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1. What attracted you to the sport of skydiving?
LD: The initial attraction was just being involved in an extreme sport. I knew I wanted something exciting in my life and thought it would be cool to call myself a skydiver. My whole world changed once I actually took my first jump. The superficial thoughts of just being a cool thing to be part of was replaced by the need for that pure, in the moment, mental presence I have come to love about skydiving. When you skydive, there is no other place for your mind to be other than right there in the moment. It is a moment of extreme peace and serenity for me. Now, I have things I am thinking about during skydives, the objective of the jump, whether it be to practice skills, capture a video, or make formations with other skydivers, but I am really able to be there for these things. It is easy for me to go through the motions in life, my mind elsewhere most of the time, but skydiving has taught me to increase awareness to the world around me, willful expansion and growth, pushing away complacency to really feel that moment, turn fear into excitement, to grab and celebrate life, these are lessons I have learned through training at WSC. The love for skydiving creates an instant bond with other skydivers and everywhere I go, fellow skydivers are instant friends. The people at Wisconsin Skydiving Center have become more than just friends, but family and WSC feels like home. I honestly believe that although it was the actual skydiving that captured me, it is the skydiving community that makes this such a meaningful and sustainable endeavor for me. There is so much trust involved in this sport, not only trusting others, but really trusting myself. The personal responsibility gained from skydiving is so important to my life. I feel like this is not just a sport to me, but that this has changed my perspective on the world, of what living really means to me. I owe so much to everyone at WSC, but a special shout out to Bo and Alex who have such a special way of presenting the skydiving experience to people, not just providing training for skydiving, but a new way to look at the world that can be carried out to every aspect of my life.
2. What influenced you to actually make the phone call to make your first skydive?
LD: The tandem skydive was a birthday gift for my partner at the time, we both have August birthdays and of course I like to give gifts where I can share in the fun, so really, it was a birthday gift for both of us! I wanted to go skydiving for quite some time before I ever made the call. I actually had done some research as to how to get licensed a couple years before. That is what attracted me to Wisconsin Skydiving Center. They use the Accelerated Free Fall training that I had previously read about. I actually remember calling and asking about the AFF program and was told to slow down, just come do the tandem and see if I even like it!
3. What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever been on?
LD: It’s hard to say. All the jumps I have made thus far have been incredible. There is nothing like the first skydive. I got video and pictures of my first tandem skydive with Bo and so am able to relive that first jump. Then there is the first AFF jump, where I actually was responsible for myself jumping out of the plane for the first time. That was a whole new adventure. Going through the training to become a licensed skydiver was an emotionally challenging experience for me so that last check dive to become licensed was very special. But so was the very next jump, my first as a licensed skydiver, actually jumping with other licensed skydivers is a bonding experience I cannot even put into words. I took off from there and have had so many amazing experiences since; I could never pick just one! I just had my 300th skydive this past weekend!
4. What was the very first job you had and where was it?
LD: I started babysitting at a young age, but my first actual job I started when I was 13 years old at the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN. This place is incredible, just block after block of soccer fields and the stadium where MN Thunder played. I actually worked there 5 summers selling concessions. It was cool because I played soccer and every year the big event was the ‘World Cup,’ teams from all over the world would come to this tournament. I would play a game, then all sweaty get my work shirt back on to work! I am grateful I had such an awesome experience with my first job and I have maintained a strong work ethic ever since.
5. Of the places you have visited – what is your favorite place and why?
LD: I have been to many wonderful places and love to travel. I had a dream to go to the Amazon River which I was able to make happen after graduating from graduate school in 2009. I actually ended up going to Peru to see Machu Picchu, Brazil and Argentina to see Iguazu Falls, and finally took a boat cruise down the Rio Negro River which connects to the Amazon in the ‘meeting of the waters’ which is an amazing sight in itself. This is the most beautiful trip I have been on, but sometimes it is the people that make a trip the best. So I have to say my favorite place I visited is Ireland. I went with my sister and we made to 11 cities in 2 weeks, no real plans or reservations except visiting our friend Jason for a couple days, just went from hostel to hostel, having an adventure. We are still laughing about the events that took place on that trip!
6. What other interests do you have outside of skydiving?
LD: Too many to chose from! It seems I want to try everything! I have quite an extensive bucket list which is exciting for me because I know I will never stop learning something new! I play soccer year round on a coed recreational league. I also started playing hockey last year, this is my second winter playing with MGHA and I love it! It is perfect because the season is almost exactly opposite of skydiving, so I always have something to look forward to on the weekends. I like to rollerblade, snowboard, and pretty much any physically active activity. I love to read fantasy novels and always have a book with me just in case I have a minute to read. I tried a number of artistic pursuits over the years, drawing, pottery, etc, but do not have the natural talent or patience it seems is needed to happily pursue those disciplines. I love art, nonetheless, and have recently found a way to be part of the artistic world through very amateur modeling. This has created a whole new series of personal challenges for me and is turning out to be a rather fun and exciting venture. I am also actively involved in the recovery community. Recovery is a part of my story that has made it possible to pursue all of these interests, including skydiving. I am three and a half years sober and could not have done it without the support of the recovery community which taught me a different way of living, so I try to stay involved with those communities that helped me and help others who are exploring recovery. I also really enjoy spending time with my family, we do not get to see each other that often but when we do, we have great weekends together. I love playing games and no one has the stamina for playing games like my family.
7. What is something about you that few people know about?
LD: I think people would be surprised to know that I was extremely shy as a child. I mean, I did not talk to anyone, especially adults. I know it’s unbelievable considering I never stop talking now! I have a terrible memory, so most of the knowledge I have of my childhood comes from my family members, but I do know that gut retching feeling of shyness very well. It was around fourth grade when I started breaking out of my shell a little and I think team sports had a lot to do with that. Today, I like to think of myself as outgoing, I love meeting and interacting with people, but the truth is I still am a naturally shy person, I just learned how to push through that so I can experience new people and new things. As much as I like being around people, I am finding I still need that time by myself to recharge. It is a difficult balance for me to maintain since I enjoy being so active! The cool thing about coming from a shy background is that I do not mind being alone or doing things on my own. I enjoy traveling alone, going to a movie by myself, I don’t feel a need to have someone with me to do things I want to do, which is nice because I’m not waiting on someone else to make things happen in my life. At the same, it has been very enjoyable learning to share my life with other people. I feel I am blessed to have both introverted and extroverted traits, the best of both worlds!
8. If you could meet anyone in the world for a coffee and a chat (alive or deceased) who would you wish to meet with?
LD: I’m going to go with Patrick Stewart. Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a favorite character of mine and Patrick Stewart seems like an interesting person to me, based primarily on a documentary I saw about Star Trek captains. I love his accent and would definitely enjoy listening to him share his life experiences and wisdom over a cup of coffee.
9. What do you do for work? If you could do anything as an occupation – what would it be?
LD: I work as a case manager for a housing program that assists families transitioning out of homelessness into housing. I used to work in the single women and family shelters while I was finishing up school for social work, and then started doing case management about 5 years ago when I graduated from UW Madison with my MSW. I am very passionate about homelessness and affordable housing which is a great need to be addressed in our community. I think I will always maintain a certain desire to help others and have thought about many avenues of how my career will look in the future. On the side, I just got a job dealing poker and black jack for casino themed parties, which is going to be very fun!
Right now, I wish I could just skydive all the time, so doing that full time would be my current dream job!
10. What are your future goals?
LD: I am currently saving up for an extended trip to New Zealand which I hopefully will be taking around this time next year. I am planning on moving there to tour and experience living in another country, sort of a trip of independence for myself before I turn 30. After that, I am not sure where the world will take me. Part of me thinks I’ll come back to Madison, get reestablished and figure out my next career move. Another part of me thinks I’ll just be off traveling the world. I suppose it does not really matter, I just never want to lose that hunger to try and learn new things. I think I am the type of person who will always have dreams and goals and I never want to lose the drive to take action and reach them.