I jumped out of a plane Saturday. With another man attached to my back. (Maybe I should have titled this post “Spooning at 14,000 Feet”).
I’d wanted to go skydiving for the longest time and I finally got to do it. Standing on the edge of the little plane (completely stripped other than two uncomfortable benches) my senses were overwhelmed. I stood there for three seconds waiting to jump, yet I can’t remember the scene below. I don’t remember the propeller’s roar in my ear or the wind rushing past the open door. I remember crab-walking to the edge and then nothing. My memory resumes in freefall, about thirty seconds after jumping, as I approach 120 mph. My brain needed that time to process the senses I was experiencing. Colorful parachutes circling below of those who jumped before me. The feeling of flying alone (somehow I’d forgotten about the large man attached to my back). The air rushing past me on all sides as I hurtled toward the ground. The beauty of it all made me want to cry.
A commercial airplane flies considerably higher than 14,000 feet, but I could see so much more. My view was unobstructed. I was hit with a wave of nausea once the parachute deployed, my body’s way of saying “What are you doing up here?”
The experience taught me about fear, something I didn’t experience until I jumped from the plane. (Although I was shaken when the pilot yelled “I need some weight off the back! Swap seats!”) According to Psychology Today, fear is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat, causing changes in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior. The thought of being injured or killed during my jump never crossed my mind. Not to mention, statistics were on my side (1 fatality per 500,000 tandem jumps). Even my instructor said he gets a little nervous before every jump. I was perfectly calm. Now, when my feet first left the plane I immediately became terrified. The most terrifying couple of seconds in my life.
Why wasn’t I scared or even a bit nervous? Because I was determined to jump. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t go skydiving. I want to apply that determination to the rest of my life. Taking chances is scary. Change is scary. Chasing a dream is scary. But accepting that beforehand makes facing it easier. Being determined to do something eliminates the need for fear. That elimination of fear is your body saying “Fuck it. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do.” Acceptance doesn’t mean it won’t be scary, it will be. You just won’t have to fight the fear until you’re facing it.