One of the biggest perks of jumping out of a plane is sliding it into every possible conversation everyday for 6 months afterwards. Although you’ll endure many eye rolls from repeat listeners, the smug satisfaction that you did something you never thought you could will be more than enough to motivate you to keep bringing it up again.
And so began my journey this past May. I was in a place in my life where I felt lost, like no matter what decisions I made, they wouldn’t lead me to where I was supposed to be. As I sat on a comfortable flight home to visit my family, I stared out the window and the sudden thought of “I need to jump out of this” lodged itself into my head. My tiny airplane bottle of liquor certainly wasn’t going to put up a fight with my newfound thoughts, if anything, it was like a tiny person whispering *go for it*.
As soon as I landed, I excitedly switched on my phone and sent a message to my friend Josh. Now at this point in our relationship, Josh and I were friends (we would normally see each other for dinner whenever I came to town) but we weren’t particularly close. We would text each other occasionally, but not once a day sort of thing. For some reason, beyond logic (although I wasn’t being very logical at this point), I quickly clicked on his contact info in my phone and sent the message: “want to jump out of a plane?” I waited, unsure if I would go by myself, but it only took 2 minutes to get a very Josh reply: “Sure.” Later I would find out Josh thought I was kidding, but it was that quick reply that sent the wheels into motion. We both looked online, and it took only about 15 minutes for us to book the jumps.
We were to drive about an hour out of town for the skydiving, and the next 2 days of anticipation were nerve rattling. My mind jumped back and forth between the two very different possible scenarios that could play out, and in one of them I ended up a tiny blob on the ground. For some reason the fact that the jump was non-refundable (and was a little costly) probably helped in my decision to go.
Josh picked me up Saturday morning, and I could feel my entire body vibrating in the car. Since it took us an hour to get there, we tried our hardest not to freak each other out, and thankfully for me Josh has a pretty good pokerface. As we pulled up to our destination, it felt like my heart was going to leap out of my chest. I was trying to keep my cool as we walked up to the front desk, when the woman seemed surprised to see us there. It turns out they hadn’t put the online information into their system yet, so they hadn’t been expecting us. She quickly informed us the wind was picking up outside, and we may have to move the jump to the following day.
As it turned out, Josh and I found ourselves back in his car, scheduled to jump the next day. My mind wasn’t in agreeance with my body about what was happening, because the adrenaline was still pumping through my veins. I had psyched myself out for the past 2 days knowing that today was the day I was going to jump out of a plane, and now I had to endure another 24 hours of this.
We went for lunch (I told myself I needed a drink), and he dropped me off at home. Once I was inside, I realized tomorrow was also Mother’s Day, and that I might have to cut brunch a little short. This was a tiny problem because I hadn’t yet told my family about jumping, for fear my mother would cling to me all the way to the plane.
The next morning, we sat down for brunch. While everyone was drinking mimosas and eating eggs, I was repeatedly glancing at my watch. “Do you have somewhere to be today?” My mother seemed annoyed. When Josh had picked me up the day before, I told her we were going golfing, what on earth was I going to use as an excuse today? “Uh, Josh is picking me up soon and we’re….going golfing again.” Smooth. She looked at me confused, and inquired as to why it was so important that I needed to go twice in one weekend. After about 50 interrogating questions from family members (they should have been cops), I finally spilled the beans. “Ok! We were supposed to go skydiving yesterday, but it was too windy and they had to reschedule it for today and I know it’s Mother’s Day and I’m sorry!” They all stared at me for a second, and then my mother spoke up “let us know when you make it to the ground.” I wasn’t sure if their relaxed attitude about it was refreshing, or concerning.
Josh pulled into my driveway again. I felt calmer today for some reason, perhaps because I knew they were expecting us, and the drive there was mostly idle chitchat this time. As soon as we pulled in, however, the adrenaline kicked in again. I begged Josh to let me go first, which he didn’t seem to have a problem with, since he said the probability of his parachute not opening if mine didn’t would be quite low.
I was dressed in perhaps the most unattractive suit I’ve ever seen, and hoped that if I died, they’d change me into something slightly more flattering. After meeting the skydiving instructor that I would be strapped to, we began walking towards the plane. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and I could feel my body shaking. But surprisingly, and without explanation, I found myself feeling quite calm once I was in the plane.
What I didn’t realize was just how long the plane ride up was. Josh and I had chosen the highest altitude they offered, 11,000 feet, because we figured it we were going to do this, we might as well go all the way. After 20 minutes, and getting securely strapped to the man with the parachute, I was told we would be jumping soon. Two experienced skydivers jumped out before us, and then it was our turn. The door was open. The polite man was telling me move my feet through the door. My body was half out of the plane as I looked down at the teeny tiny earth below me. He asked me if I was ready (not that my response would have mattered), and with that, we jumped.
The pull of gravity is inexplicable. Josh would later go on to describe it as “violent”, and I can’t think of a better word for it. Tumbling towards the earth, falling an entire mile before the chute was pulled, there was only one thing going through my head: “it’s windy”.
As soon as he pulled the parachute, we were pulled upwards. The sound of a raging river from the free fall had abruptly stopped, and all of a sudden I was in the most peaceful place I had ever been. Tim, the instructor I was strapped to, let me hold onto the parachute straps to glide in different directions. This was, without a doubt, my favourite part. I had never been in a place where I was so thrust into the present moment, while at the same feeling incredibly peaceful.
The gliding around was quickly over, and before I knew it we were back on solid ground. I hugged Tim, and thanked him for getting me back safely. As I walked towards a bench in the field to watch Josh take his jump, there were a hundred things racing through my head. One of them, and perhaps the most important, was the realization that I felt like if I could have done that, if I could have taken the chance and jumped, then I could take a chance on anything. I could do anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted, and be anything I wanted. And it was with that I made the decision to go back to school, to move to my hometown, and to start living the life I wanted, and not that one I thought I should have.