I am a self-professed scaredy cat, and I have no qualms about admitting it. What’s more, I’m intrinsically a bit clumsy – “a bit” being an epic understatement. Falling is something of a specialty of mine. I do it often, and I do it with panache. When visiting a new doctor, I always laugh when completing a form that asks me to list all my recent injuries. Pardon me, doctor, but what’s your scale for injuries? Are we talking surgery, sprains or otherwise?
Here’s a story for you. Once upon a time, I wore heels to work – nothing major, about an inch or so high. One day, I was very strongly discouraged from observing a piece of equipment situated in sandy/muddy terrain, all because of my choice of footwear. I went back to the office and let loose a long rant about how stupid the whole ordeal was, how I had walked on a grated flooring in those shoes and how I could walk anywhere in them. Then I took two steps on the linoleum tiles and slipped just like a runner sliding into home base, except I was wearing a pencil skirt.
It’s like I’m Murphy’s Law personified.
Because of this blessed mix, I often stop myself from doing things that others might find commonplace for fear of hurting myself. I don’t ride a bike in the city. I haven’t done any form of skating since I broke my wrist in 4th grade at the roller rink. I don’t ski or snowboard or attempt any type of extreme sport. I don’t like to wear heels in the rain, even when it’s fashionably required and my idea of a hike is a nature walk. Hell, I balk at opening/closing the grill because I’m convinced I’ll find a new way to burn myself.
Because of my propensity to fall, I easily developed a fear of heights. Imagine how much fun that made exploring Machu Picchu. There were abuelas moving at a faster pace than I was. Not long ago, I made the decision to chip away at my fear of heights by tackling it head on. It started with walking along the road from monastery to monastery on the cliffs of the Meteora.
Then it was that cliff jump at the Mountain Creek Waterpark. Sure, I bruised my tailbone and couldn’t sit properly for two weeks, but hey. I jumped off a frickin’ cliff.
So let’s fastforward. A few months ago, I met a guy who had gone skydiving only a few hours earlier, and was making moves to complete his IAF certification to do solo jumps. Skydiving, while never exactly on my bucket list, is something I have always said I wanted to do some day. All part of conquering this fear of heights and such, you know. And so, the following text was sent: …I want to jump from a plane while attached to a functioning parachute and a person who know how it works.
Five days later, I was in a car destined for Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner, NY. I had spent the days prior avoiding YouTube at all costs. I wouldn’t let anyone tell me about the lady who slipped out of her harness. I contemplated telling my instructor I’d have my eyes closed and if he or she could just toss me from the plane without much fanfare, that’d be great. I wondered if I would be the first person ever to block the plane’s exit with my body.
I don’t want to brag (much), but I was pretty great about the whole thing. In fairness, a lot of it had to do with the staff at Skydive the Ranch. I can’t say enough good things about them. They were massively instrumental in making my experience as incredible as it was. From check-in, to the signing away of my life (aka, signing the waivers) and through the passing storm, everyone was warm, friendly and very easygoing. When you feel like you’re hanging out in someone’s backyard, you tend to forget you’ll be free-falling from 2.5 miles above the Earth in a few minutes.
The feeling of a free-fall is one I’ll never forget and one I cannot wait to relive. Anyone you ask about it will tell you it’s an absolute mindfuck, and they’re not exaggerating. Typically, when a person falls (and I do speak authoritatively here), they expect to hit the ground shortly. We cringe, we tense up and brace ourselves for the worst. Thing is, you won’t be hitting the ground anytime soon when you’re falling from a height of 13,500 feet. If you’re anything like me, you’ll scream your head off for a few seconds and then take a deep breath and realize this is quite possibly the closest you’ll ever get to flying.
It may sound a bit dramatic, but skydiving absolutely changed me. While this was something I had always wanted to do, it was never something I actually I expected I could do. It’s ridiculous, in retrospect, as it required little more than showing up and paying. And yet, this was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life. There are so many things I could be doing that I’ve written off because I’ve convinced myself I’m not capable, and that’s simply not true. I dusted off my old bike (fine, Dad, your old bike) and have committed to riding daily during the workweek. Again, this may seem trivial to most, but if you’d seen me struggling along the roads of Inishmore 3 years ago, you’d think otherwise. Now, I’d like to start preparing to participate in an upcoming Tour de Cure. But babysteps first, friends – I did two moving hand signals AND rocked the quick left turn off a pretty steep hill. Booya!
In the meantime, here’s a photo of me, post jumping from a plane while attached to a functioning parachute and a person who knows how it works.
And Eric, if you ever read this and we jump together again someday – HELL YES I WANNA DO A BACK FLIP OUT OF THE PLANE!
Skydive the Ranch is located at 55 Sand Hill Road, in Gardiner, NY. To reserve a jump time, call 845-255-4033.