I Jumped Out of a Plane
You might not be down for what's next, but I hope you dare to go for it.
I woke up in a peaceful way on Saturday morning. I had no way of knowing what I was going to hear a couple of hours later. I had no way to prepare myself.
My sister said she had a birthday surprise for me. She told me to wear jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. She grabbed several bottles of water as we left. When I noticed that her GPS had us heading toward the mountains west of Denver for the next 40 minutes, I assumed we were probably going hiking.
35 minutes later, she turned down the music that we had been jamming out to. "Meg, I need to talk to you."
"Okay, what's up."
"No, I mean I don't know how you're going to take this."
I braced myself for whatever she was going to say next. My mind started racing to figure out what she was going to tell me. As the oldest sibling, there's nothing I wouldn't do for my younger siblings. I feel especially protective of my little sisters. I felt all of my defenses rising up to defend her before I asked, "Sis, what's going on?"
She was quiet as she slowed down and flipped the car blinker on to make a turn. Then she looked at me. "Yeah, so... um, we're going skydiving."
I started screaming. "Whaaat! NO WAY!"
Yes, way. We were going skydiving.
When we signed the paperwork, it expressly clarified that we were signing up for a one-way trip up into the sky. Once we left the ground, there would be no option to come back down in the safety of the aircraft that we were leaving in. We would have no choice but to jump out of that plane.
I don't think this reality really hit me until about 20 seconds before my body left that plane.
The flight up into the sky took us 17,000 feet above sea level. In some ways, it didn't feel any different from any other take-off I've experienced. I felt completely calm as I chatted with a fellow passenger. Before I knew it, it was time to get stapped securely to my tandem instructor for the jump. I felt my stomach start to sicken, but my mind still couldn't comprehend what was going to happen.
Someone opened up a door at the rear of the plane. For a surreal moment, I realized that I've never been in an airplane with a door open and the inside was getting cold, quick. It was an out of body experience to watch the other passengers scooting down to the end of the aircraft as people started to jump out. I felt my body scooting down with them.
Suddenly everything got realer than real.
Suddenly I was fully present and very afraid. I watched a 60-year-old woman jump out of the side of the airplane, but it didn't make me feel brave. Seeing other people jump was terrifying me instead of inspiring me. I felt like I was watching people fall to their deaths, one at a time. They weren't wasting time, either. I watched my sister move forward and pause at the open door of the airplane before falling out into the open air. For a split second, I witnessed the look of sheer terror on her face.
I was petrified. My turn was next. No one asked me if I was ready as my instructor moved us toward the open door. I couldn't even verbalize a word to make everything stop. Now this was my own life that was on the line and all I could think about was preserving it but I couldn't do anything to stop what was happening. I stopped breathing. The open door was in front of me for only a second before I felt the shove behind me to jump out of the plane and into the open air.
The wind was knocked out of me as we fell forward. My chest was restricted by my harness and I couldn't catch my breath. Cold air cut my skin like knives. For a second, my life was flashing before my eyes. I fought to breathe again and my lungs filled with air.
There was no going back to the safety of the aircraft, but suddenly I realized that I didn't want to go back. I was still alive, gloriously alive. An indescribable feeling of complete peace enveloped me. It didn't even feel like I was falling anymore — I felt more like I was floating. It actually felt like the air was holding me up. I could see for thousands and thousands of miles all around me. I spread out my arms and took in the incredible view of the Rocky Mountains stretching out below and beyond me.
I was flying. My fear was gone. Everything I had been so afraid of just seconds ago had transformed into an experience more beautiful than I can find the words to describe. I was just a tiny speck in the sky, 10,000 feet above the ground, with a clear view of the horizon stretching out on every side of me. Nothing could hurt me up there. Time seemed to slow down as I soared in that space above the world. I wanted to stay there for always, but we eventually landed back on solid ground again.
Everything great is on the other side of hard things and fear.
Today, I do not hope that things will be easy for you. I hope you get the chance to live like you’re terrified of the next moment as you face your own fear and step right into it. I hope you get the chance to live like this might be your last breath, only to find that your future breaths are deliciously full of purpose and beauty.
Yesterday I was supposed to meet with a friend for coffee at 10:00 a.m. On my way there, I was slowed down by traffic so I texted her that I was going to be a few minutes late. She didn't text me back. I got to the coffee shop and waited for 15 minutes for her to show up. Concerned about her, I texted her to ask if everything was okay. I assumed that she just forgot and used my time to get some work done on my laptop. A while later she texted me back to tell me that she had forgotten all about our meetup because her neighbor had gotten fatally hit while riding on her bicycle. Just like that, her neighbor had taken her last breath. I got to jump out of an airplane and live, while someone else lost their life while they were riding their bike.
Reality struck me once again to remind me that life is too precious to waste on things that aren't going to matter a year from now. It's too precious to hold back because we're afraid. It's too precious to play games with someone else's feelings. It's too precious to be too busy for relationships.
Your hard obstacle or your scary fear will look different than mine. I'm not saying you have to go do something like skydiving to bond with a loved one or take a trip to Europe with your family to fully live and enjoy your life. Embracing the moment you have right now might look more like turning off social media and calling a friend. It might mean that you'll choose to be grateful that it was only your coffee that spilled instead of receiving a call with bad news.
I don't know when my last breath will be, so that's why I want to be so intentional about soaking every last drop out of this moment that I'm living in right now.
Let's dare to really live today, no matter what's in front of us.