LAURINBURG - Suddenly, I wanted to tell him I loved him.
We were strapped together, hips forward, about to fling ourselves out of a small airplane over a farm field in Laurinburg..
It was an odd, fleeting thought, my desire to proclaim love to a stranger assigned to accompany me on a skydive.
But those are the kinds of thoughts you have when you’ve willingly signed your life away in 25 places on a 4-page waiver, willingly put on a full-body jumpsuit and harness in 98-degree weather and boarded a plane, only to jump out of it.14,000 foot fall
Skydiving with the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army’s professional parachuting team, brings a certain sense of safety to an activity that involves plummeting from 14,000 feet, 180 mph toward the earth in a free fall.
But there’s always the what-ifs.
Even with the most expensive, reputable parachute on the market – with a release timer, air pressure device, and reserve parachute, all commandeered by a soldier skydive guide who jumps 10 times a day – the anxiety is there.
The thoughts, the hypothetical scenario of what life might look like if something goes wrong, are still there.
I’d been skydiving once before, three years ago, in college, over a farm field in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. That trip, which began the morning after Halloween, I was so high on adrenaline, I remember my pen shaking as I initialed line after line, relieving the skydive company of any liability for my life. In the hour-long wait before I jumped that time, I think I peed six times.When it gets you
This second time, I was pretty chill. I fell asleep on the ride from Fort Bragg as everyone else in my group chattered on about how they couldn’t believe they were doing this.
The veins were pretty adrenaline-free until that small, gold and black plane rose and that small door unfurled, displaying the patchwork fields below.
And that’s when it gets you.
The wind blows through the cabin, the engine buzzes. You can’t hear what people are saying.
I was fine until we got the signal to get ready for launch.
Then I wanted to simultaneously tell my tandem partner I loved him, call my mom and apologize, let her know I wanted to be an organ donor, and run up the cabin wall like a rabid squirrel, clinging to ceiling.
Those thoughts were also the ones commanding my body to ignore its own self-preservation signals. Signals like the heart, ready to explode and cursing you for putting it through this stress.Staying present
The initial push out of the plane was – is – the best part. On my first jump, the free fall seemed to end instantly. This time, I was present. The minute-long descent seemed to last an hour, wind slapping the face and flapping the gums.
Completely losing control for that few minutes and the exhilaration of the adrenaline before the jump is the best part of skydiving.
I’m constantly planning. Striving to be better at my job, striving to be more fit, striving to improve in every area of my life. Sometimes you don’t even know how hard you’re squeezing the invisible reins of life, trying to control it all, until you’re burned out, exhausted and sucking at everything.
That’s why it’s altogether terrifying, exhilarating and incredibly liberating to plunge into sky, and surrender all control.
It’s a rush of freedom. And worth all the risk.