My friend Eric jokingly sent me an email the other day asking if I was going through an early mid-life crisis. In the last two months, I’ve chopped almost 10 inches off my hair (I can’t even put it in a ponytail anymore!) and then I signed my life away to jump out of a plane, or what I lovingly refer to as “fearflying” (aka skydiving). Perhaps he’s on to something here but we all know I’m an adventurer at heart and a sucker for last-minute deals too. Along with my friends Aaron, Selina, and Kelsey, I got to mark another item off my bucket list this past Saturday at Great Lakes Skydiving in Beloit. It was an experience of a life time and since I’ve had a lot of people reach out asking what it’s all about I thought I’d recount the jump here:
Kelsey was the first of the group to go. I saw her squat and crouch to the edge of the door and just like that she was sucked out, disappearing below. It is unnerving to see someone you know and care about sucked out of a door into oblivion. You hear their first scream of “Oh my god” and even before the last syllable is spoken, the wind slices right through it and you don’t hear them anymore. They vanish. And then you become conscious that you’re no longer sitting in the back of the plane and in fact have been scooted so far forward that you’re next up on the chopping block.
At that point, I felt overwhelmingly anxious, fully awake, and absolutely terrified. Before making my jump, I looked up to the sky and closed my eyes. Looking back at the video, it looks as if I’m praying to the heavens above but it was more the instinctive realization that this was a terrible idea and there was nothing I could do about it now. My instructor’s final words before throwing me out the door were, “If you forget to breathe just scream.” I screamed alright. In fact, every second of my free fall I screamed bloody murder. It was the best therapy I could have asked for.
The free fall lasted about 60 seconds, which feels like a lifetime to spend diving head first into the ground at 140mph, but at the same time it goes quick too. When people ask me to describe this part of the dive, I can only muster up two words: terrifying and loud. Free falling from 14,000 feet in the air is not natural and every instinct in your body tells you to curl up in the fetal position (which you can’t do by the way). Then there’s the noise. I cannot possibly convey how loud it is from the moment you open the door to when the parachute finally opens. Think of a train coming through town or a fire alarm going off in your building. Magnify it by a 100 and maybe you’ll be close. It’s loud and deafening and exhilarating all at once.
But then something really wonderful happens. Your parachute releases and time almost freezes. The force and loudness of the wind vanishes completely and you are left with complete silence. You glide through the air and make your way through clouds to clear skies for jaw-dropping views. I saw the Chicago skyline and the smoke stacks in Rockford, IL all the way from Wisconsin. It was peaceful and serene and (somewhat surprisingly) I didn’t vomit from the free fall.
About five minutes after the parachute opened, we landed in a green pasture right by the airport. I love the photos from our landing because I just look so happy. I’m still debating whether my look of glee is from how much fun I had or if I was just incredibly thankful to have my legs firmly on the ground again. Regardless, it was a blast and I would recommend it to anyone looking to feel alive. The best part of skydiving is that 100 percent of you lives entirely in the moment.