“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Junior year in college, I had just come back to school for the fall semester and found myself with a lot of time. I recently retired from college swimming and had a giant void to fill. I became a lifeguard, I joined a sorority, I went white water rafting: None of these felt right. I looked up what it would take to become part of the Virginia Tech Skydiving team and ruled it out right away because of the price. Even with a full time job, there was no way this broke college kid could afford skydiving.
Still something was missing, the thing that would push me to do great things. I had grand ideas of living abroad, but never made any concrete plans. I always needed the extra “Go” or “jump” from someone I trusted, but I hadn’t found that yet.
When I thought I had fallen to my worst, I found my partner in crime, Dennis. Without his strength and drive, I would not have grown into who I am today. He helped me to understand that “I can do it” and nothing is impossible if you work towards it.
June 2010, I decided I wanted to finally go skydiving for my 29th birthday. The last time I had really thought about it was in college, but now I could finally afford to make the jump. I gathered a group of awesome friends and we booked our jumps at Skydive Pennridge, just north of Philadelphia.
At last, the day had come. It was a LONG day. Six hours of hanging around waiting, waiting, waiting. However, with the excitement and adrenaline that 6 hours seemed to go by in a fash. Finally, we heard our names, it was our time to go up.
My jumpmaster and I were strapped in our harnesses and headed to the plane. Just before climbing in, the camera man pulled us aside to ask me questions for the video. “Famous last words?” “Anything you want to say to your family before you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” All I could think about was “OMG, I’m about to jump out of a plane!” What I didn’t notice was when the camera man pulled us aside, the others had already got on the plane. What did this mean? I was the last one in the plane, therefore I was set to be the first one out of the plane, yikes!
The ride up to altitude was full of skydiver jokes, poking fun, and getting ready to do something so ridiculous you could only get 5 friends to go with you. Yeah, my heart was racing, but I wasn’t scared, I was anxious. Then they opened the door, the cool air poured into the cabin, my goggles de-fogged, and we started towards the door. He said on the count of 3 we’ll go out. What he neglected to tell me was that he would trick me and skip 3 all together.
1… 2… SWOOSH!
We flew out the door into the crisp blue sky. My body was telling me “this isn’t normal, you shouldn’t be doing this!” It is a feeling you cannot explain, you must feel it for yourself. A total unknown. The winds force was so strong it kept filling my cheeks with air.
Once we stabilized in the sky and I realized my surroundings, it was so beautiful. The loud roar of the air, clothing flapping in the wind, and white puffy clouds below. It felt as though we were floating, We happened to pick a perfect day to jump and got ourselves a solid minute of freefall.
Before I knew it, the parachute opened with a sharp jolt. My jumpmaster pointed off into the distance and said “You see that? That’s Philly.” “You see that way over there? That’s New York City.” Amazing. We floated down to the airport and landed safely on the grass. I immediately jumped up and thought, oh hell yeah I want to do that again.
That was the beginning of the rest of my life. I had a new perspective on what was possible. Now I wanted to be a skydiver. I started saving my money for the whole next year. In that time I researched great skydiving schools in the US, costs with getting your license, and what it would take to make it happen. I booked my flight and set aside the money for the first half of my skydiving license. March 2011 I was going to Skydive Arizona.
The only thing I can say is, being at Skydive Arizona was like a dream. Set in the beautiful red Arizona desert, the campus was its own little town. It had a bar, a bunkhouse, a pool, and even an indoor skydiving center. It had everything. The instructors were kind and professional. I spent a week doing my first 9 jumps, parachute packing class, and an indoor skydiving session at SkyVenture Arizona.
Not realizing when I booked the trip, April is the off season for AZ. The winds would pick up in the afternoon and become too dangerous for beginner skydivers. This meant I had lots of time to relax, enjoy my new Friends (Amer from Saudi Arabia & Axelle from France), and learn more about myself. I fell in love with Arizona and its vast, crystal blue skies. I knew when I left, “I’ll be back soon.”
Now, 35 jumps later and a little time off, I am back in action, getting back up to speed and learning to become a better skydiver. After about a year off, I learned that “once a skydiver, always a skydiver” couldn’t be more true. If you aren’t in the sky, you are constantly looking up and wondering how to get back up there. It ate at me for a whole year and just this spring I finally got back in the game. I’m still considered a beginner, but with a skydiving A license and working towards my B, I can only improve from here.