My Largest Leap
When I was in second grade, my single greatest fantasy was to fly like a bird. I imagined soaring in the summertime, the cool breeze fluttering across my face gently whisking away my sweat. As I grew older, I marked flying off as part of my childhood imagination, being completely out of the realm of possibility. Two days after my eighteenth birthday, I found myself looking out of an airplane into a 10,000 foot abyss. Very soon, my childhood fantasy would become a reality.
Once the engines came to life, I knew there was no escape. In 20 minutes I would be jumping out of this airplane. As I peered out the window, I could see my brothers videotaping the plane as it took off, now they were only distant figurines standing next to the runway. In the plane, we were a jigsaw puzzle of people and equipment. The cabin barely had enough room for five people: four jumpers and one pilot.
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Looking across at my jump mate, who had successfully completed over 2400 jumps, I saw a man completely yielding himself to chance, a man you would not expect to be scared, but from the look in his eyes, he was. I realized that I was too.
As the door to our tiny Cessna was ripped open, the reality of the situation hit me. Immediately chaos reigned. The wind screamed past my ears. The cabin temperature dropped instantaneously. I felt like I was in a refrigerator. As we crawled to the jump position, I could feel my heart beat in my toes. Looking out of an airplane is different when there is no window.
Generally, I do not scream out loud when I am scared, but as my feet fell from the plane, my mind was shouting 1,000 thoughts per second. The first couple seconds were the most intense of all; my eyelids stretched open and I was falling into a complete void. Time became insignificant. However, once we reached terminal velocity, the support of the wind resistance was comforting.
After a few seconds, I found myself asking, “Why did I do this?” The only responses that came to mind were more questions.
Did I jump because of the endless lure of the sky? Was it to test my courage? Was it to seek a new challenge? Ripping through the sky at 165 miles per hour, I did not find my answer.
A couple thousand feet later and the end to my adventure was in sight. The parachute bloomed and all my worries lifted away. Suddenly, the sky filled with silence; the warmth of blood radiated throughout my body. I looked over my right shoulder and expected to see a flock of seagulls flying next to me. I was in paradise. Floating down to the landing site, I took it all in.
My reunion with the Earth came quickly. I landed with a thump as my family ran to greet me. I clicked open my harness and stood up, finally feeling the full weight of gravity. As I peered around the field and drew in my first breath, I felt a chill race up my spine. Simply having my feet on the ground again took on a new meaning.
On reflection, it may have been the childhood dream which initiated my interest, but it was the enticement of the challenge which made me jump. Since entering high school, I have felt the need to challenge myself and to constantly push my limits. In this respect, skydiving has unlocked another door for me to explore. Although I may not always jump out of airplanes, I will continue to leap at the chance to face a challenge.