On a perfect, high visibility, low humidity day in August, a group of twelve skydivers sign injury and death disclaimers less than twenty minutes from the town in which my mother birthed me into life. Taking turns reading aloud in front of a camera one by one before our jump, we joke, laugh, and meander about the trailer and grounds as we await our ascent into the sky. Originally, the idea began at a movie theater in January with my to be jump partner, Sarah Giardina, the day after I decided to name my blog Skydiving for Pearls. I thought it an incredibly clever name, combining an excuse-defying activity with searching for pearls of wisdom; that is, until Sarah looked at me with her lovely blue eyes and said, “So love, when are we going skydiving?” Of course, the video of our skydiving day may have you believe otherwise.
Although I honestly cannot think of another human being with whom I’d rather jump out of a plane than this life-embracing friend from Australia, I never actually intended to do so in my lifetime. Still, when I began the quest to eradicate excuses from my life, I also erased the word “never” from my useful lexicon. I am so grateful I did. Despite my lack of a driving desire to skydive, the winds of fate blew me in the direction of some unexpected companions with whom to take the plunge. With a plethora of artistic friends in a rather unfortunate economy in general, most of my friends who had originally planned to join me canceled when the actual time arrived. As Sarah, my friend Matt Hensrud, and I pondered postponing until October so that people could raise the funds, my fantastic friend Spanish Rob from the Obliterati bunch saved the day.
Brilliantly merging my small group with a much larger group of fantastically adventurous social media types, Rob connected me with his friend Mary Elise, and we grew from a small group of three to four people to a happily discounted group of twelve. Skydiving costs money. Ultimately, with the fantastic addition of girls carrying orange plastic guns, a brilliant photographer, a happy Brit with sequined pants and a Sparkle Pony t-shirt, and wonderful new friends, the discount falls to the bottom of my list of blessings from our August adventure.
As our group finally piled into the wall-to-wall and ceiling shag carpet van to meet up with the tandem instructors, I couldn’t quite determine whether the two to three hour wait (expected, on a gorgeous Saturday in the summer) made me feel more or less anxious or merely bored. Boredom disappeared rather quickly when my tandem instructor Joe called my name, strapped me into my harness, and began filming my ninety-dollar DVD. With a few quick instructions to arch my back while jumping out and hold onto my harness straps when tapped on the shoulder, Joe and Sarah’s instructor Yuri led us to a very small prop plane, complete with a middle aged operator and hoards of bumper stickers decorating its interior.
Ten thousand feet later, I thanked God that we flew over the strangely calming water before the wind rushed through the small door that awaited my inevitable exit. Earlier in the week, I had given myself the permission to say no if I ultimately didn’t want to do it, and when you watch the video, you’ll see that I have a fairly comical little conversation with myself before jumping. In fact, I provide quite a few entertaining moments:
- 00:20 Sarah and I each blame the other for talking ourselves into skydiving.
- 00:56 I have physically shrunken a little in fear but keep smiling.
- 01:11 You can hear Yuri and Sarah making her video in the background.
- 01:23 I have a two second conversation with myself as follows, “Oh my God! No! …Okay.” Good view of the pearls.
- 01:33 I place my foot on a small step above the wheel of the plane, and Joe and I jump.
- 02:21 of Sarah’s video: You can see us exit the plane from behind – scary!
- 01:42 A momentary look of surprise and pride appears as I realize I successfully jumped while breathing normally and had no more fear. Excitement quickly replaces that expression as I celebrate a truly terrific freefall experience. Truthfully? I cannot describe it accurately except to say that the forty-five second fall felt more natural than falling and less dramatic than a roller coaster; although, nothing else I’ve experienced in life comes close to actually deciding to jump and relaxing into a joyous descent to earth.
- 01:50 I tell you, “You should do this!” I kind of love that I ramble the entire time. I must have thanked my tandem instructor a hundred times.
- 03:15 We wave to Sarah. We actually managed to get close enough to hear each other, and on her video at 04:14, Sarah has a clear view of us and waves back (with the words “Evil walks behind you” ironically playing in the background).
- 03:28 I lovingly search for my birthplace.
- 03:38 I show off my pearls and then spontaneously sing a note. Who put this girl on camera?
See for yourself.
Many thanks to Joe and everyone at Long Island Skydiving Center for doing their jobs brilliantly and keeping us all safe and happy. Sarah and all of the friends who joined us that day, what a day to share! Thank you! Having watched the video myself at least fifty times in disbelief, I know this long-awaited but somehow brief moment has changed my life. Gratefulness and pride well up in a pool of emotions as I remember how much fear I felt ascending in the plane and when I first felt the rush of wind from the open door. Pondering in amazement how I then decidedly and collectedly relinquished control and fell from that small plane, I know a small seed grows within, evolving my very self-perception. All along, I thought I just didn’t want to skydive. Now I know I suffered from a lack of faith in my own ability to face that fear and let go. Well self, I can. In fact, I did and will again in the future, and that changes everything.