Achieve the Extraordinary
I did 5 tandems skydives over a period of 5 spread out years before I made the giant mental leap to accept the ludicrous idea of becoming a licensed skydiver.
It was only after my last tandem instructor asked with sincere confusion, “Instead of spending the money for all these tandem jumps, why don’t you become a licensed skydiver?”
My response was to laugh since I thought he was joking. His expression didn’t change. I realized he was serious.
I responded, “Well, because moms don’t become skydivers,” as if that was a reasonable answer.
I tried to shake the suggestion off, but for many days the instructor’s question echoed in my brain. And I kept answering it, “Yeah, why don’t I?”
There were the typical true responses that I tried out. Like, “we can’t afford it”, “don’t have time”, “the drop zone is too far away”, and “my husband won’t approve”.
But I recognized all those as simple excuses. There wasn’t a single reason that couldn’t be overcome if I just set my mind to it.
The truth was, that I wanted it. I not only wanted to jump out of a plane again to repeat the incomparable joy that is flight, but I also wanted to be part of that beautiful skydive family I had witnessed.
I wanted to pack my own parachute on the packing room floor, listen to stories of other jumpers’ skydives, and sit in the back of the plane right by the open door, ready to confidently fling myself into that giant sky.
I wanted all of it.
So, I started saving.
The small battles
At the end of one year (the time limit I’d given myself), I had enough to do the student program. I did feel some disapproval from family and some friends, but my decision was made.
Nothing could have deterred me.
Every trip to the drop zone was a small battle.
I fought guilt for my selfish desire, judgment from my spouse, and the need to justify the importance of an accomplishment I couldn’t even explain to myself.
I also fought fear so strong, I was sick with nerves before every single jump.
I felt elation only upon surviving each landing and new student level.
I fought self-doubt when I’d get stuck on a level, unable to pass until I could relax enough to do steady turns or other maneuvers in freefall.
And I worried and fretted every time I brought my children to the drop zone, about their safety and happiness and what they were absorbing from their experience there with me.
Quitting was not an option
I never once considered stopping, however. “Quitting” wasn’t even a hint of an idea, thank goodness.
Not possible. I had a goal and I was going to achieve it.
There were many days that I couldn’t even say I had “fun” playing in the sky, because I was overcome with many negative emotions.
My gratitude for what I was learning, however, was beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.
When I had my first child and he turned out healthy, brilliant, and amazing, I was filled to overflowing with love and gratitude. There is nothing in this life that I can compare it to.
It was equally intense when I was gifted a second time, with a healthy child so perfect and beautiful that I didn’t dare to examine how I got so lucky.
I can honestly say there hasn’t been a single second, that I ever took the incredible blessing of being a mom for granted.
Not one. Through sleep deprivation so intense that I would sometimes hallucinate; and all the pukey, poopy, screaming, and snotty moments, my love and devotion never wavered.
I knew that even if I never accomplished anything else in this life, the privilege of having those two children, was enough. That’s how big it is to be a parent.
In comparison, a person could easily think that becoming a licensed skydiver was a small thing. But it wasn’t.
It was deeply, irrevocably personal.
It was also entirely mine.
It wasn’t tied to any other person, responsibility, or obligation. It wasn’t practical, necessary, or even “worthy” by the world’s standards.
My friend Alexis (another rare skydive mom) said it very well: “Nobody says ‘Mom’ in free fall! Or asks for a snack or is ‘bored’…or can ask anything of me, than me just being a skydiver.
Not that I don’t love my kids.
Or my job, being a ‘wife’ or ‘secretary’ or ‘assistant’.
But in skydiving, my work is my own, my skills are my own. I’m not X’s mom or Y’s assistant. I own it all.
Every moment. Every achievement. Every failure. Every taste of that sweet life belongs to me.
For a few precious moments, I am only Alexis.”
The shared lessons with my children
The things I learned at the drop zone were also shared lessons with my children, whether I brought them along with me or related the stories later.
We all learned about the diversity of our skydive family. There were professors, attorneys, full-time tandem instructors, and employees from every industry.
Titles and occupations meant little.
There was total equality in the sky.
We also learned what it takes to master fear while pursuing increased skill and safety. The lessons on how to breathe to stay calm and think will forever help us in all of life’s stressful moments.
And the beautiful permission to not only allow fun in our lives as adults but to invite and welcome it without apology will forever be ingrained in my kids’ minds.
That alone is an incredible gift that I did not foresee when I brought them with me, and a wonderful after-effect of so many glorious moments at the drop zone.
It’s impossible to express how thankful I am for my decision to become a skydiver.
I was wrong to allow even the tiniest of doubts in my mind about the worthiness of such a pursuit, and whether a mom is deserving or capable of such a feat.
I thank God and the Universe and all the aligned stars for allowing me every single one of my 300+ skydives, subsequent hang-gliding flights and all other types of flying I’ve experienced since.
For every leap into our beautiful, giant sky that washed away every fear, worry or concern; for every encouraging, funny or thrilling skydive story shared with me; for every DZ sunset and end-of-jump-day-beer I was handed; my heart swells with pride and overflows with grateful joy.
I was so very wrong when I said, “Moms don’t become skydivers”. Of course we do.