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Opinion

Skydiving teaches important lesson

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May 4, 2007

“Wear comfortable clothes,” were the only instructions I was given as a clue to my secret adventure planned for this past Sunday. All week I was purposely given an array of clues that led to nothing but confusion.

In bewilderment, I woke up Sunday morning still unsure about the afternoon’s activities, but thought perhaps we were going on a hike to see some pretty nice views. Fast forward four hours and I’m leaning out the side of an airplane with a man attached to my back pushing me out the door. Imagine my surprise.

My boyfriend decided we were going to go skydiving. He’s a smart man by not telling me; this way I had no way to prepare or overanalyze the whole thing or wimp out.

From start to finish of this insane experience, I realized things in ways I hadn’t before.
After the proper instruction and never-ending signatures promising I would not sue them if I were to crash and fall to the ground without my parachute opening, I found myself boarding an aircraft called a “Twin Otter.”

It was strange. The only thing I could think about was how great of an interview this would make for an exciting piece about people who live extreme lifestyles, about people who choose to jump out of planes with the hope that they will land safely on the ground in a few minutes, sans the aircraft; what a bunch of crazies.

Then, all of a sudden, I lost my stomach and realized I was one of those crazy people. I was about to willingly jump out of a perfectly good airplane and I didn’t even have a parachute on.

I looked around the plane, the other 12 people (minus my boyfriend, who was in the same situation I was), and they all had parachutes strapped to their backs, helmets and gloves and goggles on and a lot of other protective gear, of which purpose they serve, I haven’t a clue. I thought maybe I should have it on too just because they did. And here he and I sat with jumpsuits, harnesses and Nikes on.

What the hell were we about to do?

The second I started to try to ponder that, a gust of wind came into the plane as the door opened. The geared people started jumping out the plane and plummeting down. I frantically tried to remember the three simple instructions I was given as to how to position my body when I was “free falling.”

I can honestly say my mind was blank.

I was hooked to the harness of a tiny man from Oxford, England who was instructing me to do
things. I only caught some of what he said because I couldn’t hear him or understand his accent. I thought for a second, “I can’t do this. No way; I’m not jumpin’.” But then I realized it was just me and this little man strapped to me left in the plane.

With my boyfriend already on his descent, I couldn’t leave him to experience this alone, so my temporary… insanity… where I thought I couldn’t jump, was relieved and I was given my sanity back as my body left the plane and I was ‘falling with style’ very quickly toward the ground.

Still slightly worried about my not-yet-open parachute, I was wildly waving at the camera man beside me as my face flopped around like a pit bull’s does when its head is out of the car window.

Then, just as abruptly as the free fall started, it quit and we were sailing down as the wind resisted courtesy of the bright orange parachute 12 feet above my English tandem partner and me.

All of my worries were quickly forgotten and I was thinking of so many things, but at the same time, I was thinking of nothing. I was in awe of my surroundings, my boyfriend for coordinating the secret adventure and myself for actually jumping.

Not having the ability to recognize anything around me I just took it in and let myself enjoy the fall.

I was following the advice my best friend had given me the night before in regards to all the turns my life is currently taking. I was wound up and worried about donning a cap and gown in less than two weeks, moving off to a new city for a job, real responsibilities, health insurance, a much-needed new car, leaving my friends and so many other things. He told me to just let it all go and enjoy the ride; let the fall happen. My life is taking turns in positive directions, he told me.

There is only so much worrying I can do before it becomes detrimental and begins to prevent good things from happening rather than fostering the success.

My parting advice isn’t as clever or witty as others, but when you think your life is making massive changes you might not be able to handle; just jump and let go.

Getting caught up in the lack of things you have and others have isn’t going to make it better or easier.

You’ll do it your way and it will work. You’ll jump.

At first it will be scary and you might be tripping on yourself and falling fast, but then somehow your own parachute will open and save you.

Things will slow down and level out and you’ll be able to stop, breathe and take it in. You’ll land and look at the people around you and deem it a success.

Keighla Schmidt is a student at UW-River Falls.