So, yesterday I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The kind of thing that you examine in a detached sort of way as it’s happening to you, and everything that is happening can’t possibly be real.
I jumped out of an airplane.
I like to do these things every now and then in order to check in with my life. By “these things” I mean inherently stupid things like careening down a class V rapid on an inflatable raft that is treated like a pinball that a demonic pinball machine is trying to violently reject… or you know, jumping out of an airplane from 13,500 feet. Things that involve a six or seven page waiver where I sign away my heirs and my parents and my heir’s heirs right to sue if I die.
But when I was on the plane (just like when I’m approaching a rapid with several known drownings that season) I have to do a mental check list.
Am I happy with the life I have lived up until this point?
Yes. I would be sad1 if I died in the next ten minutes, because there are things left to experience and do that I have not yet done. But for the time I have had, I am happy with the choices I have made and with the life I have led. I accept my own mortality, my own short time here, and resolve to make the best of it. Accepting my death is the only way I can make myself do the next step.
Which is waddling forward, strapped by four points to an exuberant man shorter than myself, putting my feet over the edge of the tiny plane, looking up at the wing…
and falling forward.
The first few beats of free fall the cold hit me with an intensity that literally took my breath away. I spent those moments acknowledging that I can’t breathe, then another moment adjusting myself into the arched position needed for free fall. I did not actually manage to breathe properly until the parachute opened, and had no way of communicating this during the almost a minute of complete and total free fall. The sensation of free fall is intense and awesome, but in a lot of ways I preferred the leisurely decent by parachute. The view was amazing and the tiny sheep crawling on fields were smaller than ants as I floated downwards, very much abstractly observing what was going on. And the landing was smooth, if not terribly comfortable. I was just content to not have broken anything in the week before India.
It took me about forty minutes before I could feel my toes again, despite four pairs of socks stuffed into my shoes. My fingers came back a little faster, despite only two layers of gloves, because once they were warm enough to move, I could sort of wiggle them back into circulation. The complete and utter cold that had invaded my core (despite: smart wool base layer, wool sweater, down vest, hoodie, wool peacoat, and a bright purple jump suit that, combined with the cone helmet thing, made me look like a giant alien eggplant) stayed with me until lunch, where I was still slightly shaking until I got a bowl of soup and noodles into me.2
I would do it again, but probably only as an instigator to get someone else in my life to do it. It was fun, but I don’t plan on taking it up as a hobby. I would recommend doing it in the summer time to avoid that level of bone chilling-cold, unless there’s a significant price difference between winter and summer. I also have no pictures (sorry, Uncle Jon) – getting pictures or video in air is about $100 more per person, which is a fair price but still not a price I wanted to pay. I’m pretty sure that if I tell people I went sky diving, people will believe me.
Also, eggplants look ridiculous flying through the air at 120 mph.
1 If that’s possible, the concept of a soul may or may not be sentient at that point, it’s not like we have primary sources for that experience.
2 They canceled Saturday’s flights because it was too cold to jump – they were worried about people getting frostbite.