My feet on the edge of the plane 17,500 feet up and after leaping, I was flying in the air. The air pushed me down, my breath wasn’t noticeable. I felt like a lump was in my throat and all I could do was look down. I started panicking. I thought that I was going to stop breathing because I didn’t know how to catch my breath. The freefall was the worst part of skydiving for me. It was one minute of complete terror.
At that moment, I thought, “this must be what it feels like to die.” But my brain knew I wasn’t going to die, and so when the parachute opened, and my feet flew front, and I started the slow descent to the ground, I knew I’d done one of the hardest, most challenging, scariest things in my life.
When my best friend asked me to go skydiving a few months ago, I said “Yes! Let’s do it!” Because I knew I wanted to challenge myself this year with things that were outside of my comfort zone. As the months, weeks, and days passed, and it was closer to the date of the trip, I was starting to get scared.
The weekend before we left for our trip to Colorado, I was thinking about what it would feel like. I tried to visualize the way I would learn how to jump out of a plane. But I couldn’t. I just keep thinking that I’ll deal with whatever feelings I have when the time comes. I thought I’d be excited about it when it was happening.
We flew into Denver on Sunday and I’d booked our skydiving trip for Monday morning at 9 AM so that we’d get it done first thing. I wanted it to be over. I am a writer who loves having written, and a skydiver that wanted to tell the tale and wasn’t looking forward to the actual jump. When it was clear that the weather wasn’t the greatest, I thought that we might not jump. The plane didn’t go up on Monday morning because there was too much cloud cover. After sitting in a “waiting room” watching some sort of adventure/real-life comedy TV channel highlighting dumb stunts people do, I was ready to get out of there.
Luckily the weather cleared up for our rescheduled date of Friday, just before we were about to head back home. We arrive on time and we rode on a truck that took us to the staging area. I was feeling sick. All of a sudden I was crying. Not just a few tears, but I felt like I was going to start balling like a kid who doesn’t want to eat Brussels sprouts. I didn’t want to get on that plane. I wanted my money back. I wanted to go back to my car and cuddle on the seat in a ball.
The straps felt tight on me, yet not tight enough that I might fall out of them. My body wasn’t designed to look good in this kind of “Tomb Raider” outfit. I don’t have the body of Angelina Jolie. I felt uncomfortable.
Also, I thought about so many other insecurities. About being single at 39 and not having kids to worry about me. I thought about if this is it, what have I accomplished? I thought of a thousand things all at once, yet I couldn’t speak. I felt like I had no air and couldn’t make any words come out of my mouth when asked questions.
I tried to play it cool. One of the skydivers saw my expression in the tent and asked if I was okay. I think I looked as terrified as I felt. So I went out in the sun, but standing outside, watching people before us who had just been on the ground fall from the sky wasn’t helping my anxiety.
When the time came, I did it. I walked to the plane, I got in. I sat down. I listened to the instructions. I told the guy that I was tandem to, that he had one job, to get me safely back to the ground in one piece. He wasn’t especially talkative but said he would guarantee my safety. And he did. Since I’m back and writing this now.
After the parachute opened, and we floated for four minutes, he told me he had done over 2,000 jumps. I thought that would’ve been nice to know earlier. He also told me he does base jumping for “fun” on the weekends. So no office 9-5 job for him. It made me realize that some people in this world have no problem living a non-traditional life. So why was I so afraid to leave my job? Why was I so afraid to stand still and be stuck in a life I don’t love, and that doesn’t excite me? Why do I have to wait for a year to pass?
So what I took away from this experience is that I’m not going to do things that don’t make me happy anymore. I’m going to fight for what I want and how I want to live.
I’m thinking to get the words “LIVE LIFE” tattooed on my wrist. Because that is what I want to do every day from this moment on. LIVE LIFE. NO EXCEPTIONS.
I’m proud of myself for doing this at all. 10 years ago I would’ve been too heavy to jump. I lost 100 lbs and spent the last ten years up and down the scale.
I’m done negotiating for an unfulfilling life. I am done settling for less than extraordinary.