I want to tell you a story from my early days. It’s been coming to my mind for several days now as I am still on track for making the most out of everything. Life is really short folks, we all know this by now. So I want to share a lesson I learned many years ago that I hope will inspire you to do whatever it is you want to do!
I was 15 years old in the summer of 1978, and one of my 4 brothers Jeremy, who was 18 years old at the time, had taken up skydiving. Of course, as in so many other things any of my brothers did, I just was dying to try it. When you are the youngest of five children, all born in 7 years, you are competitive and eager to be as good as they are at anything. Well I was a girl. Believe me, I learned that in many ways, that is just plain different than being a boy. But the heart of any human wants what it wants, and we are all the same on that score. My brother Jeremy saw my desire to follow in his footsteps as I watched him jump from the airplanes at the small airport in Waynesville, Ohio. So one day he came home with a form from the airport for a parent to sign, which would allow me, a minor to skydive. I remember the anxiety I had hoping my mom would not protest, and when she didn’t, I wondered if there was a reason why, without hesitation, she signed that puppy that exonerated the airport of any responsibility in my untimely death.
So off Jeremy and I drove in the VW Hatchback on the road to the airport. On the highway he sped the car up to it’s full speed capacity, pedal to the metal, and he commanded me to lean out the window, torso on the windowsill fingers gripping the door, face to the wind, he yelled to me, “FEEL THAT???, FEEL THE WIND??” I was a bit breathless nodding yes and super excited at the thrill of it all and he slowed down and we had ourself a short lecture. He said to me,”Now Sarah, today you will take a 4 hour course and you will learn all about how to jump, how to land in a round parachute, you will be attached to a static line inside the plane. When you get up in the airplane, which only has a seat for the pilot, you will not listen to anyone else on the plane in your group. You will all be sitting on the floor, and one by one your instructor will let you all out. Each time one of you jumps out, the pilot will have to circle around again for the next jumper. Now Sarah, some people really freak out and scream and cry, you will not be one of them. When they freak out I want you to stare out the window and enjoy the ride. Do what you are trained to do, and make me proud.” To which I said, OK.
So for 4 hours, 2 men in their 30’s and I, a mere 15, took a course all about the wind. We were told about going with the wind, going against the wind, and crabbing through the wind. We learned how to use the toggles and that we would jump with the static line for the first 3 jumps. We jumped from a 6 foot platform after we learned the commands which I still have in my head which were; SIT IN THE DOOR, GET OUT ON THE STRUT, and GO!!!! Then we were taught to arch, look, reach, and pull. For the landing we were taught to bend our knees when we hit the ground (at an incredible speed I might add in a round parachute like in the military) fall to the side and then roll our body to the other side and slap our hand to take the shock out of hitting the ground so hard and fast.
We, the 2 men and I, followed instructions like sheep being led. We learned how to pack a parachute but we did not pack our own. Then we were ready. We got in the small airplane, one of those that has only one seat for the pilot and we all squished into it. The instructor was a woman in her late 30’s. I was the first in and I sat with my back against the pilots chair making sure I was near the little window which I could stretch my head to look out of. The 2 men and the instructor got in, and off we went. It was loud and bumpy and the waves of riding the wind on the way up began to weigh on us newbies. When we got to 3000 feet the first man was instructed to sit in the door. He sat there squished against the door while the instructor attached his static line to the metal loop soldered to the floor. She was yelling cause it was so loud,”Are you ready?” She opened the door which opened upwards. The man looked out the door and started profusely swearing! They got in a terrible swearing match and finally as she screamed sit in the door he did, GET OUT ON THE STRUT!!!! He did. GO!!!! He waited a while while cursing her to death, but then he jumped and we could hear him for just a fleeting moment while he fell away screaming. She promptly shut the door.
The next guy sat by the door silent. She opened the door and in a moment he started crying hysterically. That is when I cocked my head to the the right to look out the pilots window and obeyed my brother. He was so desperate the poor guy, the pilot had to go around twice. You see if he didn’t jump when instructed he would end up God knows where and not on the airport. He begged to not have to jump. She was amazing, I thought, as she told him the plane would crash from the weight of him on the plane if they tried to land with him in it (good one!). He eventually followed her commands and got in the door, out on the strut and jumped. She shut the door. All I could think was, what the hell scared these guys when they looked out the door?
“Okay Sarah, get over here.” I remember how weird it was to crawl on the floor while the little plane was jumping up and down with the wind. She said,”You aren’t going to give me the same trouble as those guys are you?” I shook my head no with a dead stare. She hooked my line up, and leaned to the door opening it up, and there it was, the scene that sent 2 grown men to lunacy before me. I could hear Jeremy say, make me proud. I looked down and the houses were the size of the microchip on your credit card now. She said; “Sit in the door!.” I stared at her until her eyes got big and her mouth curled a she repeated herself. I sat in the door. She yelled,”Get Out On The Strut!”and there I stood, my foot on the wheel- which was locked thankfully! I was holding onto the strut with my left foot on the wheel and my right leg dangling in the wind. It was exhilarating!! I was captivated with a delicious feeling of both excitement and terror! I looked back at her smiling face and she yelled, “just hang on for a minute!” as they positioned the plane in place. “Ready?!!!”she yelled. “Okay”! I yelled back. “GO!!!!!!” I hesitated! “GO SARAH, JUMP NOW!!!” I let go, arched my back, and thought arch, look (at the handle to the cord) reach (for it) and pull- the static line had done it already as suddenly I felt the exhilaration of flying and then the lift of the shoot opening up above me. I checked for a slow or fast moving malfunction and saw no problem. I was floating, flying through the air screaming with delight- YEEHAW!!! Then it was time to focus on where the big red circle on the ground was. I grabbed my toggles and played with running with the wind, going against the wind and crabbing through the wind trying to gage how to get on the spot.
And then I just looked around at the amazing view, mostly farmland. It seemed way too quick when I realized the tops of the buildings were getting larger fast and I had to focus. The ground seemed to be flying towards me and getting larger and larger and when I hit the ground, dropped and rolled I was a mere 10 feet from the spot.
I can tell you that was my best landing all summer, it wasn’t all that lucky or skilled as later I learned to jump without a static line, nearly landed in a pig sty- but managed to lift my feet above the fence and instead land in the cow pasture. But that was later, as I was going higher and being challenged so I could become better. But for this moment, my first jump, I felt that the world had shifted and would never again be the same. I had flown, I had systematically followed a path to changing my life forever. When I say this, what I mean to say is, I came to believe and think that anything is possible when you stretch your comfort zone. And there is a fantastic world out there to be discovered just waiting for me or anyone to discover.
And that is my whole point of telling you this story. I learned that the most important thing to do is to step outside of your comfort zone whenever you can so that you can have new experiences that will change your life forever.
Our brains want to stick to routine to feel safe and secure. But what happens when a storm comes and wipes away your house and neighborhood? What happens when you lose a job, a child, a lover and best friend? What happens when you hold too tightly to what you understand? Then when you don’t understand something does it cause you fear? The lesson of this memory of mine not only reminds me, but I hope it inspires you to be okay with incredibly radical change. You have the capacity to accept the challenge of change and be so much better for it.
The Sarah Hale Folger Project seeks to inspire greatness in humanity by sharing inspiring stories with the world. Please contact me here on my blog or through my website at http://www.SarahHaleFolger.com
Sarah Hale Folger is a Creative Consultant, Blogger, Artist & Singer. PLEASE make sure to subscribe to my blog today so you never miss the next thing happening in the world the way I see it! Please feel free to comment, share and subscribe to my blog!!! Thanks!!