I can still back out, should I back out?
It was strange putting on a harness, I never had to put on a big belt-diaper before. Looking back on all the pictures, I could’ve probably picked a better outfit than my deadpool hoodie and some cheap matching sweatpants I bought from Modells right before our roadtrip to Jersey.
Look at those people parachuting down from the sky. That’s about to be me… Oh god that’s about to be ME!
Before I knew it I was with my group, I met the
unfortunate victim that would catch the brunt of my crapping myself professional that I’d be tethered to and we made a brief skydive-introduction-video where I started talking way too much. Oddly enough, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I’d be… Even though my plane looked like something out of an Indiana jones movie and I looked like the extra that would be the first one killed if something went wrong.
You know, now that I’m on this plane and 5,000 feet into the air… I can’t really remember the last time I was even in a plane.
Why was I doing this? The jumper and I made another portion of the video while I was halfway there, and at some point he asked me if I was afraid. I said no, and it was true, despite everything I wasn’t scared but I wasn’t … excited either. I was just there, some guy about to jump out of a plane. I wasn’t scared not because I didn’t have scary thoughts (like if my parachute had forks in it, what happened if the tether broke, what if I can’t breathe) but because I didn’t let myself indulge in them. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on the surroundings… The clouds, the green earth far below me, the fabulous figure of the lady that shared the plane with me.
10,000 feet in the air and they open the door. My stomach twists with anxiety as the wind blows into the plane.
It seemed to be happening so fast. Once we hit the height and positioning to jump, one of the instructors opened the door. He kept his hand on the left rim as he jumped out of the plane, and let his momentum swing him so that he was hanging on the outside of the plane. With one hand holding onto the doorframe, his other hand levels a camera to take a video of the first two jumpers. I barely have time to be salty about how these first jumpers have some special video package that involves a man risking his life so casually before it’s my turn.
Don’t think… Don’t think.
Before we shift into the jumping position, he tells me “I know you said you weren’t afraid, but just hold tight onto your straps. Resist any urge to grab the doorframe before we jump.” With a fresh image of my arms breaking Mortal Kombat style if I held onto the doorframe, I nodded my understanding. We slid to the edge of the doorway, and I had a just enough time to blink and marvel at the world below me…
… And then there was no floor.
Wind! So much air suddenly blasted into my face, eyes, nose, and mouth. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t scream, and I felt an intense panic run up inside of me. The harness was pulling on my pants leg, and one of my ankles was freezing cold. I wasn’t sure if maybe I wasn’t properly secured, if maybe I had done something wrong. For all the pushing back of my negative thoughts, there was one question I couldn’t ignore, because once we jumped it suddenly felt so possible.
Am I going to die here?
I wanted to panic, part of me wanted stop the ride; to ask for a do-over, to poop all throughout the skies before I died horribly. A million-million thoughts screamed through my mind at the time, but as always I found myself falling back into my martial arts training. I calmed myself, forced myself to breathe, forced myself to overcome my thoughts that were whirling like a hurricane and instead enjoy the experience.
All of this went through my head in the first five seconds of dropping, and once I overcame the fear and panic, (which I later realized through meditation was the whole point of why I wanted to do it in the first place) it was an amazing feeling. Free of the fear of death and preservation, I was able to just live. To just be. I got to see the horizon, to ignore gravity, and my imagination brought me images of superheroes, of Dragonball Z, of all the flying creatures both in the world and in my dreams.
The panic returned, though, after the parachute was pulled several moments later. While swooping around on air currents in a big balloon is awesome, and seeing the world gradually rise up to grab you is a sensation that makes you feel so small on such a huge planet, the five-minute float can become agonizing when you mind starts to wander. Two minutes after enjoying the sights, I was wondering if a bird was going to fly into my chute, or if something would happen that would make us just suddenly drop to our deaths. The emotional constipation was finally over when we landed, and I walked away with a memory and a lesson on fear I’ll never forget. (And an ashy ankle)
I didn’t know at the time why I did it, I just knew that I had to feel that experience.