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 physically...it 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!