journalist to jump out of a plane? To understand Christina's hunger for adventure, you have to first understand what scares her. "I'm afraid of having regrets," she says. "Back in college, I once had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain, but because I didn't want to be in any more debt, I didn't go." After graduation, when friends who had studied in South Africa and Italy shared their travel stories, Christina felt a pang of envy. "There was a little twinkle in their eye when they talked about living in another culture and learning a new language," says Christina. "I decided right then that I wanted to seize every opportunity that I could. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, and do all the things Black women like me supposedly don't do, and live with as much joy and courage as I could."

We may not be free-falling through the clouds, but Black women all over the country are longing to live such big, bold and bliss-filled lives. We yearn to embrace the happiness that is ours for the taking, but don't know how to begin. We know that just beyond our cubicles, an exciting world awaits -- and rather than deferring our dreams until the so-called golden years or even until the next payday, we want to start living the lives we've been fantasizing about now.

What stops us? In a word, fear. Just imagining leaving our comfort zone can make our jaws clench, our hands tremor, and our minds reel with questions like "What will it cost -- and what if I fail?" We sometimes forget just how resilient we can be, steeped as we are in the wisdom of our foremothers, who passed on lessons such as "You can't fall off the ground" and "In trying times, don't quit trying." As our foremothers understood, the way to confront the kind of fear that can keep us stuck is to step up to the plate and try. Because on the other side of fear is the potential for a delicious existence filled with power, opportunity and joy....

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