Bucketlist Tick: Skydiving

I jumped out of a plane.

I still can't quite believe it actually happened. The whole thing is a blur of anxiety, fear, adrenaline and trying to look semi-decent for the photographer I'd just paid for! 
Spoiler: no one looks good in a diving cap and goggles, but at least I have a load of pictures like this to lol at over the years:

So yes, after years of saying that one day I would, I finally bit the bullet and booked it. 

The motivator was actually Matt's 30th birthday. We've always talked about doing a skydive, but given the cost (and the British weather) it isn't something we've ever been able to just spontaneously do, so I figured this was the perfect time - and an epic way to celebrate his milestone birthday.

Planning it as a surprise for Matt meant I didn't really connect to the idea of actually doing the jump myself. Watching him open the voucher on his birthday, I suddenly felt very nervous; I too would be throwing myself out of a plane from 15,000ft. What on earth was I thinking?

To get a taste of what was to come we popped the DVD that came with the voucher into the machine and pressed play. The moment the guy was hanging out of the plane, his legs just dangling there, his life literally in the hands of his instructor, I realised that would soon be me. I gulped.
"I don't think I can do this," I said. 
"Of course you can," Matt reassured. I smiled and as the weeks went by I tried not to think too much about it.

And then the day came. What a bloomin' roller coaster of emotions that was. I spent the drive up nervously joking about backing out at the last second and having to come back down with the pilot. 

After registering we went through the safety briefing and then waited while all the people who had registered before us went up in the plane and came back down by parachute; looking like little retina floaters as they fell. You go in order of registration on a first come first jump basis - which is fair given that the weather can change any moment and the whole thing could be called on account of rain or wind.

Over the next four hours we watched 40-odd people of all ages jump before us. And slowly, I started to feel the weight of anxiety lift, and the excitement kicked in. Probably in part because I was bored from sitting around and wanted to just get it over with, but also because I felt that if all these people could do it, then I certainly could. 

Suddenly we were next; we would be going up in the next plane. But we still hadn't been called to get jump-suited up and as time went by the sky turned grey, rain started to spit and a voice boomed over the tannoy, announcing that the weather was no longer suitable for jumping. My heart sank. After finally building up the courage I might have to drive all the way home, re-book and come back to go through all of this again.

They said as there were only two plane loads of people left to go, we could wait it out and hope the weather improved. Matt and I were so tired at this point, after leaving the house at 4:30am to get there in time for opening, my butt literally ached from sitting down for too long, and, because it was a dull day in September, I was absolutely freezing - even in the little indoor waiting area. But we decided to wait it out - we'd waited all day, what was a couple more hours?

To pass the time they offered us a go in the wind tunnel which Matt took advantage of, and just as his go was coming to an end, the rain stopped and the sky got a little brighter. Though it was still very cloudy, the team decided this was the best time to go and make the jump. We rushed to put our jumpsuits on and boarded the plane. By this point I was absolutely freezing, I couldn't feel my fingers and adrenaline hit me hard. I was trying to smile and appear nonchalant, making small talk with my instructor, but as the plane ascended I felt my tummy drop. As I had to push myself in closer to my instructor my leg started trembling - partly a cold shiver, partly nerves; I hoped he didn't notice. 

Now all I could see out the window was white. We were well into the clouds and people began moving, the plane door opened...

Matt was up first, dangling over the edge, smiling at his photographer and then, just like that, he was gone. My instructor started moving, getting himself into position and reminding me how to position myself, how to hold my legs when they dangled. He told me the wind would take them so I had to hold them firm but I wasn't paying much attention, all I could think was 'Fucccck. Why am I doing this? Is it too late to back out? Will the wind just pull me straight out the plane? I've never been in a plane with the door open before.' 

And then I was dangling, but I don't even remember being aware that my legs were outside the plane - the bit I had been most anxious about turned out to be nothing. Perhaps it helped that we were surrounded by white - maybe it would have been even more scary to see the ground so far below me? Now all I could think was 'Okay, he's going to jump any minute, will he count down? Is he going to jump now? Oh shit there's my photographer, look at the camera, try to smile. Is he going to jump now? This is it, it's happening! Remember to smile. He's going to jump any second. Oh fuck he's going, oh my g...'

And then: "Oh my god oh my god oh my god," over and over, which I realised I was actually saying out loud as we tumbled out of the plane and towards the ground. Whizzing through the clouds, my lips burning from the freezing cold wind, the only way to describe the feeling is: it literally feels like you are free falling out of a plane. It's insane, intense, wonderful and the best, craziest and scariest feeling ever!

The photographer approached me, signalling me to wave, smile, look at him, anything! But I just shook my head. I was struggling to breathe with the force pushing up against me as gravity brought me down at speed, it had started spitting again but the little drops of rain felt like hail against my cheeks, the whooshing sound of wind passing me was incredibly loud - I couldn't focus on this man right now. 

I gave him a measly thumbs up.

And then my instructor pulled the parachute cord and I felt a sharp pull as it opened and brought my falling to a halt, and then it was suddenly silent. Still. Peaceful. I giggled, feeling myself relax and quietly thanked the universe for opening my chute!

I felt a loosening and slipped an inch or so - my heart beginning to thump again. 
"I'm just making you more comfortable," my instructor said. 
"A bit of warning might have helped with that," I laughed, relieved that I wasn't in fact un-clipped and plummeting to my death.

We floated above the birds, serene. I immediately knew that I would be doing this again someday - some place warmer. This really was the most incredible feeling.

As we came in to land I saw Matt who had landed not long before me. My instructor un-clipped me, gave me a hug and I thanked him for giving me the most thrilling experience of my life and making me feel as relaxed about it as he possibly could.

We collected our certificates and immediately began the drive home, turning the heating up full whack and stopping for food on the way - we were starving after all that waiting and adrenaline. I had a headache for hours from the beating I took from the elements coming down. I slept so well that night.

When we got home we watched both videos. We howled at how crazy I looked in mine with the hat and goggles pulled so tight that I had bug face. And of course Matt looked like a taller Mission Impossible-esque Tom Cruise, giving thumbs up to his photographer all the way down!

While some have called me crazy, I have said that I'd love it to do it again somewhere with nicer weather - it will give me a chance to really be present in the moment because I'll already know what to expect. This time I was just too in my own head. But I did love it; what an experience! It was every bit as scary and as wonderful as you'd expect. The fear of jumping out of a plane is completely natural, but the overwhelming feeling of excitement and achievement only comes from actually doing it. The adrenaline of harbouring all that fear and then doing it anyway is what made it such a worthwhile experience. It's important to do the things that scare us because it's those moments of being fearless that give us the best memories and the stories worth sharing. 

So if you're considering a skydive and fear is the only thing holding you back then just do it already - you won't regret it! I'm so pleased to have finally ticked this adventure off the bucketlist. 

Have you ever done a skydive? If not, would you?

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