5: A Risky Jump

5: A Risky Jump

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

A Risky Jump

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.

~Leonardo da Vinci

I was in a blah phase of my life. I was carrying extra weight, my hair looked awful, and my favorite clothes were baggy jeans or sweatpants. My shoes were rubbery ugly-looking flats, perfect for the way I was plodding through life.

A teacher during the day, I spent my leisure time knitting and reading. My children were grown and had lives of their own, so that challenge was over. My life had become uneventful.

I needed to take a leap. I needed to do something risky.

There was something that attracted and terrified me at the same time. My former father-in-law had spent his middle-aged years participating on a competitive skydiving team. Looking at photos or hearing him tell stories about his competitions, I would always say to myself, “Someday.”

Sadly, it took a colleague’s death to spur me into action. A fellow teacher — still in her thirties — died after waging a nasty battle with breast cancer. With what should have been a full life ahead of her, she left behind a husband and young children. I kept thinking that someday I would summon enough courage to go skydiving, but what if I ran out of somedays before I got the chance to do it?

Before I could change my mind, I called and scheduled my jump for the next Saturday. I could hardly refrain from squealing, the result of equal parts excitement and terror.

Driving the hour to the skydiving center, I felt like I might be driving to my death. Certainly, thousands and thousands of people safely skydived, but there were enough deaths that this was considered a dangerous sport. Before they even started the training, the skydiving staff had me fill out a six-page form; each place I initialed seemed to say, “If your parachute doesn’t open, it’s not our fault. If you break a leg when you land, it’s not our fault. If you die, it’s not our fault.” I stopped reading the form and blindly initialed the places that were highlighted. I didn’t want any more reminders about how risky this was.

After I watched a video about what the jump was going to be like, I worked one-on-one with Brian, my instructor. My first jump would be a tandem jump, which meant I would have my instructor strapped to me.

With his help, I learned that once I leaped out of the plane, I’d have to arch my back and put my arms out. Brian showed me a couple of different landing options, but assured me that he would make that decision when we were a few feet away from the ground. He explained that there would be a mix of veteran jumpers and beginners like me in the plane, but the experienced divers would go first.

“Each time a jumper goes, we’ll scoot closer to the back end of the bench. I won’t hook us together until right before it’s our turn.” Brian helped me into a flight suit. Everyone was loaded into the plane, and we headed toward the clouds.

It only took a matter of minutes to reach the needed elevation, but my panic level rose faster than that plane. The inside of the airplane got hot — at least it felt that way to me. It was as if I was in an oven and the oven had wings. My heart beat so fast it felt like it was going to thump its way out of my chest. My screams hadn’t escaped from my throat yet, but it was only a matter of time.

As the veteran jumpers started stepping off the bench and leaping out into the sky, I had to wait my turn. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to jump out. Right then. Immediately. And I didn’t care if my instructor was hooked onto me or not.

I bit down to keep from screaming. I managed to keep my seat planted firmly on the bench until it was our time to jump. Brian, behind me, hooked my harness to his and we got up.

My diving teacher walked to the gaping opening on confident legs. My legs, however, felt like they were made of rubber. A minute earlier, I was ready to leap out on my own. Now I was not so sure this was a smart thing to do.

The moment before we leaped out into the blue sky, the exhilaration that coursed through my veins was worth it. Above me was sky. Below me was sky. It was the oddest — and most exciting — experience of my life.

When the two of us leaped out, it felt like we were totally free.

I won’t lie. When Brian indicated it was time to pull the cord, I was relieved when the chute opened. With the nylon canopy above us, I figured I might end up with a broken leg but at least I didn’t have to worry about plummeting to the ground and getting squashed like an egg.

We finally returned to the ground and gathered the armfuls of parachute. My adrenaline was still pumping through my veins. And I knew. I knew. My life would never be the same. Even as we walked back to the skydiving center, I still felt thousands of miles high.

I no longer plod through life, all because I made that one leap.

~Sioux Roslawski

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