Being vulnerable is dangerous, but it is not deadly. In fact, it is lively. We dawn on our strength in these moments. What is it that we are most vulnerable with? Our voice. Our expression. It is our word. This is something we learn to distrust over time.
On Sunday, June 3 I jumped out of an airplane. It was my first skydiving experience as a tandem jump with an experienced instructor. We began our freefall at 11,500 feet and reached a top speed of 135 miles-per-hour.
Was I terrified? No. Were nerves present? Absolutely yes. But the factor that kept me calm the most was trust. I knew that doing something of such extreme measure would require a great level of trust. This helped me to keep focused on the simple steps along the way, and to not get ahead of myself.
With my family there to watch, I knew they would be asking how nervous I was. Well, to be honest, I was on the ground when they asked the question, so it was simple to remain steady. I wasn’t thinking about being in the air yet, or what could go wrong. I just focused on the fact that I was still breathing, and that is what kept my heart rate settled.
I really could have let a lot of outside inquiry to rattle me and tell me I was supposed to be scared, but with physical training and helping people exercise, I knew that this only causes us to back away from further motivation and adventure. It only acts to instill fear and shake up confidence in one’s decision and ability to trust. That’s not the experience I wanted to have and that’s not the experience I chose.
At what point does it hit you that you’re about to do this? As soon as the door opens. Although, at that point I am in complete trust with the person on my back, the tandem instructor, and the calmness that I had focused on throughout the whole process. My instructor gives me three instructions when we step to the door. “Head up. Arch hips. Heels back.” It helps to give me something to occupy my mind.
I get to the ledge of the airplane. Look down. It is beyond the word “far.” Still, at this point, I am not beating myself up, I am not regretting. I am trusting. We let go of the airplane and enter free fall for 45 seconds. I am surprised in this moment. It’s exhilarating and I find that I can still breathe calmly. My energy settles and I can enjoy the moment. In the air, I took the deepest breath of the purest oxygen I could ever taste and it filled my lungs. You could never get that on the ground, and I would probably have to climb a mountain to mimic this.
The canopy deploys and we have safely begun descent with the chute open. It is unique. That’s the point in which I let myself come to full realization of what I had done. It was so quick. Too quick to be afraid, and I was glad I kept my composure. It allowed me to get the most out of the experience. Landing back to the ground was a special thing and I was really glad I had family come to watch alongside with me.
Love and sharing our experiences is the most important thing in the world. I learned that trust is something we all need more practice with. We’re not raised to trust openly. We learn that it first has to come with a price. A hard price to pay at that. I would say that is tough love, but, tough love isn’t the only type of expression to let somebody know you admire or respect them.
As we learn to admire someone easily, rather than envy the person, one comes to learn why another is so good at what they do. They simply love it, and thus, give it the necessary care. There is just awe in the beauty of their craft. True admiration garners respect, and with respect, we can learn to trust each other freely. Can you make that jump?
Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes fitness columns for the Record-Herald.