Most people I know have a bucket list. Some collection of activities they want to do, places they want to go, people they want to meet, etc. I too have a bucket list, albeit I do not call it a bucket list because frankly, I think that term is dumb. It has the connotation of being close to actually ‘kicking the bucket,’ and most of the things I want to do in life will have to occur way before I am old and my joints are crinkly. Instead, I basically ask myself: “Would I want to leave earth without _____,?” fill in the blank with whatever thing I am considering, and then if the answer is “no” I make a note.
Before last weekend, I only had 4 things written down:
- Seeing a real-life tornado up close.
- Visiting every national park in the United States.
- Getting married.
- Go skydiving.
Even though my list is short, pragmatically many of these things will take me some time to actually do. However, I decided I wanted to go skydiving about 3 months ago, and being that I am an adult, it is not that hard to find somewhere to skydive, and I had a couple hundred dollars worth of “fun-money” saved up I figured there was no real reason I couldn’t make that happen.
I decided to treat myself for my 21st birthday. It was my golden birthday (I turned 21 on the 21st) so I figured this was the perfect time to risk my life.
Turns out my birthday was also on Easter this year, and as I love the Lord and would not want the possibility of my death overshadowing the Lord’s resurrection, I booked the jump for the weekend after. I convinced a friend, lets call her K, to jump with me, I found a Groupon, and we booked the jump for April 26th.
The Easter service at church was beautiful. For the rest of the day I celebrated with my family. We went to a movie, ate some delicious Chinese food, then came home for “cake” and presents. I put cake in quotations because I am actually not a fan, and instead opted for homemade rice krispie treats. I blew out the matches on the rice krispies (we didn’t have candles but luckily my mom is a good improviser) and enjoyed this time with my family, acknowledging this may be the last birthday at home for a while.
Birthdays always make me reflective on past mistakes, and I entered back into reality on Monday with a new outlook on life. I decided that I am too stressed all the time and I need to just maybe chill out a tad or I am going to give myself an aneurysm. So I figured I would start asking myself- ” but am I going to die” in situations I am stressed because the answer is usually no and then I can tell myself that since I’m not going to die, everything will probably be fine. And then I remembered that I had signed myself up for an activity in which the answer to “but am I going to die?” was “um… possibly” and I had to take a moment.
Being that I am the way that I am, I piled my weekly plate of things to do as high as possible, and I kept myself busy for the week leading up to the jump.
I had numerous assignments and tests being that it is the end of the semester. And even though I am a senior and most people relax during their senior year I somehow managed to find myself still taking 19 hours worth of classes, working, volunteering, playing sports, and counting down the days until graduation (22).
I somehow made it to Friday. My family had gotten tickets to see Endgame, and just so you get the full picture of how serious my family is about Marvel let me tell you that these tickets resulted in my mother pulling my sisters out of school early and my father getting his company to pay extra money to change his flight home from a business trip so he could make it *just in time for the opening scene.
We might have our priorities a little skewed…but were we going to die? Nope. So winning, right?
Since I was so pumped up about seeing Endgame I had not allowed myself to really process that I was going to be jumping from a plane over 14,000 feet in the sky the very next day. Then the movie ended and I was flooded with emotions. Both due to the end of an era in cinematic history, and because I finally realized what was happening.
Then I watched two hours worth of videos of skydiving accidents and researched every single something that could go wrong. Did you know that if the main parachute is deployed but it is tangled your tandem instructor cuts you loose, untangles/cuts off the chute, dives down to catch you, then you have to put your arms through their chest straps and when they deploy the reserve chute both your arms break 100% of the time? Cause I didn’t.
Somehow after all of the videos and articles and horror stories I felt better about my jump because statistically if all of this terrible stuff has happened already, the chances of it happening to me were reduced. At least that’s what I told myself.
Saturday came and I went to pick up K then we were off- driving an hour to Luling, Texas. The drive it pretty boring, and we were both a bit giddy so we talked about family pets the whole time. We were about 12 minutes away and the unthinkable happened.
All of a sudden I saw a bird in the middle of the road.
Even though I know birds to be the devil-reincarnate, they generally are sensible enough to move out of the road when a car is coming. Except not this bird. This bird chose to start flying at the last possible second and instead of flying to the side our of danger, it flew straight.
Straight into my windshield.
Me and K both screamed and I began to panic a bit because I had never hit an animal with my car before and now I had to add bird-killer on my driving record.
We sat in shock for a few minutes before it dawned on me.
Me: “Do you think this is good luck or bad luck?”
K: “Oh my goodness I didn’t even think about that.”
I was then convinced that this birds inability to fly properly, which is pretty much its only job in life, was a sign that I, a human that was not designed by God to fly, was going to die skydiving.
I talked to myself for the rest of the trip (in my head of course, I did not want to seem like a crazy person). I attempted to be rational, explaining that this was not a sign, I do not believe in “kismet” I believe in the Lord, and if He was going to tell me that skydiving was a terrible idea He would have done it through the spirit and not through a defective bird.
I had calmed down by the time we arrived to the base. We signed in and got to watch a few people landing before we were put in our own gear and were given instructions. If you did not know, most skydiving instructors don’t really care much about anything other than skydiving, and they tend to present information in the bluntest possible way. My instructor’s name also happened to be Dill and I couldn’t decide if that was comforting or a cause for worry.
We watched a few more planes take off and about 20 people landing before all of a sudden it was time. We were doing this.
I paid a bit extra for a video because if something was going to go wrong I wanted it to go on YouTube. My videographer pulled me aside as we were getting ready to load the plane.
“Anything you want to say to your friends and family?”
“Love you if I die.”
And then we boarded the plane.
The plane was the very definition of dinky, and we crammed 12 people in- getting very close and personal. There was not really a door, only a piece of plastic that slid over the hole in the side. The plane took off and I looked at the elevation tracker on my instructors arm as we climbed higher and higher.
I decided 10,000 feet was a good time to start small talk.
Me: “Have you ever been pooped on?”
Dill: (raises eyebrow) “No.”
Me: ( nods reassuringly) “Okay, we will try to keep it that way.”
Other instructor: “I got puked on my second day.”
Me: (looks at Dill) “No promises there.”
All of a sudden the plastic covering was opened. I can honestly say I was pretty calm about this whole thing until I was staring at the ground 14,000 feet below me.
Everything moved so quickly after that. Photographers were climbing out and holding on to the side of the plane. Instructors were inching their jumpers over the edge. Then somehow I found myself hanging out of the side of the plane while the photographer gave me a thumbs up and jumped.
Then we jumped.
The free-fall happened so quickly I don’t actually remember much. The wind made its way into my goggles and my eyes watered, making my vision blurry. I tried to blink away the fog so I could watch as the ground got closer and closer.
All of a sudden I was yanked back. The parachute had done it’s job, and I felt my heart rate decrease as we began steering our way through the sky. I tried to pop my ears but only felt fluid. I was then convinced that my eardrums had busted and I was never going to hear again, but they cleared up enough for me to hear Dill yell-
“How was it?”
Dill let me steer some of the way down and it was actually quite peaceful. He explained the landing process as we neared the ground and I prepared myself.
I lifted my legs up, realized we were still going pretty fast, then hit the ground, my tailbone screaming, and skid a few feet.
Dill made sure I was okay, we unhooked from the parachute and each other and posed for a picture.
It was done. I had skydived (skydove?) and lived to tell the tale.
I texted my family the good news, me and K returned our gear and sat down to recuperate. I went to the bathroom to dry-heave the nausea away, then we headed back to Austin.
Overall the experience was pretty surreal. I had reasoned with my family beforehand that since I had already had some crazy experiences and had not died yet that God clearly had a plan for me on the earth. Skydiving not only supported that statement, but lit a fire in me to try as much as I can while I have the chance. (Not to be stupid persay, but to step out of my comfort zone more).
I have since been trying to add to my list. I will admit I have been unsuccessful thus far as I can only come up with things like “spend a night in the Sahara desert” and “hike Mt. Kilimanjaro” and logistically I’m not real sure how I could make those things happen.
I did promise my dad that skydiving was a one time thing but I never promised not to, say, join a roller-derby gang or something.
I might be an adrenaline junkie.