Sunday, November 11, 2012

That Time I Went Skydiving

I like living an unconventional life.  There is nothing wrong with conventional: I like lots of convention, myself.  But I like living on the FRINGE of my conventional life and being open to adventure.

There is, however, ONE THING I had never considered doing no matter how adventurous, amazing, allegedly fantastic, or fringe, and that is SKYDIVING.
I'm all about flipping the bird to tradition but jumping out of an airplane with nothing but a silk backpack on JUST ISN'T LOGICAL.  Being a human, I like logical, and being an anxious human I parTICularly like logical.  It keeps me safe.  (laugh in the face of my existential ridiculousness, go ahead.  If you must).

photo credit: danceinthesky via photopin cc

I am just a big fan of keeping two feet on the ground, generally.  I'm not a fan of airplanes.  I know they are safer to travel in than cars, yaddayadda, but they just don't dovetail nicely with my desire for control over my environment, and to avoid death defying high speed crashes.  9/11 did nothing to help me in this regard.
Anyways, LONG, LONG AGO, before I got married, my friend and bridesmaid Keli Harrington decided it would be really fun to take me out for a day.  We went to the SPA for FACIALS, massages, and relaxation in the steam room.  We ate fancy food.  And we drove out towards Abbotsford for a "big surprise."

I'm sure you all can guess that the big surprise was skydiving.  We drove up to the little private airport with signs advertising SKYDIVING HERE, and I got hit with an intense wave of nausea.  I did NOT WANT TO GO.  Being pragmatic AND polite kept my ass in the seat and kept me from refusing outright from the driveway, but I hated myself some Keli Harrington there for a few minutes, just a little bit, okay not really.  But I was PET. RI. FIED.  Two things kept me from hauling ass in the next quarter hour: the thought that skydiving was REALLY EXPENSIVE and Keli might not get her money back (I'm frugal.  Hate me), and the teeny tiny chance that I might actually like it.  I'm adventurous.  I won't go searching for jumping out of airplanes type of adventure but if it leaps into my lap, I might not say no.

I got out of the car and walked to the building but I stopped talking.  I was just too overwhelmed and afraid, and maybe a bit green.  Keli laughed but she was worried when I stopped talking.  She thought maybe she pushed me too far past my comfort zone.  (She did.  But I survived, obviously.  This was in 2002).  She said, "One great leap deserves another!  You're taking the leap to get married so I thought you should leap out of an airplane, too."  Crazy ass friend, Amiright?

They were expecting us, but the appointment time for our leap kept getting postponed because the airspace was being used for something legitimate, like an ambulance helicopter or search and rescue or something.  I can't remember what, I just know we had to wait.  And wait.  And WAIT.

Finally we met our instructors/tandem jumper guys.  They went over safety but really most of the safety was up to them.  We just had to TRUST.  Snort.  I just prayed I wouldn't die.  They had jumped so many times it was like baking bread to them, but for me?  It was death on a plane.

We got in the airplane, and they hooked us to themselves.  This airplane was a decomissioned army plane, just big enough for maybe eight to ten people.  Not on seats, on the floor.  You could see the ground go by through cracks in the fusilage as we taxied down the runway.  I put my head on the back of the person in front of me and seriously considered upchucking.  Keli looked all bright eyed and sparkly, and I couldn't even manage a smile.  There was no going back now.

We got up in the air and a few other people jumped, tandem.  One girl jumped solo (she was working on some sort of certification and needed seven solo jumps.  I remember she was all of 95 pounds and 5 foot 3, and I thought, really?  How is this a logical choice for you?  Heave, heave).  Then it was my turn.  We scootched over to the door and sat on the ledge and looked down about 1200 feet and I thought, "I cannot make my body jump."  But when my tandem instructor counted backwards from four, I jumped.  We were supposed to curl into a tight ball until clear of the plane, and then when tapped, spread out like a starfish, opening our bellies up to certain death, random seagulls, and the cold, hard ground.  I did as I was told.  It was the scariest thing I had ever done, but I did it to save money and because it might be fun.

photo credit: alvy via photopin cc

And you know what?  As soon as we left the airplane behind, IT WAS FUN!  It was so fun, I exploded with adrenaline and shouted with joy.  I had thought I might suffer the freefall and enjoy the parachute ride, but I LOVED the freefall most of all.
What made it amazing rather than frightening was that the ground didn't rush up to meet me.  It didn't feel like falling at all, it felt like flying.  It was incredible.  I was sad when we had to pull the parachute and slow down, although that was incredible too, floating around in lazy circles 800 feet above the ground, with Keli a hundred feet to the right of me and ten thousand pounds of adrenaline pumping through my veins.  It was awesome.

I was green going into it, and laughing and wishing to go again right away at the end of it.  Ah, life.  What a trip.

I've never been since, but I'd go again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.  =)


tamie marie said...

Do you remember when I got Jon a skydiving jump for his birthday? I think it was his 31st birthday. He was SO scared, but glad that he went. And when I saw it all I was like HELL NO would I do that. But now I think I would, if I was accompanied by someone who cared for me. Who knows? Maybe some day!

Meanwhile, I think it is freaking awesome that you did this. Hooooray! Maybe you & Brent should do it together for some special anniversary.

melissa v. said...

I didn't remember that! Awesome gift!! I totally sympathize with the HELL NO, and also with the maybe some day =) All I can say is, it was awesomeness topped only by natural birth. Leaping into fear gets me HIIIIIIIIIGH!! =) Adrenaline. What a trip.