A little over a week ago I jumped out of an airplane. My wife, about half an hour later, did the same. This was the redeeming of a nearly year-old wedding gift from Joann’s cousin Heather, a frequent skydiver who does jumps for a company in Toledo, WA.
Joann was the one pushing it all along, with me acting a bit reticent every time the topic came up. But we finally decided to go for it, as you can see from the picture in a previous post below (7/24/11).
What you can’t see from the picture but can probably intuit from other clues is that we both lived. J In reality, I had gathered beforehand and can in retrospect testify that the perceived risk is much greater than the actual risk. It’s a relatively safe experience.
Maybe not as safe as sitting on your couch (unless that’s all you do), though perhaps safer than driving to the grocery store, buying a bag of potato chips, and driving home. Not sure how to quantify the level of danger, though the perceived risk involved is probably an important part of what makes skydiving so thrilling and exhilarating.
Only two things really made me nervous. One was the impending departure from the plane, as I was a little concerned I’d do something wrong, put my foot in the wrong place, bonk my head on the wing as we exited, something like that. I did fine, though my tandem partner kind of manipulated my body when necessary and gave very clear directions, so he helped me do “fine.”
The other was when I was following Joann’s plane on its ascent (we took separate flights…was more practical for different reasons), and lost it in the clouds for two minutes or so. It was irrational to be worried yes, but those were a long two minutes, ended with a sigh of relief upon seeing the plane again, knowing it hadn’t crashed somewhere or gone through a portal into another dimension.
The flight up—packet tightly with three others into a tiny plane—was gorgeous. The view of the significant peaks of the Cascades. Watching evergreens look increasingly less like trees and more like a large bed of moss on the distant ground. Round hay bails looking like marshmallows or organized pimples on the ground. The square patches of land distinguishing property lines or differing crops. All so picturesque.
I think I am a very trusting person, sometimes too much so (i.e., gullible, or sometimes overly optimistic about people and their intentions). So it was easy to trust my instructor and tandem partner; I never really felt in danger while falling. And I guess it felt like falling. I have never fallen like that for such a sustained amount of time (30-40 seconds), so I don’t really know what to compare it to.
So many fascinating aspects of the experience. The feeling of air pounding against me. The novelty of what was happening. The rapidity at which my mouth kept drying out and needed re-salivating. Trying to scream with delight (I was smiling the whole time, I think) and being unable to hear myself under such circumstances. The view. Feeling like I better understood the life of a bird.
The rush of moving so quickly and not really concretely knowing, without the aid of a time machine or fortune-teller, whether or not my parachute would open and the falling would end...this was exhilarating, especially combined with the feeling accompanying that moment when the chute finally did open and all the jerking around ceased.
The slow glide down to the ground—in which I was able to steer the chute myself for a while—was also kind of a rush in its calming nature, after the perceived danger of the fall had passed.
I believe the moment I touched down and was removing my jumping equipment I told Joann that I was ready to do it again. About an hour later I had lost a little interest, as I thought more about what I’d just done. A few days later I was interested again. Now I don’t know.
But I did it once, and can cross skydiving off my non-existent bucket list. I wouldn’t have thought a year ago that this would have happened, at least so soon in my life. Actually, in the last twelve months, I’ve experienced many things that, two or three years ago, I don’t think I really anticipated. I didn’t expect to have…
1) Run a marathon.
2) Become something like a “fringe Evangelical” and be unwelcomed in a Christian ministry role because of my beliefs.
3) Gotten married. I knew it would happen, especially after I found a gal so lovely in so many ways and also a fabulous fit for me. But I had a run there of going after girls who weren’t really interested for whatever reasons. I may be remembering wrongly (or guessing wrongly), but I think some of the reasons were that they…
- Didn’t have “a peace”
- Wanted to save the world before getting in a serious relationship
- Were disappointed my love for the Matrix Trilogy did not match their own
- Felt they were too old for me
- Were interested in someone more awesome than me
- Were interested in someone less un-awesome than me
- Were disappointed my love for the TV show Friends did not match their own
- Wanted someone with more piercings and a better beard and a stronger love of bands only “hip” people have heard of
Thanks for leading me to Joann through your rejections, ladies.
4) Started preparing for a PhD program. I’m early in the process of studying, researching, networking, but it’s in motion.
5) Watched more than 80% of the Twilight, Harry Potter, and X-men movies combined.
6) (Censored, inappropriate for younger readers)
7) Shared experiences and conversations with as many cultures as I have. I didn’t know ESL teaching would be such an enriching season for me, and the opportunity to daily rub shoulders with the entire world has definitely made me a better human being.
The past year—also my first year of marriage—has been a year of surprises. Looking forward to more in year two!