My Adventure with Skydiving

It was time to let go of the butterflies in my stomach. Time to let go of obsessive thoughts and fears. It was not the time to mull over the fact that I was probably doing something very foolish … and terrifying. It was too late to turn back. I had no choice but to jump …. off the plane!!
Just minutes ago I had kissed my little Anjeli good-bye and waved to my husband, Nicolas as they watched me go up the aircraft that was going to bring me up to 13,000 ft before I go on this terrifying adventure called skydiving. It was all my doing. I had often hinted to my husband that I would like to lead a more adventurous life and Nicolas, the generous man that he is, immediately signed me up for skydiving and that too on my birthday!! I guess a birthday is as good a day to be a death day. Yes! That nagging obsessive thought had taken hold of me ever since my dear husband had informed me of the adventure that lay ahead of me. Nicolas, forever helpful, also told me that the life insurance policy has been upgraded and not to worry about him or Anjeli. It was meant to be reassuring but I began to wonder. A couple of years ago he had gifted me flying lessons on my birthday!!

I had always wanted to fly. As a child I would spend hours lying on my back on the grass watching birds fly and imagining what it must feel like to have that freedom to just take off on your wings and fly. I often dreamt of flying. Not flying on a plane, mind you, but just bodily soaring above the ground, feeling the wind on your face, looking down on earth below. I had this recurring dream for many years until adulthood worries and preoccupation overtook it. The dreams had slowly faded away with the years but I still sometimes fantasized about skydiving which is the closest one could get to flying.

Now that my dreams were going to be realized, well kind of, I was not so sure anymore. What if something went wrong? I would never see my little girl grow up or have a chance at the life together that my husband and I keep dreaming about. And there was a lot that could go wrong as I found out when I reached the skydiving place that my husband had found after a lot of research – The Bay Area Skydiving located in Byron, CA. I entered what looked like a huge warehouse. I was immediately made to watch a video that very carefully detailed all the ways that things could go wrong from parachute mal-function to pilot error. I was handed a bunch of forms to sign acknowledging that I was taking my life in my own hands and was responsible for it and that I promise not to sue anyone (from the maker of the parachutes to the skydiving school – there were at least 10 different parties involved) if something went wrong. Out of more than 2 million jumps a year, there are about 30 fatalities. My odds of survival were much better skydiving than scuba diving I was told. The fatality statistic for scuba diving being 150 fatalities for about 3 million divers per year in the US or which translates to 100 for every 2 million divers. Thus reassured I was told to watch other skydivers land before my name was called out for being fitted for the adventure.

On my way, I saw the parachute packers methodically preparing the chutes. “How long have you been doing this?” I asked one of them. “Oh, I just started today – just kidding.” Very funny indeed. I saw a few people land and few tandems as well. I was particularly interested to see the tandems land as that is what I will be doing. The landing seemed easy enough – you just glide down smoothly. I can handle that. Soon I heard my name being called.

I met my instructor Ego (I couldn’t get his real name) who handed me a jumpsuit. A young man who spends his weekends making 10-15 jumps a day. He was a veteran of more than 2000 jumps so far. My husband, Nicolas, jokingly tells him, “My wife’s life is in your hands now.” Ego informed us that his family was visiting him later that evening and he hadn’t seen them in more than two years. So, it was self-preservation more than anything else to ensure everything went well and I stood to benefit from it. While he helped get me into my jumpsuit with harness and all, he gave me about 60 seconds of instruction which I promptly forgot. I then met my photographer cum videographer. Nicolas had insisted that this rare moment be captured and as it was gift, I couldn’t argue though I had this nagging fear what if embarrassing moments get captured as well .. like me puking all over. Anyway, he told me to keep smiling all the time that he was filming as the rush of air on the face causes it to flap all around. I took him very seriously as I do have a chubby face.

Before I knew it, we were heading out to a waiting plane that was to take us up to an altitude of 13,000 ft. I was already sweating in my jumpsuit. Fear had nothing to do with it. The temperatures were hitting 95 degrees. We were packed in this little aircraft that was even hotter inside. It wasn’t until we reached few thousand feet that we had some natural air-conditioning with the doors of the plane opened. For the next few minutes I heard the more experienced divers talk about winds and up thrust as we kept climbing while my instructor tightened the harness with him attached to me now.

When we reached about 13,000 ft I saw few divers disappear below at 120 mph. It was our turn next and with a gentle nudge from Ego, out we went flying into the blue sky. The initial shock of finding yourself falling rapidly and the rush of air in your face is not exactly exhilarating. It took me a few seconds to adjust to the loud roaring of the wind in my ears as we hurtled down through the air for the next 50 seconds of the free fall. It was indeed the closest thing to flying. Then the chute opened and all was quite. For the next seven minutes, I felt as free as a bird though I was harnessed to Ego who had the entire control over the parachute and held my life in his hands. Ego pointed to many landmarks below including Mt. Diabolo that I had climbed years ago. As we were riding the wind and swooping down for the perfect landing, I looked at the brilliant blue California sky and the golden brown earth below and thought to myself: It was worth the wait. It took me a while but I finally did it.

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