Most people who go skydiving say, "man, what a rush!" and cite the adrenaline dump as the best part of the jump. I don't skydive for the rush. In fact, I hate the rush. It's the worst part of the experience.
I skydive for two things:
- the view
- the feeling of complete weightlessness
This trip is very much like skydiving. When you're on the ground, it's easy to be confident. You know what to expect, in terms of how the dive will progress. You'll go over safety regulations, sign some paperwork, suit up, climb into the plane, ascend to the appropriate point, get strapped into your 'guide' if you will, the door opens, you scoot to the door, you roll out, you fall, the chute opens, and you sail down to the ground. The thing is, you know exactly what is supposed to happen, but you have no idea how it will feel.
I mentioned that I hate the rush. I don't enjoy the rapid heartbeat when the door first opens, and when you scoot to the edge. I squeeze my eyes tight, I try to breathe deeply, think about anything except what's about to happen. Once we're on the edge I realize I have absolutely no control over what's about to happen - I leave everything trusted in the person who will be guiding my descent. At this point I am quite literally hanging out in the open. Then, the leap occurs. I hold my breath, I spin through the air, and everything in my brain screams, "panic! death! fear! stop!" I hate it.
Suddenly my body adjusts to the weightlessness. I no longer feel the rush, simply the calm. As much calm as can be felt when hurtling through the air towards the earth below. It's a truly incredible feeling - nothing can touch me here. I'm not in control, but it's okay. The air pushes me in every direction possible, I can't even smile properly without my cheeks and gums being pressed into my face, but it still feels amazing.
Then the chute opens. What I was observing at a million miles an hour is now laid out before me, as far as I can see. I am a tiny spec floating above the world, not quite a part of it, just taking it all in. It's one of the most peaceful feelings I can imagine. And there's so much to see. You can strain your eyes for hours and still not see every detail around you. But in total, the beauty is unfathomable.
Then comes the landing. My knees get wobbly, and I feel a little dizzy. I slowly stand up, let myself be unattached from the harness, and try walking around again. My body and mind aren't quite sure what just happened, but I can't stop smiling. I'll continue to reflect on the feeling of the jump days, months, years later, and the sights that I took in are firmly implanted in my brain.
Right now I'm still on the ground, but all the preparations are almost complete. I've turned in my resignation, and I still have plenty more preparations to do, but time is both floating and flying past. I have a few more weeks here in Charlotte, and a few weeks in my hometown in Alabama, with stops to see friends in Chicago and Atlanta before the big departure. That's when the door will open and my heart will jump into my throat... where I'll squeeze my eyes tight and let my brain scream and wait for the moment when I feel weightless.