When I was 16 I started a life list, and on this list were all of the things I wanted to make sure that I did before I die. In general I live off of lists, so I knew even then, that once I had it down it was as good as done (really not at all, but I felt pretty good about actually getting it on paper). Anyway, I have my life list and my yearly list. Every New Years Eve, I open up my goals from the previous year and mark the ones that I was able to accomplish, reflect for a bit, and then write my list for the upcoming year. It’s a fun tradition that some of my friends now choose to partake in as well. I have learned, through trial and error however, to not just put challenging things on the list, but also simple things like: take my contacts out at least six nights a week , wash my whites more than once a month, and of course see Bruce Springsteen in concert. Some of the more challenging tasks on my list have been things like walking across the U.S., running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim in less than 24 hours, and skydiving. So, on the eve of my 23rd birthday I decided it was time to cross an adventure off of my list and take the jump. I called Skydive San Diego, and that call was the moment that marked a significant change in my life.
The first time I went skydiving was the most exhilarating experience I have ever known. The rush of adrenaline lived long after the jump was over, and luckily I paid extra for the videographer during the jump so I could watched my first tandem skydive about 1000 times. I knew that day that I had fallen in love with something spectacular.
The next week all I could think about was skydiving, the smell, the people, the outdoors, and that rush. So I cashed out all of my vacation time (social work vacation time, believe me it did not get me far, but it was enough to pay for one more tandem skydive). The entire day before I specifically remember feeling so much excitement for the next jump. My mouth would literally water, which I found to be very interesting, when I thought of doing it again—and then I did it. It was just as amazing as the first time. So at that moment I knew I needed a plan.
The next weekend I decided to do the first jump course, which is a three-hour course teaching you all of the basics about skydiving. After the course, you complete your first solo jump (by solo, you jump out with an instructor on either side of you, meant to stabilize you, but they are just holding on to your jumpsuit and not attached). I remember walking to the plane, with my little blue jumpsuit and rig (parachute and reserve) thinking, “I CANNOT BELIEVE AFTER THREE HOURS I AM TRUSTED TO DO THIS.” Getting into the small airplane you could literally just smell the sweat of everyone. I became increasingly aware that soon I would be leaving this aircraft with very limited skills. I remember constantly looking at my altimeter (the gauge monitoring altitude) and seeing the numbers rise, knowing that when it hit 13,000 feet, I would be preparing to jump. It all happened extremely fast. Everything in your body is telling you not to do what you’re about it do—but there’s no turning back. I remember standing on the edge of the door, looking to my instructors on each side of me, and feeling like I was going to puke. And then we jumped, or rather, stepped into the sky. After nearly a minute in free fall, it was time to deploy the parachute; so the instructors let go of me, I pulled the ripcord, and BAM! Acceleration stopped and I was under the peaceful canopy. It was a fleeting moment of clarity and happiness, before I realized that the hard part is now beginning. Trying to land under an enormous parachute hundreds of feet in the sky, onto what seems like a very small drop zone, is scary as hell. My first landing was not amazing, but I did land relatively safely. I remember as soon as I hit the ground my emotions began boiling over and I was so overwhelmed with the sheer amazingness of the situation that I started to cry. I’m not really a crier, but I couldn’t help it. I thought at that moment –skydiving was the answer to every question in my life.
Over the course of the next few years I spent hundreds (possibly in the thousands.. yikes) of dollars skydiving. Every weekend I rode my bike down to the drop zone to skydive and to see her—Sarah.
Sarah took my eye the first day I jumped. I was struck by her personality and her attitude. I knew this girl is my kind of girl. We became fast friends, and eight years later still going strong. My thought is…everyone needs a Sarah in their life. She is my go to gal for basically anything and everything. But my favorite thing about Sarah (if I’m forced to pick one), I know she shares my desire to experience life to its adrenaline fullest. Every crazy idea either came from Sarah or was planned with Sarah. I have always thought, “I will never need to get married because I’ve found Sarah.”
As the years have passed and I have pursued other sports that have quenched my thirst for adventure, the truth is nothing has ever captivated me quite like skydiving. It is the only sport I have ever done that literally scares the hell out of me, but is so compelling that it makes every risk worth it. It changed the trajectory of my life. I will forever see my purpose just a bit different. Maybe it’s because my problems seem so small 14,000 feet falling from the sky, or maybe because that burst of adrenaline is enough to keep the mundane at bay. Regardless, the summer of my 23rd birthday was the best summer of my life, and meeting Sarah—well that was just the moment that changed it all.