Do you have a fear or phobia? I have to confess….I’m afraid of heights. Not so much of heights…but of long, rapid descents followed by sudden deceleration.
I have a fear. I also have friends. Friends that like adventure. Friends that like……skydiving.
There’s an old saying about skydiving, that nobody should jump out of a perfectly good airplane….at least nobody in their right mind. Well, my friends must not be in their right mind….because they signed up to go skydiving…and they wanted ME to go with them.
I didn’t tell them I was nervous. When my family went ziplining in Costa Rica, the locals nicknamed me “El Pollo Grande.”
It was a beautiful summer day, Sun was shining in the sky I could smell the fresh cut grass, hear the sound of a tractor in the distance….and feel my knees knocking and teeth chattering.
I was scared – but I was just as afraid of being embarrassed……so I went along for the ride.
During the day, we did lots of training – We watched videos, practiced with mockups, and even jumped off a short platform to simulate the intended landing. It was clear early on, that I was not a natural at this. My jump, drop and roll was more like……just drop.
Finally….it was our turn. Three of us shoe-horned ourselves the back of a Cessna 182 with a pilot seat…..and that was it. It didn’t even have a door. Our over-excited, caffeine-infused jump master looked back at us, telling us how GREAT this was going to be.
We taxied down the runway, Lifted off, and slowly soared skyward….taking large circles, like a hawk riding a thermal. You’d think we were excited, right? It was so quiet inside the plane, you could have heard a pin drop. We were all focused on the big open doorway on the side of the plane. There was only one way down…and that was it.
The more the jump master talked, …the more we kept…
Getting quiet …..Getting nervous…and wanting to Get out of there.
My two friends jumped….and now it was up to me. I turned, hooked up, and faced the door. The jump master barked at me, “ARE YOU READY TO SKYDIVE?”
Shaking my head, I said, “Yes?”
I HAD to answer YES! – because if I didn’t, it would be a long ride back to the ground….then the walk of shame back to the car. I wasn’t brave enough to admit I was scared.
The jump master checked my gear, and I started inching my hands out the strut of the plane, towards to red hand prints painted on the strut. (At least I think it was paint.)
As I got closer to the hands, I realized that I couldn’t keep my feet on the step….no matter how much I wanted to. At that point….I was hanging on like a pair of pants flapping on a clothesline.
When I got to the end, the jump master said “LOOK UP!” I looked up, and yelled “DOT!” (because there’s a dot on the underside of the wing), and with the tension reaching a peak,…I….
Now, when you see it in a video, it looks like you fall slowly and gracefully..
You don’t. If you’ve studied physics, you know that a feather and a rock fall at the same rate – a skydiver falls faster.
You’re SUPPOSED to slowly count, One Thousand One, One Thousand Two, One Thousand Three, One Thousand Four, One Thousand Five, but with me, it was more like, other way) 12345LOOKUP! 12345LOOKUP! (again)…..check watch….12345LOOKUP!
At that point,…..my chute magically opened….and I began to float slowly down, gracefully turning right…..then left……then right….then left…..This was actually fun!
As I approached the ground, I could hear a ground crew member talking to me on my headset:
He kept saying, “You’re doing great!” “Looking Good!” …”You’re Doing Great! Looking Good!”…I think it was a recording.
As I got closer, he gave me instructions, , guiding me until I pulled both toggles down to stall the chute and land. I must have waited a bit too long, because when I stalled the chute, I REALLY STALLED THE CHUTE ….but I kept going – doing my dramatic re-creation of that ski jumper on Wide World of Sports….The Agony of Defeat, indeed.
I rolled, rolled and rolled and eventually came to a stop. I couldn’t hear anything, I THINK I rolled through something in that cow pasture. I got up, dusted myself off and realized – I wasn’t dead. I was ALIVE! This was FUN!
…and that’s the whole point – it’s easy to be afraid BEFORE you jump.
It’s perfectly natural to fear the unknown.
It’s safe inside the plane …..but that’s not why you’re there. On the diving board…it’s safer to go back down the ladder….but that’s not where the fun is. It’s easier to not ask for that dance….not make that phone call…..avoid asking for that promotion….but that’s not where the reward is.
The risk…the adventure…the FUN….are all out there….after you just jump. Fear is JUST a feeling. It can be strong…. but it’s a only a feeling. How do you deal with it? You just jump. Is there risk? Sure. You might get turned down. You might look foolish. You might fail. It’s safer to do nothing…but that’s not where the excitement is. It’s out THERE, AFTER you jump. But you’ll never get to experience that adventure, or have that fun…or get that reward until you just jump.
THAT’S why you jump. The fear is there, but it’s only temporary. Once you jump, you can never see the world in the same way. Ever again.
When you are afraid, nervous or fearful about what’s going to happen next….turn, hookup, face the door…and answer one question – Are you ready to skydive?