When I was a kid I used to be quite proud of the fact that I wasn’t scared of roller coasters. It was one of the few things I was tougher at than my big brother (and don’t go denying it now Ryan – while not a scaredy-cat by any means, you did sit out a couple of rides!)
I don’t know why it mattered to me so much to feel tough, but it did. The first time I braved a ride my brother refused was a proud moment only equal to the first time I finished my dinner before my Dad. The repercussions of both of these early experiences are still being felt today… I still eat like a duck and I’m still not a scaredy-cat (with the exception of my automatonophobia, but that’s a whole other story).
But a funny thing happens as you get older… It’s not that you become more scared, it’s more like you just forget how to be brave. It’s easy to find excuses not to do reckless things. Think of the mortgage! Think of how you’ll feel at work tomorrow! (And, won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!) We’re all guilty of finding our comfy little rut and nestling in for the winter. It’s human nature, but it’s also a big, fat shame.
Thanks to my list and thanks to another almost-thirty-year-old, today I got the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs – and what better way to dust yourself off than to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet?
In the lead up to the dive, a lot of people asked me if I was scared or nervous. They may not have believed me when I said it, but the truth is I really wasn’t particularly scared. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a realist, and realistically there wasn’t a huge chance of me coming a cropper today. More importantly though, I basically just decided I wasn’t going to be scared… so I wasn’t.
That might be hard to believe too, but over the past 5-and-a-bit years my darling fiancé seems to have successfully drilled it into my brain that I can do (or be) anything I want in life. Some things can seem pretty hard, but if push came to shove you’d probably do it – If a gun was held to your head, you’d do it. So why not just do it?
It worked for me last weekend. Who’d have thought I could run 21.1km without stopping? I had an inkling it was possible, and once I realised it was possible, it wasn’t as huge leap to decide I was going to make it happen – training or no training! This skydive was the same. I decided I wasn’t going to be scared – so I wasn’t! Simple as that! (Well, to be honest there was a little strategy with how I went about it and if anyone’s curious I’d be happy to share, but essentially it was just a case of mind over matter. Actually, to be more accurate, it was a case of “no mind, no matter”, and an almost irrevocable case of brain shutdown. But hey, whatever works!)
I was really more nervous about being nervous than I was about the dive itself. What if I get scared and desperately need to pee while I’m on the plane? I wasn’t even particularly excited before we got there. I remember saying to Andy in the car “I’m looking forward to the adrenalin rush because it might get rid of this headache I’ve had for two weeks”.
Don’t get me wrong, my stomach probably looked like our mildly-moth-infested pantry on the drive to the site. I felt a little flutter when I imagined myself suspended in midair looking at the ground below, and I certainly had a little “stomach flip” moment as I tumbled out of the plane. I’m not made of stone! But as soon as I found myself seated on that plane, I knew I was going to do it. There is no turning back at that point kids, it’s all or nothing! I put my faith in my smiling tandem partner and let him calmly… and ever-so-gracefully…. shove me out of a moving plane.
The conditions today were as perfect as you can get. With not a single cloud in the sky, the view from the air was about 1000% (at least for those with 20/20 vision like Andy). But if the conditions aren’t so perfect when you go, don’t fret – for the first time in your life you might actually get to exact revenge by raining down on the rain.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of falling through the sky. Not because words fail me… but just because I can’t remember much of it! It all happens so fast. I remember a couple of times reminding myself to look around and enjoy the view, but even then I didn’t take much of it in. It’s only now, looking back and chatting about the experience with Andy, that I get a sense of how it felt. It’s funny, I almost feel like I ripped myself off a little by not letting the fear take over. I’m sure the fear would actually make the experience far more exhilarating. And it was exhilarating… despite the nippy conditions I felt the heat coursing through my body after landing.
You often hear first time skydivers shouting “Let’s go again!” immediately after landing. If they’re anything like me it’s because they want to pay attention the second time around and soak up the atmosphere. If they’re anything like my instructor then they’ve done it 4,000 times already but they still feel a rush they can’t find anywhere else.
I feel a little strange now. I jumped out of a plane today. I literally flew through the sky today. The bits I remember were amazing – the first tumble out of the plane, steering the parachute, spiraling down to the drop zone. I must have had a great time because I haven’t smiled that much since… well, since ever!
In the car on the way home, Andy asked me if I’ve ever done anything so exhilarating in my life, and I couldn’t think of a single thing…
Anyone who has been skydiving once will tell you it goes far too fast for you to really feel much at all. You’re filling in a form, then you’re suiting-up, then you’re on the plane, and then… you’re on the ground again! In the spaces in between there isn’t a whole lot of time to think about life, death and the meaning of life. The plane is probably the only place you could get scared if you decided you wanted to – and I did see a few lips moving in silent prayer (particularly among the solo jumpers). I’m not much of the praying type, but to me the act of jumping out of the plane is the real prayer. It’s like saying to your God, if you have one, or even just to Mother Nature if you don’t, “Hey, you gave me this big gigantic world to enjoy and here I am enjoying it!” What better prayer of thanks can you give than that?
To anyone who has ever considered skydiving, I’d have to say – just do it! I don’t care what your age is (as long as you’re over the minimum of 12!) I don’t even care if you think you’re incapable of the kind of “mind over matter” I achieved today. I didn’t see anywhere on the form that said you had to be young or fearless. All I saw were loads of people having the time of their lives with megawatt smiles about 14,000 feet wide.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – life is only as scary as you decide it’s going to be, and you’re never too old to remind yourself what it’s like to feel young again!
Next stop – childbirth!
To check out my unflattering video, click here!
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?