Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 112 - Skydiving

I have never been skydiving. This is one of those experiences I have always thought about doing, but I never figured I would act on. After all, my interest in skydiving was little more than a minor fascination with a hint of curiosity, so the idea of jumping out of a plane to satisfy those thoughts seemed a little extreme. That stated, I always knew if I was given the right motivation and the right opportunity I would act on skydiving. It just so happens the concept of trying something new every day and the realization that quite a few of my friends wanted to give skydiving a try fit both of those criteria. As a result, I put together a group and made plans to jump out of a plane this afternoon. While I expected the experience to be thrilling, I had no idea I would walk away with a renewed sense of perspective on my journey and a new outlook on life.

The welcome sign

Like several other events I have encountered in my “I have never...” year, today’s experience leaves me at a loss for words. I know I could take the time walking through the actions we took before, during, and after my first skydive, but I know those efforts could never fully explain what it felt like to look down over the earth from the outside of a plane nearly three miles in the air; I know my words could never explain the feeling of free fall from 14,000 feet above the ground; and I know could never find the correct words to explain the feeling of floating between towering puffs of white clouds on a parachute descent back to the earth. I will simply say this, looking down at the earth standing before an open door of a plane is breathtaking, leaping into the open air at 14,000 feet is equally frightening and liberating, and the feeling of touching back down on the ground after it is all said and done is exhilarating. Until today, I had never experienced something that spans intensity and beauty in one arch. I had never felt in one moment equal sensations of outright disbelief, swelling disquiet, and overwhelming euphoria. While I was more than nervous before my jump, peering over the side of that plane caused all of my fear to melt away as all of these emotions rushed in.  It was just me, the sky, and fate, and just before we jumped I met a sudden and unexpected acceptance with those facts. Stated plainly, the experience bordered on spiritual.

On the way to board...

Taking off...

...and looking down over the world in awe.

While in free fall I found it hard to take my eyes off of the scenery below us. I could see for miles over the terrain. White clouds rolled through the hazy summer sky far above green forests, yellow fields of grass, and lakes glittering in the sunlight. As I fell closer to the ground a circular rainbow appeared in the nearest clouds, which persisted until we met their peaks in our descent. I was stunned by the perspective, which made my nearly minute of free fall seem to pass in a matter of seconds. With my instructor inevitably pulling the ripcord for our parachute, we began the rest of our descent floating freely over the ground under a canopy of air. Our track through the air sent us turning over fields, ales, and roads far below. With nothing more than a harness holding me from the ground, the experience reminded me of my earlier adventure hang gliding. In my mind I could only think this was likely the closest to free flight I will ever know, and it was amazing.

In free fall

Taking it all in

Pulling the 'chute
Eventually, we coasted to the ground as we continued our journey back to earth. Upon landing, a sudden rush of excitement consumed me. My jubilance erupted into laughter as I climbed to my feet and looked over my surroundings. After a quick interview from the diver that had recorded my trip, I made my way back to the rest of my group waiting off of the airstrip grounds. Still in disbelief, tried to recount my experience to the best of my ability, but I continually found myself landing back at one statement, “Incredible... It was just incredible.” I knew in my mind there was more to it than that, but I couldn’t find the words to say it. Inside I felt rejuvenated. I felt renewed. I felt amazing.

Almost grounded

Landing!

My instructor and me


Those initial feelings didn’t make much sense to me until I had some time to reflect on my experience. In the moments of silence on the ride home I recalled the individual moments that composed my first skydiving experience. Putting them together, I thought about how many new experiences and feelings I gained from taking that jump out of a plane. Although a part of me was making sure I was aware of exactly how crazy the whole idea truly is, those moments inspired a renewed perspective on my “I have never...” journey. It is likely I never would have had today’s experience if it wasn’t for my ridiculous goal of taking on 365 new things my life, and now I realize I likely would have missed one of the most enlightening events I have experienced to date if I never pursued that goal. I faced fear, climbed to the heavens, and jumped out of a plane.

I jumped out of a plane.

The sights I saw, the feelings I felt, and the emotions that gripped me were unlike anything I have known, and that says a lot about what this journey means. From that I can only conclude that this is what my life, what living, should be. Our stories are ours to tell, and I intend to tell a good one. I don’t know where this whole thing will lead me, but today’s experience really made me think about what is possible. With a renewed resolve to follow through on my objectives I intend to make the most of every moment; to go the places people don’t go, to see the things that people don’t see, to discover the experiences left undiscovered, and to live without fear. If I’ve learned anything from this journey thus far, it’s that it takes those things to truly live, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Success!

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