I jumped out of a plane. I jumped out of a plane. I willingly jumped 14,500 feet out of a perfectly functional airplane. I have to keep telling myself because it almost doesn’t seem real. When I think back on it, it’s more like a dream than reality.
Several months ago, one of my best buddies brought up the idea of skydiving, and I immediately counted myself in, as I’m always up for a new adventure. This was all well and good up until the immediate days before we were scheduled to jump, when I started considering just how dangerous throwing oneself out of a plane can potentially be. You hear about parachutes not opening and people ending up paralyzed or as splats on the pavement, and although they say the chances of that are extremely slim, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen, and what if I happened to be that one freaky minority statistic? All it takes is one tiny mistake.
Such are the thoughts rushing my brain as we make the hour drive to the dropzone, which I share at nauseum with my friends. Upon arrival, we watch the mandatory video describing the hazards and repercussions of skydiving, relinquish our rights to sue should something happen, sign our lives away, and then….
It seems a storm is brewing on the horizon that will compromise our safety, so we must wait for its arrival, the downpour, and the return of clear skies. How convenient. This gives me hours, literally five hours, to dwell on my impending jump and possible demise. I am terrified. I cleverly suggest we take a rain check and reschedule, but my friends are having none of it. We are finally given the green light and receive brief training, which basically consists of the following three rules:
- Do not grab your instructor’s hands for any reason at any time.
- Remember to breathe, or else you risk passing out and missing the whole experience.
- Exit the aircraft by pointing your knees downwards and arching your back.
Got it? Good. Now let’s jump out of a plane.
My buddies were in the first batch up, and Jax and I watched their plane ascend higher and higher until it was nearly indiscernable, and then as it spit out tiny flecks that eventually turned into our friends. They floated safely to the ground, they loved it, we exchanged big hugs, and then it was time for Jax and I to suit up.
As we zipped up our jumpsuits, I met my tandem instructor, Mark, and he was awesome. While some of the other instructors were playfully joking that they were lacking in experience or hadn’t hooked the suits properly (which is fine for jumpers who aren’t overly petrified, a.k.a my boyfriend), Mark and his Australian accent were fully in tune to my nervousness and offered nothing but comfort and reassurance. He was exactly what I needed, and for the next 20 minutes he promised to be my new best friend.
We boarded the plane, which quickly rose 14,500 feet. During the ride, I occasionally reached back to grip Jax’s hand, silently prayed, and listened to the encouraging words of my instructor as we took care of last-minute details. I was the second jumper out of the plane, and as I positioned myself at the open door, I had one last violent rush of fear. I could barely process the countdown that signified go time, and all of a sudden, we were doing a FRONT FLIP out of the plane. Apparently I screamed, but I really can’t recall; everything happened so quickly.
We plummeted to earth in free fall for a full minute before pulling the parachute cord, but here’s the thing – it didn’t feel like it at all. My instructor assured me that the minute you exit the plane and are surrounded by sky, all fear vanishes, and I started understanding just what he meant. You don’t get that roller coaster falling feeling in your stomach, it just feels like you are moving head on against a huge gust of wind. After 60 seconds, Mark deployed the parachute, it opened successfully (!!!!!), and we floated across the sky. It was surreal and liberating. He taught me how to steer the parachute, and we swooped and glided like a bird. He handled the landing, and just like that, we were safely on the ground.
It was unreal. The view. The feeling of flying. The very fact that we were completely unattached to the earth. It was wild and terrifying and exhilarating, and I will cherish the memory forever.