On jumping out of a plane
I realize this post doesn’t have a tonne to do with physical activity, but let me tell you, jumping out of a plane at 12,500 ft. most definitely affects your physiology (and psychology).
I decided to make the jump for my 27th birthday. I asked my good friends, but they weren’t able to; it was a mixture of reasons – fear, cost, fear, etc. I understood. Yet, when the day arrived I wanted someone up there with me. Evan was watching from the ground (he’s already had his jump), but the thought of being up in the plane alone was starting to worry me (obviously I was not alone as I jumped tandem).
The day prior to the jump, I decided this jump was the perfect opportunity for me to let the past rest – to let go of the anxieties and fears I had been carrying with me for so long. At that moment, this jump became more than a thrill-seeking activity, it became a life-altering activity. I wasn’t sure if it could carry such emotional weight and cause the change I was looking for, but I decided to give it a shot.
My tandem guru ‘Thumper’ (I kid you not) immediately put me at east. He has been jumping since 1989 and has gone all over the world to do it. He was friendly, chill, and confident. I knew I was in good hands.
The training took about 3 minutes. They told us to cross our arms when leaving the plane, open them up when we were tapped on the shoulder, and make sure to keep chin up, back arched and legs up to ensure we didn’t spin / flip. We practiced the move on the group and then got into our suits. I felt intense.
The takeoff and climb were unremarkable. Yet as we neared the top, my tone changed. I wasn’t the laughing, happy person I had been minutes before. I was quiet, reserved…fear was taking over.
When the pilot announced ‘three minutes’ and opened the door, my breathing changed. The cool, buffeting winds were a shock to the system. In the blink of an eye, the three solo jumpers that were sitting ahead of me were gone. Thumper moved us up to the door (I think I moved to). As instructed, I swung my legs out of the door, allowing them to be pushed around by the wind. I looked down at the beautiful patchwork quilt that represents much labour, toil and love, that brings us food, and thought “holy s*** that’s a long way down”. Thumper asked if I was ready. I can’t remember responding, but at that moment we were out of the plane.
We flipped. We came to face the right direction with our bellies facing the earth. At that moment, my brain registered what was going on and I started to scream.
But seconds after exiting the plane, with my senses on fire, everything fell into place, my mind became quiet. I could see the the mountains and the prairies. I could feel the wind pushing my skin upwards. I could feel Thumper tapping me on the shoulder, trying to tell me something. And yet, everything stopped. I felt an unshakable and totally unique sensation, serenity.
I was there, in the moment, for more than just a millisecond. I was in the moment for 50 seconds. My mind was nowhere else but there. Being completely present for a sustained period of time is usually the greatest challenge, but not there. Everything was at peace.
During my free-fall, I didn’t think about the chute. I didn’t think about dying. All fear, all concern, anxiety and worry left when I left the plane door. It is incredible to think an experience so extreme can be so serene.
Once the chute opened we had some fun doing twists and turns up in the sky. I couldn’t stop giggling. Saliva covered my face. While I have experienced great happiness in my life, nothing compares to the joy that circulated through me as we moved over-top the prairies, coming back down to earth.
We landed safely (obviously), I thanked Thumper for an incredible jump, called my parents, listened to my mother have a slight emotional freak out (they had no idea this was happening), got my picture and videos, got a coffee, and came home.
Some of you may be wondering if the jump did what I hoped it would do – did it allow me to let the past rest. Yes and no. The jump put things into perspective and allowed me to come to terms with my existence. The jump pushed me outside my comfort zone and reaffirmed that things usually turn out alright in the end. Did it allow me to let go of my past? I think so, but doing that is going to take time. Rewiring your brain doesn’t just happen after you jump out of a plane. Yet perhaps the jump was the impetus I needed.
Regardless of your motivation to sky dive, the experience is completely unique and I recommend that we all experience it at least once. It is truly transformational.
Here are a couple of gems to make you laugh: