It’s ten in the morning at Skydive Spa and in a few minutes, I will jump off a plane and into the skies for the first time. I am close to wetting my pants and throwing up in sheer horror. But I tell myself, I can do this.
Before the JUMP: wrestling with fear
Our skydive instructor for today is Ronald Emonts who has been navigating the skies for more than twenty years. As he speaks excitedly about the wild adventure that lies ahead, I become acutely aware that we exist on different planes. He comes from a world of flying where fear does not exist while I’m terrified stiff in the joints and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life.
Ronald hands me a yellow jumpsuit to wear over my clothes. He then teaches me how to position my arms and body for the dive, how to manage ear pressure, and how to land properly. With the fear buzzing in my head, I can barely hear him. I only see his mouth moving so I know he’s talking.
Next, Ronald shows me the skydiving equipment. He opens his backpack and reveals two parachutes. Aside from the main parachute, skydivers always bring a spare parachute for good measure. They also wear an electronic device which can automatically activate the parachute at a certain altitude in any event. That calms my nerves but only a bit.
Ronald and I will do a tandem jump which means I will be securely attached to him during the entire dive. As he fastens the harness to my suit, Ronald assures me that we will be like best friends up in the clouds. I can count on him, and we will have a marvelous time together. God I hope so.
We board the plane which will take us to the jump-off point at four thousand meters above ground. I ask Ronald how long the ride will take. Fourteen minutes, he says. Fantastic. My fear will have a rave party in my head during those agonizing minutes. Thinking is your worst enemy in these moments.
As the plane ascends, Ronald begins strapping me to his body, my back to his front. I have never felt so trapped in my life. I feel like reaching for his neck, strangling him, and crying out, “let me go, let me go!” But at this point, I am totally catatonic.
Ronald grabs me by the shoulders and literally shakes me out of my funk. He probably senses that I’m just inches away from chickening out. He peps me up and points toward the camera as if having pictures of me looking all horrified will make me feel better.
I look around at the other passengers. They are all experienced skydivers who do this sort of thing regularly for whatever reason. What is wrong with these people, I wonder. But then again, I am also on board so what the fudge is wrong with me?
Suddenly, the door of the plane swings open. Everybody starts pushing forward for the exit. Except me. I push backward. But the instructor I’m stuck with is much too strong and he shoves us both toward the door. Ronald and I are the last jumpers on the line. As the other divers disappear one by one, I brace myself. This is it.
After the JUMP: braingasming in mid-air
Mind-blowing. People use that word often to describe something wonderful or fantastic. But the real definition of mind-blowing is “intensely affecting or overwhelming the mind.” And that’s what it is like to skydive. Your brain gets a full shot of orgasm. All your senses are heightened as you get lost in a world you’ve never seen or imagined. The newness or strangeness of it all is exhilarating.
Two major things happen when you skydive. First is the freefall after you leave the plane. There is no parachute holding you up. It’s just you and gravity playing together while you rub elbows with the skies. The second part is when the parachute goes off and you glide steadily above ground. This is your time to drink in the glorious view of the world below you. It’s not like anything you’ve ever daydreamed or watched in movies because this vision is real and it is yours to enjoy.
It may not be accurate to say that the fear disappears completely once you jump. The truth is, fear joins you when you jump and ends up enjoying itself in the process. There is a moment when fear and ecstasy merge and become friends. They even start looking like one and the same thing. And you realize that fear is really nothing to be afraid of.
There may also be instances when you float between fear and ecstasy. You are afraid because you are experiencing something that has never happened in your life, and we are usually scared of the unknown. But by heavens, you are flying! And in those minutes, you feel infinite and you get a taste of what it could be like to be a god.
What happens when you dare go skydiving? More information
Skydiving despite the fear and irrationality
Skydiving terrifies us for several reasons. One, the whole thing just doesn’t make sense to a rational mind. Why jump off a plane and freely succumb to gravity? Two, it’s something that never happens in ordinary life so you have no idea what awaits you. And three, we worry that something might go wrong despite the safety measures and secure equipment.
And yet many people still go skydiving. Our reasons for doing so may vary. But maybe we all just crave that feeling of infinity. Every once in a while, we just want to take a break from our finite lives to taste the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And when we get the chance, we embrace that moment because it is rare and fleeting.
Stories of skydiving adventures are not new. But how each person experiences that first jump will differ. Wouldn’t you like to know what your story will be? Can you even handle the fear and the feeling of infinity?