My very first skydive.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Practice makes perfect...sort of.

On Sunday, May 15th I treated myself to five precious minutes in the SkyVenture NH Wind Tunnel- an indoor skydiving center. I had been once before and it was fun but I never felt like I got a good grip on stability. With my AFF Course at Jumptown quickly approaching, I wanted to have a chance to practice. Let me just say - it's not cheap. 5 minutes cost me almost as much as a month's worth of groceries, but it was absolutely worth it.

First, I realized that my tandem skydiving experiences combined with a true commitment to just relax made the quest for stability much easier. And second-I had a chance to practice left and right turns using my elbows instead of my hands. (Thanks to Jake and Ryan for your excellent instruction!) If you aren't familiar with skydiving this distinction might not make any sense to you-but trust me when I say it gave me much more confidence going into the weekend of "skydiving camp". say...there's such a thing as "skydiving camp"?~

Yes, and it's for grown-ups!

I made my first tandem jump in 2006 with
Ole Thompson at Vermont Skydiving Adventures (Love Ole, Love VSA!). I jumped just to prove to myself (and my lovely sister) that I wasn't too afraid to do it. When I landed I felt amazing and empowered ... and I had NO desire to do it again. Last summer (2010), for reasons I can't explain, I began to get this inkling that I might want to do it one more time. My brother-in-law, AJ Bowen, is an instructor at VSA and I had floated this idea of going again by him once or twice because this time I wanted to jump with him. One night we were out at the drop zone and he -quite out of the blue-suggests we go for a tandem jump.

I, in my own semi-subtle and semi-girlish way, freak out. I sputter at him every excuse I can muster. He just smiles as he casually swats away each regret I offer him.

Me: AJ, I don't have the money for this.
AJ: Did I ask you for any money?

Me: But AJ-I weigh too much to skydive right now.
AJ: Do you weigh more than 250 pounds?
Me: (A little indignantly) No! Oh....

Me: I'm wearing crocs and don't have any other shoes with me-thanks anyway!
AJ: Hey Jess, can Sara borrow your shoes?
Jess: Sure.
Me: Oh, that's..well, that's great.

And the next thing I know I am 12,000 feet over the Champlain Valley and Pilot Joe is wishing me good luck as I sit on the edge of the plane.

That jump changed my life forever. (Hokey? Yes. I still don't care.)

I found that skydiving forces me to be "in the moment". When you jump out of a plane- the only thing you can focus on is the pure bliss of free-fall and the things you need to do to land safely. Nothing else matters - in that moment. For a woman with a very busy mind, I have never felt so free and alive as I did when I was in the first 50 seconds of that jump. I went two more times that summer, once to celebrate my 4th half-marathon. The last tandem jump I made, again with AJ, I kept my eyes open the whole time. I saw the belly of the plane as we tumbled away and knew that I had to learn how to do this on my own. If life, loss and the
Shawshank Redemption have taught me anything it's that you need to "get busy living or get busy dying".

So here I am, six months later, signed up for skydiving camp at Jumptown. I'm still broke, and weigh more than I am comfortable with -but- I am tired of being cautious and full of excuses.

Right now, this is who I am. And this is the only life I have. You can judge me, and you may not understand it, either way I will be the woman jumping out of a perfectly good airplane this weekend. :)

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