My freshman year of college I decided to go skydiving with a group from my dorm. Being that I was already 18, I didn’t need parental consent, so I didn’t tell my parents until after I had done it, which allowed them to freak out but be happy for my safety. It was actually a rather safe process. We had to go through extensive training. We spent one night watching safety videos and then an entire afternoon practicing onsite before they let us anywhere near the plane.
The kind of skydiving we did was called "static line." Basically, your ripcord is attached to the plane so that, when you’re at the end of the static line, your parachute is pulled for you. A large portion of our training involved "what to do if your static line fails to pull the ripcord." Every jumper pack was equipped with a primary and a backup parachute, you know, just in case.
Due to weather conditions, our foursome didn’t make it into the air that day and had to come back later, but when we did, there were so few people around that we got to go up twice each, if we wanted. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to jump out of a plane twice in one day?
Looking back, I can pretty much view the actual act of skydiving in four phases. First of all, you have the anticipation: riding up into the sky, huddled on the back floor of a little plane, waiting your turn. For me, this phase involved a lot of praying. "Dear God, please don’t let me die." The second phase is the actual jump: the fear of stepping out into the sky and letting go of the plane. Here, there is actually too much attention being paid to the actual process and being prepared for "plan b" should the static line fail that little attention is being paid to anything else.
Third, after the anticipation of the jump, the shock of the jump and the relieving jerk of an opening parachute, comes the wait. This is the most peaceful part of the jump, if you’re not impatient. I remember sitting up in the air thinking, "Wow, the world looks amazing from up here," and "Wow, this is taking forever!" You can toggle left or right here, maybe do a little circle or whirligig, but, especially for a novice such as myself, you just wait and keep your eye on the landing ground.
Finally, fourth and last, comes the landing. After the seemingly endless stint of sitting on top of the world, you have to focus in again and prepare for the quicker-than-you-ever-thought-it-would-come-at-you landing. The closer you get to the ground, the faster it comes at you and if you’re good (or lucky), you’ll hit the ground running. If you’re not, you’ll end up like me, on your hands and knees in a mound of muddy snow: twice.
Right now I feel like I’m in the third phase of this particular stage of life. I’ve been anticipating big things, I’ve mustered the courage to let go of the plane, and I’ve felt a little tug of assurance at my back, opening to a canopy above. I’m just waiting like a kite on a string, trying to not let my impatience ruin the view and focusing on landing, hoping it doesn’t come too quickly or too fiercely.
And when the landing does come … I hope I hit the ground running.
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