Who jumps out of a plane for the first time in their mid-fifties? On Friday the 13th? Apparently, I do.
You’re probably expecting some lavish tale about a bucket list stenciled on an accent wall in gold leaf – or a vision board plastered with multi-colored parachutes. Nope, neither. Jumping had occasionally whispered to me over the years as something that might be “cool to do,” but a recent series of events upped the volume.
- Someone I cared about went from healthy to critically ill in a matter of days, reminding me to cherish life and live it to the fullest.
- I’d given up alcohol, because it began to hinder the life I’d envisioned for myself instead of enhance it.
- Listeners of The Matthews & McGuire Show, a podcast that I cohost with my friend, Mike C. Matthews, challenged us to risk our lives for the sake of entertainment.
A potential life altering trifecta, of sorts. One in which a literal leap of faith seemed just the action required to “jump” start conscious living, creativity and, well, possibly a mid-life crisis.
But why Friday the 13th, you ask? Look, if you’re going to stare down fear and let it know that you’ve got a new tribe, why not take on superstition, as well? My new BFF – faith – could take them both on with one miracle tied behind its eternal promise, and I wanted to make that clear. So I strapped myself to a perfect stranger and got hurled out of a plane at 10,000 feet.
The ride up had been relatively smooth, other than the undercurrent of excitement and anxiety that shimmied and shook me more than any actual turbulence. There was still time to back out at that point; still time to ride back to the hangar with the pilot and slink off into defeat. Eventually, however, the houses and vehicles below became minuscule, and my butt was being scooted toward a door, which had opened without ceremony, to reveal nothing between myself and the planet below. Elongated fingers of chaotic wind reached in to pry me away from safety. My instructor was apparently in cahoots.
“Put your foot on the step beside mine,” he demanded.
I have never moved in a more tentative fashion in my life, but I did as I was told and touched that small, suspended metal platform with the ball of my foot. One second later, we plunged – head first – toward the earth at cannonball-like speed.
The noise of that menacing wind rushing past me I can only assume resembled a tornado (not something I’m anxious to clarify), similar to having your ear dangerously close to the track of a high speed train that’s hell bent on destruction. I broke through it, however, with my instructor coaching me all the way. A tap on the shoulder reminded me to stretch out my arms, inspiring a superhuman feeling of invincibility that I’d like to bottle and pitch on Shark Tank.
Possibility of death, be damned. I FLEW! Well, I dropped, but it felt like flying, and my imaginary cape fluttered behind me in full view of the enemies I’d set out to defy.
There really isn’t time to think about fear once you’re out the door and into that initial free-fall, plus you’re still up high enough not to panic about hitting. All that went through my mind for that full 50 seconds or so was a resounding “WOW!”
I have never been that fully present in my life. I have never felt that alive.
Once the parachute opened, I was able to float to safety in a state of fearless awe, taking in the beauty of the earth below. Our home, where all things are possible.
Facing adversity, making changes, taking chances; all of these can be terrifying, but we don’t get over the fear of jumping before our planes take off. We get over the fear of jumping . . . well . . . by jumping.
My biggest take-away from this adventure, other than my now proudly displayed tandem certificate? Not that I did something outside of the box (or plane, as the case may be) and lived to tell about it. It’s that I can now trust myself as much – if not more – than a perfect stranger with a harness to get me safely to the other side of terrifying decisions regardless of all the scary outcomes that I imagine at the outset.
Now when I feel fear trying to feed me a line of self-defeating bullshit, I can close my eyes and go back to that place; back to 9,500 feet with the plane disappearing behind me and my imaginary cape glistening in the sun.
“Back off,” I’ll say, to fear and superstition, alike. “You have no place here. I’ve got this.”
Photos, and mind blowing experience, courtesy of Dallas Skydive Center. Check these guys out. They rock!