Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ending Chapters-part 2

     It is my distinct pleasure to report to you (from the comfort and safety of the ground) that my skydiving challenge was total success. Sarah and I made the mistake of watching YouTube videos of skydivers last night, which made for a quite car ride to the hanger. But weirdly enough, all of my anxiety and worries seemed to abandon me as soon as we reached the offices and began signing our lives away with the scratch of a pen. Even when we were suiting up in our purple sky-soaring outfits, Sarah and I were joking around as if we weren't about to fall 12,500 feet within the next half hour. I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline, but loading into that rickety tin-can of an airplane, was a completely different experience to watching the skydive videos the night before. When we we're watching the footage, my hands were sweaty and my heart was racing, but today, I felt calm, I felt fine. I was so calm that I even remember pointing out a house as we flew overhead that had been painted a disgusting shade of orange.
     Mentally, the plane ride was a lot easier than worried it'd be, but was a different story. The ride up to the jump off point will probably get nominated for the "most uncomfortable situation I've ever found myself in" award. We all faced the back of the plane as we sat in the harnessed laps of our instructors. The plane's engine sounded about as feral as my moped, and the wind outside couldn't disguise all the disheartening noises that the decrepit aircraft made. And worst of all, my harness seemed to be holding a cruel grudge towards my crotch.
     But soon enough, we made it to our elevation and shit started to get real. The door, which must've been 4 feet tall, was raised, and a light accompanied by a buzzer alerted us that it was time to abandon ship. Slowly and awkwardly, each pair of students and instructors made their way to the opening. My instructor and I were to jump last, so we watched as each hesitant jumper finally made it to the plank, and finally took the plunge. One by one, the plane emptied of the unstable thrill-seekers that were just sitting next to me. It was just me, my instructor, and a pilot in basketball shorts left. I was nudged by my instructor towards the door where my sister had just stood and told to "hang on". 
     And then something amazing happened. I remember seeing my feet and the Earth below me as the frigid air whipped past. I saw the mountains from above, and as we tipped further forward than I'd ever feel comfortable with, I saw the foothills; vague green and yellowish-brown patches stretching towards every horizon. The lakes and reservoirs were tiny blue blotches. I was wide-eyed and speechless as we fell from the plane. It was loud, and it was cold, and it was over way too soon. As I fell helplessly through the atmosphere with nothing but fabric to save me, I tried to take as many mental images as possible. I wanted this experience to be preserved in my mind for the rest of my life (which felt about a minute away at the time). My mouth was completely dry and my lungs struggled to breath in the harsh wind, but I didn't care. I had done it, I had taken the jump, and I had completed my project.
     And as the ground came into focus again, the parachute was pulled and we glided back towards the airport (but not after some sweet parachute whips and spins...and even more punishment to my balls). Landing was smooth and Sarah and I celebrated our survival with some chipotle. 
     So was the project a success? I'd say totally. If this project hadn't taken over my life for the entirety of 2011, I'd be a very different Kyle today. I'd still be a part time dishwasher with a "to-do" list as opposed to a "done" list. I wouldn't have found myself in many of the often strange but always fascinating situations that made this last year so memorable. And I certainly would not have jumped out of an airplane. 
     Thank you, and if you'd like to check out whatever I'm up to lately, you can click here. Thanks!

Ending Chapters

     Months have passed since my last post, and to be honest, I didn't think I'd ever update this blog again. Once the project, and all the momentum that it carried, had finally died down, I quickly found myself falling back into the daily routine that had grooved my agenda for so long. Late night charades of ill-advised challenges no longer hung in the back of my mind. I was free to accept or decline any opportunity. The problem was, I've become increasingly more afraid of becoming the sheltered hermit of a person that I used to be. Was I slowly reaching for my old shut-in habits? Was I destined to live a life of monotonous wasted time? I didn't want my year-long experiment to be all for naught.
     Luckily, I received a text message from my sister a couple days ago that would help me answer these burning questions. She told me that she'd be in town later this week and was wondering if I was still up to go skydiving with her. I had promised her that I was all for skydiving way back when (back when the thought was just being conceived, and there was no airplanes in sight) and it wasn't till my phone buzzed with her invitation that the threat of a catastrophic mid-air scenario started to play in my mind.
     I'll admit it, I never thought I'd be the kind of guy to willingly jump out of the sky, but if I recall correctly, that's what this whole project was about. It was about forcing opportunities upon myself and opening up to what's around. So I figure, this skydiving outing is the perfect setting to test how effective my project was. I want to see if I've conditioned myself to try new things enough to try something as niche and risky as skydiving. I want to prove to myself that the project wasn't a waste, that I've learned and grown and become a better person because of it. And that I'm the the "life-enthusiast" that I so often praise myself as.
     I ironed out the details earlier this morning, and it's official; we're on the first jump tomorrow morning. How bout one more "new thing" challenge, for old time sake. It's about time I see if the experiment is the soaring success I claim it was. Let's do this shit.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 366: Polar Bear Plunge

     So the project is officially and successfully over. I'd like to thank everyone who partook in any way. Whether you kept up with the blog, or helped to spread the word about the project, or even helped me with a challenge or two, I really appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun...for the most part, and I'm actually sad it's over. But then again, it's never really over. The only thing that's ending is the structure. I am now free to try new things simply because I enjoy trying new things, not because of a project or a blog. I've conditioned myself to actively seek out new experiences this past year, and this new habit seems to be sticking quite well.

Trying to warm back up
     To prove it, today I joined the Polar Bear Club. It's an annual event that takes place on the first of the year. It's a fundraising event where participants strip down to their bathing suits (maybe a speedo or two) and take a plunge into the freezing cold river in Golden, Colorado. I think it's supposed to welcome the new year and give you a fresh (and arctic) start, but really who knows? Some people watch, others take the dip, but everyone's there to support a cause (unfortunately, I have no idea what the cause is). So my sister, mother, and I joined the group of eager and inebriated polar bears by the river this morning. We were armed with nothing but a couple towels and generous amounts of beer. And after the thank you speech was given, we all ran towards the icy river and jumped in. To say that it was beyond freezing would be an understatement. This water was cold, like, body paralyzing, and lung crippling cold. My body wasn't functioning very effectively, but eventually I completely submersed myself and completed the challenge. It was a memorable end to the project, and a refreshing start to whatever comes next. I really doubt that I'd ever try anything like the Polar Bear Club (or really, most of my previous challenges for that matter) if it weren't for this project. It's gotten me to finally leave my comfort zone and throw caution to the wind. I hope it doesn't sound corny when I say this, but I'm really grateful for the project. I've met new people, reconnected with old friends, traveled to strange places, tasted exotic foods, and over all gotten cultured about the sights, sounds, and opportunities in life. Thanks again, for helping make 2011 totally rad. And for any of you that aren't completely sick of me yet, I've started a new blog that should hold you over for a little while. Thanks.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 365: Pierce My Ear

Not too siked
     Nobody is more bummed out about this challenge than I am. I've never been a fan of dudes with earrings, they're just not my cup of tea. I did an impressive job of resisting the urge to get a piercing for the project, but I guess that now's as good a time as any to finally go through with it. It's my last challenge, why not make it permanent?
     Stefanie was to do the piercing honors, but once she had the gloves on, and the gun in hand, I think she felt more apprehensive than honored. She kept saying that she was gonna mess up and leave me paralyzed, but in time, she came around and (after one failed attempt) got the earring through. It was over in an instant, I now had a pierced ear. It felt like a pinch...and I didn't go all paralyzed and whatnot. So yeah, I've got a metal rod sticking out of my lobe, and it appears to be stuck there for the time being. Pretty cool I guess. I'm not thrilled on it being there, but at least I made my last challenge a memorable one.
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