I recently did something that many people find absolutely crazy. I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 feet above the ground! The biggest question I have received is….Why? Why would you do that? Why now? That question is a legitimate one.
A long time ago, in a galaxy….Never mind! I couldn’t resist as a child of the late 70s and 80s. Cut me some slack! Where was I??!! Oh Yeah! A long time a go I had a job that was amazing. Part of that job allowed me the privilege to help kick people out of airplanes. They did it willingly…well mostly anyway. Some jumped as low as 800 feet, others at much higher altitudes, skydive altitudes. That was always a sight to see. They would do backflips, jump arm in arm, and just always floated away from the airplane. Conversation topics would always lead to, “Would you Do It?” My answer was always a resounding “HELL NO!” Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?! Crazy Talk! I did almost fall out once, but that’s another story for another day. The high pitched squeal I made is still probably hovering somewhere in the atmosphere over North Carolina still today. However, deep in the back of my mind was always a curiosity. What is that like? That has to be an amazing feeling, but that was then. Fast forward to Scrumpy now.
I have lived a lot of life as I have been on this deep blue sphere we call Earth. I have traveled the world. I have buried friends. I have seen my children born. I have seen people die. I have been close to my own death and lived. I have seen the best that humans can offer and I have seen the worst. I have made the best of friends and the deepest of connections, and I have seen people that I thought were close to me turn their backs on me for no other reason than to make themselves feel better. I have been married and I have recently divorced. There! I said it! I have had a failed marriage! I am not proud of that fact, but it is a fact. Since then, I have even received some very nasty and judgmental messages from people. Most from people who really have no clue what’s going on. Isn’t that always the way? While not a complete surprise, those moments bother me. I won’t lie, it put me in a funk. So what’s the point? The point is, I have relearned a valuable lesson over the last few years. Life goes on…in good times and in bad. There is no good life or bad life, there’s just life. (Yes I stole that from a movie. Brownie points if you know which one) It’s up to us to adjust to it and continue to live. I don’t always do that successfully, but I try to keep that thought present. Hold on to the people that truly care for you and cut loose the ones that only keep you around if it fits their narrative. In that guiding thought, I have taken opportunities to continue to experience life when the opportunities arise. Those moments are plentiful if you watch and listen for them. Sometimes it’s me sitting quietly on a Saturday night and roasting hotdogs and smores on a firepit with the kids. Sometimes it’s talking to someone you would never normally cross paths with and trying to see the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s driving a race car with your best friend or going on a solo camping trip with your own thoughts….and recently it was jumping out of an airplane at 14,000 feet.
Here’s the thing about bucket list talk…it always seems to float around an approaching end of life talk. I don’t want to wait until my life is coming to a close to expirence all the things. I don’t want to get so tied down in the grind that I forget to take advantage of life’s opportunities. I want to skid into my last days saying “Man, what a Hell of a ride!” The thing is, no one ever knows when that will be. No day is guaranteed!
So there I was, 14,000 feet above the ground getting ready to go. I was strapped to a dude that I met about 45 minutes earlier getting ready to leap. It was the few seconds before we jumped that I had doubts, but it was a little too late by then. Good thing there were no seat cushions because the pucker factor was high at that time and that could have been an awkward moment. An instant later we were in the door and my fear turned into absolute elation. Moments later we were out the door. Terror set in again and I might have pissed myself if I wasn’t spending all of my energy screaming. Again though, that only lasted a millisecond as my terror transitioned into pure joy and wonder. One of the images seared into my mind, was me looking over my shoulder as we fell and seeing the plane fly away from us. AMAZING! I hade never seen it from that angle. I was always in the plane when jumpers left. I KNEW what that looked like! This was a moment I will never forget. I didn’t have a conscience thought at this time, It was more of a feeling. A sense of wonder as I said, like a child tasting chocolate for the first time. It was sensory overload but simple all at the same time. It lasted only a second or two, but will stay with me for a lifetime. The rest of the freefall was just pure adrenaline. Here I was hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity (around 120 MPH), but I didn’t think of that. I was focused on Ashley (My videographer that jumped with me) falling, no flying, with me just a few feet away. She had over 6,100 jumps and still had a Joker like smile on her face. She reached out and held my hand. Chris, my instructor, maneuvered us in circles, and I noticed how beautiful the clouds below us were. Then he grabbed my hand and guided it toward the parachute deployment handle. It was at that point I realized that that was the most important part of the trip that I forgot about! I pulled and then was under a canopy! Just like that, there was peace and quite. We were now about 5,000 feet up enjoying the decent down. The second moment seared into my brain happened on the parachute decent. We were headed towards a cloud, that in itself was amazing, but just as we were getting ready to float through it Chris yelled at me to look left. We were casting a shadow on the cloud. The mist of the cloud created a prism effect around the shadow. It was a pure peaceful and sereal sight. I will never forget it! A few minutes later we were on the ground and it was over.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of those few hours of my life. The nervous excitement. The moments of pure terror. The absolute elation and peace. It was many of life’s most intense emotions felt in a span of about 15 minutes. Would I do it again? In a heart beat! Will I seek it out…probably not. I have too many other things I want to get done first!
So am I saying you have to jump out of an airplane to live life? Absolutely not! However I am suggesting to take opportunities to experience things that motivate you. Step out of your comfort zone. Experience what life has to offer. Go on an adventure or two. Don’t listen to the naysayers and focus on your true connections. LIVE YOUR LIFE and go do YOUR thing!