April 25, 2012 | By: Kevin Kennedy
A couple of weekends ago, I was able to live out a dream that I've had for some time.
My favorite part of any roller coaster isn't the loop or the fast turns, but that first drop. The sense of anticipation with each click, click, click of the track. A brief second of panic as your body realizes it is about to do something dangerous, and then the rush.
In my mind, the ultimate expression of that joy would be an unrestricted free fall from some great height, so for years and years I have wanted to go skydiving. With the onset of a major birthday, and an amazing gift from my partner, I finally got the chance.
The day started out very slowly. When we arrived at the scheduled time, the facility was on a wind delay. Because of the location of the landing zone, certain wind conditions could potentially collapse the Canopy, so all we could do was wait.
For over three hours we waited. In the parking lot, in a waiting room, and walking around the facility. Many jumpers before us had come and gone, rescheduling their jump for a future date, but we were steadfast. Finally, just as I was about to retreat, they started calling out names.
I was in the first batch of jumpers, and I was assigned to Aaron. Since this was my first time, the jump was going to be tandem, meaning an experienced instructor would be attached to me from behind. I put on the suit, allowed myself to be strapped in to the elaborate harness, and waited for instruction. We went through some very basic rules and procedures, and then off to the plane.
In the air I wasn't nervous, it felt like a normal airplane flight, except much smaller. When the aircraft reached 14,000 feet, a little light went on next to a sliding door.
Step one, walk slowly towards the door.
Step two, grab my harness, put my left foot at the edge of the plane and place my right knee next to it.
Step three, the instructor builds momentum by swaying us back and forth, and then, woosh.
The initial departure from the plane wasn't exactly like a roller coaster, but I couldn't help but scream out as we fell. For several seconds, I was completely without thought. All I saw was green in front of me, the air was pulling tears out of my eyes but I didn't notice. All I could do was keep my mouth open and enjoy the ride.
For me, skydiving wasn't just about finding a thrill, it was, in my mind, a very pure expression of man and nature. A creature without wings or gliding capability defies gravity and taunts physics simply for the pure joy of it. While the expertise and equipment associated with this task is advanced, the act itself feels very pure. Just man and air.
Now having done a thing that was as close as I come to having a "bucket list," where do I turn? Where do I find the find the next thing to check off my list? Maybe it's time to just enjoy the ride.