A week ago I turned 32. I decided to celebrate getting younger by going skydiving! It's been something I've always wanted to do, but my fear of heights slowed down me pulling the trigger.
Well, if you want to do something you should do it today and so I figured, why not? Today is as good of a day as any. Two weeks before my birthday I decided to do it and started calling around to different skydiving facilities. There is a little more prep work for someone like me. I need to make sure they can handle and accommodate someone with physical impairments.
I'm a researcher. It's my nature. I like to look for the best deals combined with best service or quality. I read about Norcal skydiving and they had the best rates and also the best reviews. I was most attracted to their reviews of how funny and cool the Norcal guys are. "Hey, I like funny, this place could be for me."
Surprisingly, I didn't obsess over the upcoming event and wasn't too scared until I got onto the plane, that is.
For the weekend of my birthday we went to the wine country Sonoma, rested, ate some good food and then I flew with the birdies. Definitely one of my better birthdays as I'm usually not into big celebrations or spending alot of money on an event for myself.
We arrived at Cloverdale airport at 10 in the morning. I was pretty tired because I only had 2 hours of sleep the night prior and we had to wake up early to make it to the port that was an hour from us. Good thing we didn't go too crazy with the wine on Saturday night.
Anyways, we get there and then it became real. We hung out in the hanger with the staff -- a bunch of really cool guys who love extreme things. I rolled up waiting for my next turn and Greg, my tandem came out pointing at me while saying, "You're next" while tending to his next victim.
Hmm, I like him already. We hung out for awhile, got my gear on and waited while watching the others come in for landing.
"Hmmm, looks easy enough. Almost graceful and serene how they land." I thought.
Then it was my turn. Mark, my camera man and Greg, my tandem, escorted me to my little plane.
They had to tie my feet up so Greg could have full control of my legs during the dive, and then, and then there was no turning back. The plane ride up was about 20 minutes. I started getting nervous when the plane took off and I could hear the loud clattering of the metal bird.
I think Greg and Mark could tell I was getting nervous, so were very supportive and wonderful about it all. It wasn't just about the jump, though. I started thinking about everything and the last 32 years of my life and how I got from point A to B. And how really this is the least scary thing I have to face in my life. I told Greg and Mark about my condition with a slightly teary voice and then I got quiet. All of a sudden the girl that wouldn't stop talking or making jokes had nothing to say on the airplane. It was a quiet and contemplative ride up. I had nothing to worry about with the jump, because I trusted the guys and they were just so sweet.
But, then the doors flung open and Mark instructed me to look to the right at the camera, smile and then turn my head to the left for the jump.
Yea, right. I had no thoughts about smiling to the camera. My legs were hanging off the edge of the plane and I looked down at the world beneath me and thought "Oh Shit!".
Greg did his count, "1,2,3" ...ahhhhhhhh. He jumped and the whole world was spinning around me. I had no idea where I was as everything looked the same around me. The wind was intense and I couldn't even see Mark. I think my goggles were super tight, too. Greg tapped my shoulders as cue to lift my arms like a bird. I couldn't believe it, I was flying in the sky.
Free falling was about a minute and the parachute ride down was about 5 min. The skies were so clear that we could see the Sierra Mountains, which were 7 hours from where we were. It was beautiful and amazing. Cold and fresh, yet warm. I saw my feet dangling over the land below me. I was imagining my straps coming loose from Greg, and that I would fall straight down and imagining what I would do if that happened. "Stop, tuck and roll?" There's really nothing I could do to.
Suddenly it was time for landing which was sooo fun. Greg swept his legs under my binded legs and landed for me. I was watching as the Norcal guys were scattering about beneath me making sure they would be positioned exactly where we would land. I remembered thinking it was funny looking, a couple dots running around in the field trying to catch us. As soon as we landed it seemed like it went by too fast, and the guys immediately unfastened me and carried me to my chariot.
It was a great experience, a great way to turn 32 and I'm not opposed to trying it again ;). Afterwards, I was soooo tired. My body, my eyes, my legs hurt, so we found a field to lay down in, and took a nap under a perfectly blue sky among the stillness of the world I just dived straight towards to. It's nice getting younger as you're getting older. The hardest part is letting go.
Having a disability is really difficult and many times I have to do more just to live like everyone else, but not LIVING is even harder.