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Skydiving is hard. As someone who has many things in life come very easily to me, I have to say that this has been one of the biggest challenges I have undertaken. This applies mentally, emotionally, physically.
The information piece is one that has come more easily to me, but it always has. As someone who has succeeded at traditional academics, learning the different kinds of parachute malfunctions, parts of the rig, parachute, parts of the dive, acronyms and dive flow I learn and process the information quickly. Putting that information together in the chaos of freefall has been the challenge for me.
If you have never skydived, you do not plunge forth into the serene sky. It’s loud in a sensory way that will overwhelm all of your senses. The sky above, clouds below, the smell of the plane, the feel of the pack on your back (which weighs in at about 30 lbs), the feel of your helmet, suit, all are experiences you are taking in on your way up to the jump. As a tandem jumper I experienced most of these sensations, but the new ones- the pack, the altimeter, and mostly that loud screaming voice in my head that I have experienced as an AFF student have been the loudest.
It is loud up there in the plane. The engine, the wind, that voice in your head yelling “Yeah let’s skydive!” all compete with the voice in your head that yells, “Are you really as brave as your think you are? Can you really do this and land safely?” On the ground you are prepared to keep your awareness of your surroundings while simulating this noise, but nothing prepares you except getting out of that plane door and onto the step and finally letting go, and keeping your head clear and quiet to safely freefall and parachute back to earth.
As a student, I have hit a road block with that voice in my head, and it is something I have had to acknowledge openly. On my last dive, my 4th AFF dive, I got lost in my head. That is not a good place to be when you are falling to the earth at 1000 feet every six seconds. When you get lost in your head, you get tunnel vision. You cannot “see” around you, you are not “aware”. You get lost in your head when you just let all that noise overwhelm you. We are taught to focus on heading, altitude, body position and breathing. There in that circle of awareness is the quiet calm in the chaos. You must be there in a skydive. You have no other choice. More than that, for me, I want to be there in that place of quiet control and awareness of the beauty around me. That is why I want to skydive.
That is not an easy place to get to. So after that jump, when I got lost in my head and left my awareness, I wanted to cry when I landed on the ground. Not because I wanted to kiss the earth this time, but because skydiving is hard, and we can be even harder on ourselves when we are not perfect. I have processed this many times in my head, and I have realized that worry about being “right” and “perfect” are exactly the two things that took me out of my awareness, that made my last dive a bad one. Not only did I want to be right and perfect for myself, but also my instructors who have believed in me. Have you ever wanted something so badly that the want becomes the problem? I didn’t even want to watch my video (as a skydiver who DOES that!?)
This has been one of the first times in my life I have not been great at something quickly. A comfort zone is great, but nothing grows there. I have taken this last week to continue to practice at home (it is possible!) with the music blaring, driving down the highway with all my windows down to feel that air blow across my face. I have taken every opportunity to process my feelings, thoughts and all my inner noise so that when I do get back up in the air, and I will be there very soon- there will be nothing but my quiet awareness. I have also been learning to be more kind to myself. Everyone was a student once.
See you up in blue skies,