What I learned while skydiving
Go skydiving: achieved!
This weekend was my first attempt at accomplishing the items on my bucket list I uploaded on Facebook earlier this month. The best way to get started on something like this is to jump right into it; no excuses, no hang-ups, no bailing. I’d like to think I took the ‘jump’ quite literally, considering the first item I was able to check off of my bucket list was a free fall toward the ground from 10,000 feet in the air!
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: I went skydiving on Sunday in Allegan, Mich. for the very first time. In the time it took to get into the plane, head up into the air, back-flip out of the plane, free fall through the air and parachute back to the ground, I definitely learned a lot. Maybe I overthink things, but I like to see every experience as a chance to learn. For me, skydiving was no different.
- The plane ride up into the air is the longest plane ride EVER. You know what’s coming, but it seems to take forever to get there. Half of you wants to never get there and the other half of you wishes you were there already. It’s a nerve-wracking experience.
- Things that are big up close are small from afar. The city of Grand Rapids looks
pretty big when you’re driving through it. But, when you’re up approximately 10,000 feet in the air, it looks to be the size of a baseball. That seems obvious, but to me it’s more than just an observation about the size of a city. For me, it’s the realization that no matter how big your problems seem when you’re on the ground, they’re microscopic when you’re up in the air. The world is way too big to deal with issues and people that are much too small. Are you sure what you’ve been stressing out about lately is worth all of the energy you’re giving it?
- No matter how tough you are, back-flipping out of a plane will scare the hell out of you. Yep, I screamed when we left the plane. I yelled like my life depended on it because instincts told me it did. Crossing my arms on my chest and
putting my life in the hands of a stranger attached to me was one obstacle to jump over, but following that one up with anxiously waiting for the same guy to take a back-flip off of a plane so we can start plummeting 120 miles per hour toward the ground? Yeah, I had to let out a shriek for a second or two. I’d be surprised if anyone managed to keep it under control their first time doing it! If you did, kudos.
- There’s nothing like being free of it all. After the initial shock of the back-flip hit me and I had to arch my body to start the free fall, the (terrified) screaming was over. From there, it was lots of shouts, lots of ‘whoo!’s and lots of joy. There’s nothing like rushing toward the ground with literally nothing around you. I barely noticed Dennis, my instructor who was attached to me, until he pulled the chute. It was liberating to just … fall. No responsibilities, no obligations, just freedom and mindlessness on the way back down to reality.
- A harness can be your best friend or your worst enemy. K, as I told my friends when I got strapped into the harness, I was nervous for the boys … if you know
what I mean. My instructor told me it would either be the perfect fit and it wouldn’t be uncomfortable when the chute deployed, or it was going to be an unfortunate fit and I might be in sheer pain for the rest of the fall — and that was up to how well I strapped myself in. Ooo, when I tell you I couldn’t have been more nervous about making sure I was strapped in correctly, I need you to trust me: I was practically sweating at the thought. Luckily, I did well. No pain, just an awesome glide back down to the ground. I was lucky, but my instructor told me he had seen some men who weren’t. A word of advice to the men: BE CAREFUL.
- Flying never gets old, but being on the ground does. One of the first things I asked my instructor on the way up was if skydiving ever felt ‘typical.’ I’ve spent a lot of time on roller coasters and unfortunately they’re not what they used to be for me. He assured me there was never a moment where it felt common to skydive. It’s pretty much a blessing to be able to fly through the sky, and after doing it for myself, I can see why. I’ve been on an adrenaline high for days now. I’m not going to be going back for a jump right away, since I’ve got a lot of other items on my bucket list that deserve some attention. Still, I’ll definitely be back.
- Just because you don’t land on your feet doesn’t mean you won’t stand back up. When my instructor was explaining how we would hit the ground, he told me
I needed to pull my legs up to my chest so that he could take the bulk of the landing. The purpose of this would allow us both to slide across the grass on our butts for a smooth landing that would save us from broken legs and sprained ankles. Even though my friend Brooke and her instructor tried to land on their feet and toppled over one another (it’s dependent on the wind, which wasn’t blowing hard enough at the time), they both got up from it. That’s a life lesson, I think. You may not always come out swinging in a trying moment, and you may not always land on your feet, but that doesn’t mean you’re down and out. Sometimes, you’ve got to climb in order to stand. Is there something you’re afraid of doing today? Stop being afraid of failing; just do it!
- Take the time to appreciate what’s around you. It was hard for me to pay attention to things when we were in the middle of a sudden back-flip, but I made sure while free falling that I looked around and took in the bird’s eye view of the world. There’s no reason to take any moment for granted. Don’t let a second pass you by, especially when you’re skydiving. Enjoy the moment and the view. Skydiving, like everything in life, is over before you know it. It’s the small moments that you’ll appreciate the most, so make sure you take it all in.
Overall, what a thrilling experience. I was as excited to cross the first item off my bucket list as I was to begin planning my next adventure. I think I’ve found my own personal Fountain of Youth; if I keep making it mission to achieve everything on my bucket list, how can I ever grow old?
Have you been skydiving? Tell me about your experience!