Human beings tend to get in a rut. We begin by saying “no” to trying new things, which leads to a narrower life. A life of trying new things, new places, and new experiences makes us feel more dynamic and more of a participant in the world. Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did do.”
All experiences start with a first step. But, in my case, it was the first jump! At age sixty, I realized I was in a rut. My life seemed stagnant, and a significant change was needed. I recalled a long-forgotten dream of parachuting. For many reasons, it was something I never did accomplish. I decided to make that jump out of an airplane.
It had been only a few days since I made reservations at the nearest licensed facility, and when I arrived for my jump, it was a sunny, cloudless morning. I thought, “It is a perfect day for a jump.”
I chose a tandem style jump as it is the best for a first-time jumper. There is little training required, and you are strapped to an instructor by a tandem harness. The first item on the day’s agenda included a briefing and a short video explaining the jump process.
Next, it was time to select my jumpsuit. I chose a bright orange jumpsuit that looked short enough for my 5’ 2” frame. It fit perfectly. “Surely this is a good omen,” I told myself. The assistant equipped me with a harness and helped buckle it around my body.
As I walked to the plane area, I realized that the distance was just long enough that one could reconsider. “Nope, not me,” I thought. Feeling thrilled that I was finally going to jump, my only concern was that it would feel just like being on a roller coaster, and my stomach would lurch into my throat.
As we approached the plane, I became more excited. I met my instructor and our group consisting of three instructors and three students along with a videographer climbed aboard and joined the pilot. The plane had no seats, so I sat on the floor in front of my instructor who buckled his harness to mine and told me not to loosen the buckles. That was a safety rule that I certainly would obey.
The plane needed about twenty minutes to climb to 14,000 feet. I listened to the hum of the plane’s engine as it climbed higher into the atmosphere. When it reached the right altitude, my instructor and I were ready to jump. We scooted to the open door, sat on the ledge with our feet dangling, and I looked down at the earth. I was thrilled and fearless. I was about to experience an incredible adventure. I realized that I was going to leap out of “a perfectly good airplane!”
My instructor said, “Have fun!” and at the count of three, we tumbled out of the plane and free-fell toward earth at 120 mph. The wind was noisy, and my face moved just like the flapping jowls of a dog with its head stuck through a car window. I smiled and felt the cold, as it is about 25 degrees cooler at that altitude. I was flying. What an exhilarating feeling!
We free-fell for about sixty seconds. It felt as if I was floating over a powerful fan. The feeling of my stomach in my throat did not happen. The sixty seconds went by quickly. The instructor pulled the rip cord and jerked us upward into the silence. It was so quiet that my instructor and I could talk and hear each other easily. He let me control the parachute, and we did spins and floated along the air currents. I was ecstatic as I flew! The world spread before me as I saw the treetops, the intersecting highways, and the rolling green terrain. I saw the curvature of the earth and the ground rushing toward me. This experience was a treasured gift.
Nearing the landing zone, my instructor reminded me to pull my legs up. We landed smoothly. As we sat on the soft grass, I laughed with joy and wanted immediately to jump again. My first jump was an incredible adventure. It was a major adrenaline rush, and there was a beauty in the experience of floating down toward the earth.
And best of all, I found myself at 14,000 feet. I learned that I choose how I want to live. It is my life, and I alone decide my path. That is thrilling! Jumping out of a plane freed me of the chains that had bound me and kept me from trying new things and growing. I was no longer stagnant.
Now I will be fearless, be bold, and thrive, not just survive. I became a member of a small club of people who have experience jumping out of a plane. Nothing in life is impossible. Live joyously and sky-dive!
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.”
Four years later, I completed my second jump. It was as thrilling as the first.
Nancy J. Schaaf is a retired English/literature educator and also a retired registered nurse. She is a professional freelance national and international writer and is the editor of Keystone Kuzzins, the bulletin for The Erie Society for Genealogical Research. Nancy enjoys writing, jigsaw puzzles, reading, genealogy, and riding motorcycles.
BOX: You, too, can jump out of a perfectly good airplane!
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