As the plane climbed higher and higher, I felt a strange sense of calm. The cool morning air brought up goosebumps on my bare arms, and it temporarily distracted me from the fact that I’d soon be falling from 12,000 feet towards the blue water below. The rickety metal door creaked open to my right while I tried not to look. Now there was nothing left between me and the blue skies outside – we were up first. My instructor tapped my shoulder and said, “you ready?”
Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.
And so we jumped…
Flash back to July of last year when I was thinking of items to put on my 30 before 30 list… I wanted a blend of things that would be fun (taking a salsa class), meaningful (getting CPR certified), and a few that would really push me out of my comfort zone. Skydiving was one of those things.
I’m not afraid of heights or anything, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a “daredevil” by any stretch of the imagination either. I figured that skydiving was a way for me to really challenge myself to do something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before, and I made it #1 on my list. It was pretty much the item that terrified me the most.
As soon as I posted my list, a few of my friends mentioned that skydiving interested them as well. Encouraged by the thought of “strength in numbers,” I started looking into booking an actual reservation. One of the websites directed me to a YouTube page with video from past jumps. It made my stomach turn just to watch! I started to think maybe this wasn’t the best idea, since I couldn’t even stomach looking at pictures and video. How was I going to live through actually jumping?
Well somehow on a chilly March morning on the weekend before my 30th, I ended up heading down to Skydive Hawaii. On the long drive there, I kept repeating to myself, “there’s no turning back now. It will all be over in a couple of hours anyway. You can do this.” Over and over, I’d get chills just thinking about it. I pulled up to the parking lot and saw my friend Leah, who was also celebrating her 30th by jumping out of a plane. Leah had talked her cousin Harvey into coming along and he looked just as nervous as I felt. Leah, on the other hand was beaming. The three of us walked inside for the orientation.
Now, if you’ve never been skydiving before, it’s easy to imagine that many people would change their minds after watching the safety video and signing off on the 10+ page waiver, which repeated in about a million different ways “Skydiving is dangerous. Skydiving can result in death. I am willingly choosing to participate in this activity knowing I might die.” Sign here, initial here, here, here, here, and here. Done. It’s pretty intimidating, but again, we’re past the point of no return. And with three of us, no one wanted to be the chicken who’d back out.
Soon our names were up on the board, we were the 4th group to go. Because we’d each opted for the photo package (hey, I’m only doing this once – I need the photos to prove it!) we had the three of us, three tandem masters, and three photographers who’d be jumping with us to catch pictures on the way down. With our entourage, we took up a whole plane to ourselves, which was great! I met my tandem master, Chad, who I probably scared with my questions about motion sickness. Nicole, my photographer, told me that this jump was to be her 900th! (WOW!)
After standing around for another half hour or so, for some reason I felt like my anxiety level was going DOWN. When I mentioned this to Nicole she told me, “great, that’s good. But don’t worry, you’ll be terrified once you get on the plane,” and walked out to the runway with a smirk. Gee thanks, that made me feel better!
As we all got settled into the tiny plane, I realized that I’d be the first to jump. I guess this was a good thing, as there was no way that I was backing out now, and not having to watch the others go first meant that I’d have less time to think about what I was actually doing. The plane climbed up to 12,000 ft altitude in less than ten minutes and I kept waiting for my fear to return, yet I still felt surprisingly calm. Chad tapped me on the shoulder and said, “welcome to my office. Pretty cool, huh?” I must admit, as I looked out the window to the blue-green water below, I could understand how the scenery could really make this a great place to work. (Except for that jumping out of the plane thing.)
Speaking of which, the door to the plane rolled up and we inched our way to the edge. I only got to look down for a moment, but unbelievably, I still wasn’t scared! In fact, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of excitement! I followed the instructions we’d been given on the ground – to bend my knees, grab onto my harness, and lean back into my instructor. Soon, he took a step forward and before I knew it we were falling.
As the frigid air blew past my body, I almost didn’t have enough time to compute what was going on. I remember looking up and seeing the plane above us getting smaller, with the sun behind it. Then we turned over and looked down into the free fall. It was absolutely incredible. They say the 45 seconds of free fall goes pretty quick, and that is an understatement! For a couple of seconds, my photographer edged closer to us to take pictures at arm’s length. I tried to smile for the camera but I soon got distracted by the amazing view of the island below.
Nicole let go of my hand, and I could feel Chad getting ready to pull the cord on our parachute. I braced for the impact, expecting that dropping feeling in my stomach like a roller coaster. The chute went up and we were tugged upwards a tiny bit, but it wasn’t bad at all. Nicole continued to fall backwards, snapping photos of us as she went. She got so tiny in my view so quickly, until she was just a speck.
“Your office is absolutely amazing,” I said to Chad over my shoulder, as we drifted back and forth over the airfield. He circled around a couple of times and I started looking for whales. (No luck.) At this point, I remember thinking, “I could SO do this again.” And right on cue he mentioned that they have discounted rate for a second jump on the same day! haha!
When we were finally back on the ground, I met up with Leah and her cousin (who was now talking about wanting to get certified as a tandem master!) and we had a huge group hug. It was such an exhilarating feeling to have faced my fear and come out smiling…
I remember reading a quote once – “If you only had 6 months to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing right now?” That’s the thing with bucket lists – sometimes I think if we put things off too far into the future, we forget to live for today. Every moment is precious, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. We all have those things that are beyond our comfort zones, that we put on our list for “someday”…
What’s on your list?