Last weekend I went skydiving for the first time.
It was the most counter-intutitive thing I’ve ever done. As I signed the disclaimer forms and agreed to the ‘inherent dangers’ of skydiving, I could’t help but think that if I died jumping out of this plane it wouldn’t be worth it. I felt I was potentially risking everything for thirty seconds of thrill.
When I was a child, my Mum used to drill into me never to get into cars with strangers, or indeed accept sweets from them. Yet, here I was putting my life into someone else’s hands entirely. Strapping myself onto them and jumping out of a plane. I struggled to get my head round it.
The act of risktaking
As I signed the forms, a wave of emotion swept over me. I felt angry at myself for agreeing to take part in something that at that moment felt utterly pointless. I didn’t want to feel happy that I’d survived, I want to enjoy living. I felt confused about why I would potentially risk so much for something I didn’t need.
I sat down in the sun and thought about why people go skydiving. I listened to my fellow tandem jumpers speak to their friends and family describing the “incredible, once in a lifetime activity” they were gearing up for.
Go hard or go home
Why was I doing it? I had been offered a tandem jump as part of an adventure travel competiton I won in January. I thought it sounded fun, booked my place and didn’t think much more about it until the moment I arrived at the flight centre. My mistake. With four hours to kill until it was my turn to jump, there was a lot of time to question my motives. I knew I needed to come to peace with jumping out of a plane or go home.
“Skydiving” our instructor, H, assured us, “is relatively safe. You have more chance of having an accident on the way home.” Great! No matter what reassurances were given, I found it impossible to deny the facts glaring at me. I was putting my life at risk.
Seeking the thrill
I settled on the assumption that perhaps we do this to feel alive, for the adrenalin or rush of living. Perhaps it’s the thrill of stepping outside our comfort zone, challenging ourselves and overcoming fears. When my tandem pilot, Jonny, asked me why I was doing it, the words “for fun” came out of my mouth. The look on my face told a different story.
All I could think was “I don’t need this”. I get the thrill of living from running, cycling and climbing. From adventuring through sunrise and sunset, from the feeling of moving through the world under my own steam. From exploring and admiring life with the people I love and share passions with. With these friends, we laugh, smile and challenge each other to do and be more. I get this feeling from putting in my best effort to make my time in this world count. You wonderful folks know what I mean, you are go-getters in this life who dream and challenge yourself to put your dreams into action.
All of a sudden I felt so far away from my life and I desperately wanted to be back there.
From the moment I had arrived at the flight centre, everything fell into perspective. Spending time with the people I love was, and always is, the most important thing. Although I do take risks from the adventure sports I do, I want them to be calculated and worth it.
As each hour passed, nine people jumped and landed safely. I knew I had to experience it for myself to find out what it was like. I made the decision to stay and jump.
It takes twenty minutes to fly to the height you can jump from. The plane doors were opened and the first tandem jumped out, I knew it was my turn next. The first five seconds were insane. My stomach jumped through my mouth and I saw the plane spinning away from us. It was exciting and unlike anything I’d ever done before. The parachute deployed triggering much relief and we flew gently down to the landing field. The views were beautiful. Upon landing, Jonny commented on how calm I had been, well at least he was fooled!
I can see how people get hooked to skydiving, thirty seconds of freefalling when nothing else comes into your mind. It must feel like a drug. We all go in search of feelings that make us feel good, the beauty of life is that get them in different ways.
Sometimes when I write, whilst out on my bike, or on a run a feeling spreads across my body that I can’t put into words, but I’ll try! I feel myself growing taller and taller. I feel empowered and so positive about life’s possibilites I could burst. Like I could do anything. This feeling is my drug.
Not many people know that…until now!
I realise that for many people, skydiving provides this feeling. I’m glad I’ve done it, but the experience reminded me that I already have everything I need to be happy and make the days count.