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Sunday, August 26, 2012

So I Went Skydiving...

As I'm looking at my photos from yesterday's Wish Jump 2012 fundraising finale for Make A Wish, I didn't realize how many facial expressions and emotions I was obviously going through - scared (crapless), euphoria, nervous, exhausted, adrenaline-rushed, awe, panic, and finally relief and acceptance.

It kinda reminded me of the Five Steps of Grief......only I'm translating them into the Six Steps of Skydiving.

First - Afraid, very Afraid
I'd say this probably first hit me as Mike Fraser and I watched a video on liability related to what we were about to do. There were clips of ambulances and the narrator, who happened to be the inventor of tandem jumping Bill Booth, said if we wanted to know more about the injuries sometimes associated with tandem skydiving (when skydiving with someone on your back) just to ask your instructor. Who would even ask that? Really.
I was then swooped away by the man who was about to be strapped to my back - Tom Wells.
As I held on tight to the hand grips in the back of the plane, we slowly ascended, taking about 15 minutes, to 4,000 feet for another skydiving to jump - or as I thought of it, jumping from a plane is like a skydiver's morning cup of coffee.
But soon it would be my turn...

Second - Denial
Though we did have some on-ground training for posture and remembering to breath,etc, I don't know if I felt quite prepared for what was about to happen. I don't know if you can ever feel fully prepared to do this.
Here I was flying above Saratoga County, in a very small plane, in between the legs of a guy I had only just met. Luckily, Tom had about 1,470 jumps under his belt parachute but that really only meant the odds of an accident were that much more inevitable if nothing had really happen before.

Third - Bargaining (aka - I don't know about this)
Overall, I was feeling pretty good that morning. I was proud of the $1,760-plus that I had raised for Make A Wish through Wish Jump 2012. I mean, I had volunteered to be here. I volunteer with Make A Wish all the time - but this was definitely a bit different than the usual visit to see a wish child.
And when you get to 9,000 feet, you look down, and the only thing between you and the ground below is a small silver step - you do start to have doubts.

Fourth - Depression - of the face
After having a little trouble getting my feet out - for multiple reasons, likely that my body probably really didn't want to go - I was at that point of no return. Tom had said that he had people who asked not to jump when they got to this point  but unlike when you're still on your way up and you have a change of mind - when the door is open and you're out, there really isn't a choice anymore. You jump. Or at least - you let the guy you're strapped to jump. And, you fall. Fast.
Fifth - Stopping to Smell the Sunlight
I remember closing my eyes and then when I opened them again I saw the world as I had never seen it before. Aside from the view at 9,000 feet above sea level,  there was the very present feeling of diving with nothing there to stop me. It was all encompassing and it was intense. And....it wasn't as scary as I thought.
The parachute opened after less than a minute of free fall and I could enjoy the moment, as brief as it was considering we approached the land quickly in a few minutes.
Though, we also hadn't landed yet...

Sixth - Acceptance
At this point, I had come to terms with my fears, even of possibly spraining my ankle again (the first time being from a static line skydive - where there's a chord attached to the plane so the parachute opens automatically - from 10 years prior).
I trusted Tom and I was ready to touch the ground again. Scared/nervous a bit again, but ready.
The miniature houses and trees and streets all went back to normal sizes again and I was instructed to put my feet out straight in front of me for the landing. I did what I was told.


It was a smooth, grassy landing on a beautiful blue-skied morning.
I accepted the fact that it was scary. I accepted that it was crazy. I accepted that it was one of the best experiences of my life.
And I realized I wanted to do it again.
I'd say of all my blog posts, this is probably the most appropriate so far to quote my blog title and say: COWABUNGA!!!

If you're interested in having a similar (traumatic - but fun) experience, I definitely recommend Saratoga Skydiving Adventures in Gansevoort, NY.

And for anyone who has a soft place in their heart for Make A Wish, I am still accepting donations for the local MAW chapter with Wish Jump 2012 here: http://www.events.org/sponsorship.aspx?id=40741







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