I literally have no idea why you’re reading this right now. What are you doing, just sitting there reading this blog post, when you could be experiencing the adrenaline-pumping, gut-wrenching ecstasy-inducing thrill that is freefalling from 15,000 feet? STOP READING! GO! Go right now!
I jumped out of a plane yesterday. And I did not die. In fact… I did the opposite of die.
As a friend of mine eloquently put it, I had a near-life experience.
I started this post with the intention of talking about skydiving. But I find myself at a loss for words… a condition somewhat unfamiliar to me. How can I even begin to describe it? How could a blog post possibly capture the sheer, unguarded elation that can only come from sharing one of the most exhilarating trips ever with some of the very best people in the world?
My day began at the office.
That fact alone seems absurd to me now. How on earth were we expected to carry on like business-as-usual? Concentrating on the task at hand was just short of impossible.
This became especially apparent while editing a job description for one of our manufacturing clients, and I came across a sentence that said “each employee will look at this framework as a way of manufacturing life.”
What they meant to say was, “a manufacturing way of life.” And as the editor, it was my job to fix it. Maybe it was because of my sleep deprivation the night before, or that my thoughts were particularly discombobulated due to my impending death… but for some reason that sentence jumped out of the page at me. It is a measure of my scrambled-egg brain that I dwelled for so long on that simple little mishmash of words.
FINALLY, the van arrived.
Immediately upon our arrival, we were herded into a room full of iPads – where we signed away our firstborn children, a pint of blood, and any legal claim to our life.
The facility’s legal department also took this opportunity to educate us about the absolute stupidity of this venture. I can just imagine the court case that led to the creation of this document. “But your honor, my client was never made aware of the dangers of jumping out of an airplane…”
After ten minutes or so of scrolling through pages and pages of disclaimers, IT WAS TIME!
…to wait another hour and a half.
This gave us ample opportunity to get sufficiently more freaked out than we already were. We got to watch as several groups of people boarded the tiny, noisy contraption and then come floating down 20 minutes later. My stomach churned with each whirr of the plane’s propeller.
We were eventually directed to a small training room with inspirational posters on the wall, padded chairs, and a calming blue paint color. We later dubbed this the “insanity room,” since it felt an awful lot like an asylum.
I kid you not, we received exactly eleven seconds of instruction.
But wait… shouldn’t we be briefed on the anatomy of the chute? Are there any emergency procedures? Should we do drills? Is there a test?
No. The test is real life, and it’s pass/fail.
We were then introduced to our instructors. Mine was named Josiah, and wearing a Sublime shirt so I knew I liked him right away.
They got us all geared up, and Josiah had me try on three different conehead hats before finding one that fit.
“We better grab a blue one,” he said.
“Is that code for I-have-a-big-head?”
“No, no, blue is medium.”
“The blue doesn’t fit either.”
“Okay then yes, you do have a big head.”
Coneheads or not, we were a stylin’ group.
Before boarding the plane, we were interviewed about how we felt, and invited to give a message to our family and friends.
My message should have been “Must-keep-arms-at-right-angle-for-reasons-unbeknownst-to-me.”
The plane took off, but left my stomach back on the ground. My eyes were wide as golf balls, and my thoughts revolved around a single phrase: “Oh my god. This is happening. This-is-happening-oh-my-god.”
We rose higher and higher, until we were actually above the clouds. I stared out the window in disbelief, all cognitive function halted. Every so often I would make eye contact with someone… incapable of articulating our emotions beyond the occasional wide-eyed squeal.
We were also interviewed in the plane at 8,000 feet. And of course, every time I was asked a question I was like a deer in headlights.
That’s right, world. ROCK-PERIOD-ON-PERIOD.
One piece of advice I would give to those considering a skydiving adventure: First in the plane = last out. Have fun watching your loved ones plummet to their death.
Finally, by the time my heart had wiggled up into my esophagus, it was my turn. We scooted to the edge of the open door, and my feet dangled 15,000 feet above the earth.
Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down…
I would be hard-pressed to find a sensation quite as indescribable as the one that followed. The tip seemed to happen in slow motion, the sky above me gradually rotating and the shelf underneath me slowly disappearing.
And then… there was no plane.
There was just the wind, the sun, the gorgeous, sprawling landscape, and the feeling that my entire body had been electrified. My core exploded into a thousand tingling pieces.
I was weightless. Soaring through the clouds, spinning and laughing and filling up with love for everything around me. The sun, the sky, the lush green earth below, the cool air on my cheeks all came together in fabulous, harmonious ecstasy.
I forgot about the jump. I forgot that there would eventually be a landing. I forgot about all the apprehension I’d felt, that there had ever been any reason at all to be afraid. I probably forgot my name. All I was physically capable of processing was flight.
I was Superwoman. I was Peter Pan. I was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
All too soon, the parachute deployed, and I went from flying to floating. I left the chaotic, noisy world of freefalling and instead got to drift lightly down from the heavens. Just as pleasant, if perhaps not as exhilarating.
I had to take a moment to comprehend what had just happened.
Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god
The view was breathtaking.
I imagine anyone who meditates, or does yoga, or has in any way found inner peace would understand the unequivocally calm bliss that followed. I found myself stunned by the beauty that surrounded me, as we sailed gracefully toward the horizon.
Josiah even let me steer.
As we neared the ground, I felt myself already lamenting this experience coming to a close. Like when you’re 20 pages away from the end of a good book, and you simultaneously want to rush toward it and away from it.
That tiny pink spec is me!
I landed, I lived, and I was surprisingly incapable of communicating my thoughts in any intelligible way. I was interviewed again, and could do nothing but make happy shouty-sounding noises and weird hand gestures.
I’m sorry! I am completely unqualified to adequately express my emotions right now!
I reconnected with my group, we shared hugs and screams and laughter.
Having been given time to reflect on the day as a whole, I feel I am better positioned to fully evaluate my obsession with those words a few hours before. “Look at this framework as a way of manufacturing life.”
Can life be manufactured?
On one hand, this could have a very literal interpretation. Obviously, I’m a female. The idea of producing life should be uniquely familiar to me.
But on the other hand, “life” in all its ambiguity could also mean something separate from the simple definition of existence and functional activity. Maybe, in fact, this particular definition of life is a deliberate attempt to combat the former. Life, in this sense, is intentionally chaotic. It’s breaking from the norm, it’s stepping outside the comfort zone, it’s not merely existing, but truly living.
And by this definition, what are the implications for manufacturing it? There’s no literal factory or assembly line anywhere… but figuratively speaking, what would one do to manufacture life? If you were in the business of creating elation – of producing an existence that was true grit LIVING – how would you go about it?
Well… I guess you’d go skydiving.