I’m calling 2012 my year of living dangerously. I took the plunge and got re-married in June after being divorced for 15 years. I took an even bigger plunge when I jumped out of an airplane for the first time in my life. I survived both scares and the result has been completely opening me up to just about any experience I can find. I am playing with life now and having the best time I can remember! It all started with marrying a woman who gets me and wants me to be happy. It accelerated when I jumped out of the plane. There’s something about an experience that could bring about my death that made me come alive!
I went with three friends. We used a Groupon to get a discount for tandem skydiving. In hindsight, that may not have been the best place to use a coupon! We were in trouble if they decided to cut expenses to give us the discount! Would we be jumping out of the plane because they ran out of gas? Would the four of us have to use one parachute? Would my tandem partner be just another Groupon customer? How exactly was this a good idea? I spent the time we waited by watching the parachute packers do their thing. They seemed to know what they were doing, so I left them alone. I spent the rest of the waiting time going to the port-a-potty to relieve my nervous bladder.
Finally, it was my turn to go. The plane we were in was just big enough for two of us and our tandem jumpers, so we couldn’t all go at the same time. The friend I went up with had already done this, so I felt a little better going up with her. I tried to ignore the fact that she seemed as nervous as I felt! They put an altimeter on our wrists so we could see how high we were climbing. They told us we would jump at about 10,000 feet. All they way up, I kept looking at the altimeter like I was a doctor getting ready to call time of death. I felt every little movement of the plane as it hit even the tiniest turbulence as we climbed. My friend told me later that my tandem partner was using this time for a cat nap! Damn Groupon!
When we hit 9,000 feet, my tandem partner made me sit on his lap so he could clip me onto his harness. I then sat between his legs awaiting further instructions. At 9,500 feet, he opened the door we were about to exit. My heartbeat was pounding and I was about to hyperventilate. Hearing him breathing harder didn’t help! He had already told me what to do when the door opened, but actually doing it took some effort. The only thing that kept me moving forward was the thought of humiliation if I stopped! I turned toward the door and let my legs out the door. He told me to tuck my feet under the plane. All I could think of at that point was, “I hope my shoes don’t fall off!”
With him firmly clipped to me, all it took to exit the plane was for him to scoot his ass on the floor of the plane. At one point, I was dangling outside the plane until the final push sent us falling. We did a somersault and then got into flying position. At that point, my nerves turned to exhilaration! I had to force my mouth closed because there was so much wind my cheeks were flapping! The noise of the wind was incredible. The view was unforgettable! After about 30 seconds, my dude pulled the string and opened the parachute. He had me take the steering controls and taught me how to use them. We then took a spin, circling high above the earth. I don’t like spinning, but that was pretty cool.
He taught me how to slow our decent so we would have a soft landing. I didn’t believe it, but we landed as if we were sitting down onto a couch. It was much softer than I expected. I then waited a few seconds for my friend to land, which gave me a good perspective of what I just did. They packed the equipment into a pickup truck and had us jump into the bed of the truck. I wondered about the safety of riding in the bed of a pickup, but I let it go. When we got back to the starting point, my two other friends were there for high fives all around.
My first thought was, that was an awesome experience, but I’m not sure I want to do it again. I will most likely do it again next summer because I like doing things with my friends and peer pressure will force me! The longer term impact of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane was how it opened me up to doing things that scare me or challenge me. I’ve been running marathons because of the challenge, but they’re no longer scary. I’ve done karaoke both drunk and sober, so that’s not scary. I believe the next step in conquering the scary challenge is doing stand-up comedy which is something I’ve always said I wanted to do. I never did it due to the fear. Spoiler alert – I’ve done it and it was awesome!
Do what you fear the most and find out for yourself that you can survive and maybe thrive from the experience. I know it works for me!
- Top 10 Survivors Of Skydiving Accidents (toptenz.net)
- Wounded Warrior double amputee fulfills dream with tandem skydive (charlotte.news14.com)
- Local woman skydives for 90th birthday (utsandiego.com)