A Bucket List Life

#4. Skydive From A Great Height

Apr
14

I am afraid of heights. Wait. No longer am I afraid of heights. Asking someone who is scared to climb a ladder to go skydiving may seem ridiculous, and it is. Let me share with you how going skydiving ended up on my bucket list, as it may bring hope to one person who reads this. My skydiving trip in Texas was more than just a bucket list item, it was a monumental shift in my perception of life.

I have been plagued by unreasonable fears as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I would be scared to meet new people in school. I felt as if I did not fit in, and it did not matter what group of people I was with. I was fearful of success, failure, being in a relationship, not being in a relationship, and always concerned about what other people thought of me. This is just a sampling of the fears that haunted me through childhood well into my adult years.

As I grew older, and discovered that all areas of my life were suffering as a result of my self-centered perceptions, I knew I needed help. Being defiant and stubborn to some extent, I rebelled at first. “I got this” was a common theme that ran through my head. Then, circumstances landed me at my “rock bottom”. I had a breakdown, and landed under the care of a “mentor”. My friend, and mentor, requests to remain anonymous.

Turns out that I am not as unique as I originally thought I was. My mentor went through exactly what I had, and was, experiencing. When am I going to talk about my skydiving experience? Hang on, we are almost there!

What this individual did for me was life altering. It opened me up to share my life story with someone else, an individual who understood what it was like to be me. My mentor made it clear that in order for me to get over my fear problem I was going to have to take some drastic actions. Here comes the skydiving part!

I was asked to make a list of all my fears, past and current, that I could think of. It was a long list. One by one we went through them, determining which ones were reasonable, which ones were unreasonable. A quick example would be my fear of becoming obese. My mentor explained that this was unreasonable, because it was in my control to eat healthy and exercise.

For all of my unreasonable fears, including my fear of heights, I was asked to come up with an action plan to overcome each one. I suggested that I begin overcoming my fear of heights by climbing a ladder. My mentor laughed, and asked this question – “Don’t you fly commercially every now and then?”.

I could not escape this. Yes, I fly frequently. So, I put next to my fear of heights skydiving. That’s how this came about. How I came up with skydiving is anyone’s guess.

I sat on this, skydiving, for several years as I crossed off many of the easier fears on my list. When I came up with the bucket list idea a while back, I knew skydiving would go on there. I honestly have been looking forward to it, probably getting it over with more than the actual event itself!

With a business trip looming in Texas, I had the idea of going online and seeing if there were any skydiving lessons available in the area my business had me. I would be in Austin for a week, so I started my search.

Low and behold the first place that came up on my Google search was Texas Skydiving. Located 45 minutes from Austin, I could not use distance as an excuse. Hours of operation are 9am to 6pm Monday-Friday, and daylight to sundown on the weekends. As luck would have it, I knew we would be done early on Thursday and Friday was a free day. My flight did not leave until Saturday. So, I called Texas Skydiving.

I need to back up a little. Before I called, I did a quick check of reviews on them. I know that some companies hire people to post fake reviews, and I can spot them quickly (I have some marketing experience). There was no indication of anything suspicious. In fact, people raved about the service!

The person who answered the phone was so reassuring. I made my reservation for the Friday I was free after my business trip, and my palms started to sweat the minute I hung up the phone. I immediately called back, and the friendly voice on the other end chuckled and asked “Change your mind already?”. Seems this is common in the skydiving world, people have a quick change of heart. I thought of my mentor, and how fear used to rule my life.

“I’m doing this” I yelled through the phone, and the lady on the other end simply replied “You will not regret it”. She was right.

As I awoke on the Friday morning of my “leap of faith” I felt a calmness over me. I went through my morning at the hotel, usual breakfast, and dressed for the occasion. They told me that I needed to wear athletic clothing, such as if I were going to play frisbee or tennis. All I would need was my body properly clothed and payment.

As I drove to the facility, I found myself becoming increasingly excited. How could this be? Once again the words of my mentor flowed through my mind, as he would say that fear is “false evidence appearing real”.

I pulled my rental car into the lot and looked around. A professional operation is what I saw. I was greeted by the lady who fielded my first call, and my return call when I was going to back out. She smiled and said that she was glad I followed through. How reassuring, that she remembered me!

My reservation was for a tandem jump. This means that an instructor would be with me from start to finish, as I was not up for a solo try right out of the gate! The overall time commitment was minimal, approximately 2 hours from start to finish was my experience.

The time was now for training. I was shown basic and emergency procedures. These covered every aspect of the jump. Following the procedure training, I was given a thorough explanation of the equipment and how it works.

I can’t say for certain how long those sessions lasted, it seemed as if it was in the blink of an eye. Certainly, adrenaline had something to do with my lapse in time. Without my realizing it, maneuvers were discussed by my tandem instructor. Wait! We are getting on the plane already!

The pilot announced, which I had already been told, that we were going to 10,000 feet. My instructor sat right next to me. We attached equipment as the plane rose in elevation. Without my realizing it, the time had come to jump and I was not even perspiring!

A simple countdown, and we were floating through the air! The initial jump was a bit concerning for me, then quickly my instructor quieted my nerves. We were in a freefall for 45 seconds, and it was during this time that I felt as if I was at one with the world. My perceptions of life changed forever.

As the chute opened, we glided to the ground. I knew from the training that this would last approximately 5 minutes. I was afraid of heights. Yet, during this gliding period with the chute out, I did not want to come to land. I hoped it would last longer.

We landed safely in the designated drop zone. I immediately hugged my instructor as if we were long lost best friends. I cried tears of joy. A lifetime of pent up frustration, fear, and self-centeredness evaporated.

I opted to go with the “hand-cam”, which was worn by my instructor. I now have pictures to prove I did this! One guess as to the first person I emailed copies of these to. Of course, my mentor.
I thanked the staff, each and every one, from the bottom of my heart for this life changing experience. I think I over welcomed my stay to some extent, as they probably tired of hearing me say thank you repeatedly.

Ever since this experience, I have found a new freedom. My perception of life is no longer one driven by fear. Decisions that I make today are not rooted in the possibility of worst case scenario, instead, they are full of hope.

I have developed, as a result of marking off my bucket list skydiving, an energy and passion for life that I did not imagine was possible. My relationships are stronger. I am better at my job than ever before. Most importantly, I love life like never before. A simple suggestion from my mentor has evolved into a life changing experience.

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