That’s me, five seconds before tumbling into the open sky from 10,000 feet. Your initial impression might be that I’m some kind of daredevil, looking for life’s next great adventure.
But, that’s far from the truth. Although I’m all about letting life in, I have two great fears: heights and open water.
Since I don’t drink alcohol, I wanted to find a way to celebrate my 21st birthday in style just like my peers. So, I got this crazy idea that I’d take on one of my greatest fears.
As I look back on that moment, some four years ago, the level of fear I expected to have never really developed. There was something in my head keeping me uncommonly calm.
One part was the fact I did it alone. It was me, the instructor, and the pilot. My $200 was deposited ahead of time, so if unrelenting fear crept in, it would be me versus the folks that do this for a living and losing out on $200.
I guess that’s how much I value my life ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If I had a friend at my side, and they too were ready to call it quits, I would have never made the jump.
Alas, I did it, and it was unforgettable.
From the moment I put on my blue suit to the moment my feet were safely on the ground, I can remember my experience in great detail. But, three moments that lasted less than one minute were the most powerful.
Green Means Go!
Once the doorless aircraft reached “jumping height,” the most cliché thing in the world happened. A little red light started flashing—indicating the time to jump was a few seconds away. It obviously makes sense, but I try to make sure my assumptions in life aren’t based on what I see on TV or at the movies.
My instructor clipped me into his harness and we began scooting to the open doorway. Holy shit, this was getting really real.
And, here’s where the three moment sequence begins.
As I scooted toward the doorway, the instructor kept saying, “a little further, a little further.” Before I knew it, none of me was inside the plane anymore—I was suspended in mid-air.
To properly roll out, the instructor needed to be on the edge of the doorway, which meant I needed to be completely outside.
Ok, so here I was, just hanging out—literally—and it was so strangely comforting. I had nothing left but to trust this stranger I just recently passed a few Benjamins to. There was no turning back.
As I looked through the clouds over the mid-Missouri landscape, I was in awe. Even squares of farmland look beautiful when it might be the last thing you’ll ever see. The red light turned green and in one, two…
Nothing. I could hear absolutely nothing.
As we tumbled out of the plane, and before gaining any speed, there was this moment of pure euphoria.
The sound of the plane’s engine was gone in a flash, and the rushing winds of your grade-A free fall hadn’t caught up yet.
This one to two second moment was hands down worth the $200 in it of itself. Although it was over four years ago, I remember it as if I’ve gone skydiving a thousand times. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to experience it again, and I might be following up with round two this summer (don’t tell my mother, or my fiancée for that matter).
Oh, There You Are, Fear
As my 30-second free fall was coming to an end, I got myself ready to pull the chute—it’s like when you were eight years old and mom or dad let you “drive” by taking the steering wheel, as they kept their hands on the bottom. Makes you feel cool, but you aren’t doing jack. But that’s beside the point.
As I pulled the chute, there was a significant delay between pulling and it pulling me. So much so that I actually had time to pull it again before it unraveled and caught the air.
If you were waiting to find out when I shit my pants, this about did it.
Once the chute slowed us down and we could float the rest of the way, I got to go straight through a cloud. Fun fact, nothing happens, but it was still as cool as it sounds.
In less than one minute, I had jumped from 10,000 feet, fell 5,000 or so feet, and was now flying through the air entirely dependent on the skills of the guy on my back.
After landing, I wanted to go right back up.
If I wasn’t in college at the time, I probably would have, but my bank account wasn’t as excited.
Nonetheless, I did it. Me, the guy who can’t convince himself to jump off the high dive at the recreation center, just flung himself out of an airplane. And, if I haven’t expressed it enough already, it was unforgettable for all the right reasons.