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My Sober Birthday Skydiving Adventure

This week's post is going to be a little different in the sense that there will be a video! My birthday was 7/11 and I decided that I was going to knock skydiving off of my bucket list. Now, when I had originally envisioned my first skydiving adventure, I had envisioned myself on mushrooms and possibly a little THC from the smoke on the way to the center; obviously, in trying to be "good" for my clinical trial this could not happen.

While my skydiving adventure was a sober one, it was still a great experience. The place I chose to go to was called DC Skydiving Center. They're about an hour and 45 minutes from where I am in College Park, MD. The drive there wasn't too crazy in terms of traffic but it was LONG.

Upon arrival, they had a semi-paved parking lot with lots of grassy areas to park on. From the lot, it was about a minute walk over to the facility where jumpers waited in groups to be taken up in the plane. There was a little sign-in window adjacent to the waiting area, and that's where I checked in and told them I wanted to buy the video that you'll see a little further down in this post. Once checked in, there was a chained-in patio area for the jumpers to wait and watch a video that played on a loop until it was time. The video basically reiterated all of the things that you agreed to in the waiver before jumping. There was also a section that explained how the jump would go, how you would need to hold your body in tandem with the instructor, and a few brief safety checks.

To my surprise, there were a lot of birthday jumpers. So while we waited there was some small talk about what we would all like to do should we survive the jump. My group consisted of 5 jumpers, including myself, and 5 instructors. I was second to last to get on the plane so I was second in line to jump out of it.

A lot of people were scared/would be scared as we climbed to about 1500 ft to the drop point. I was eerily at peace though, and I think this may have had something to do with my being sober. I had just come out of a depressive episode a couple of days prior to the jump. I thought about the possibility of somehow something going wrong but it didn't scare me; in fact, I welcomed it in the mindset I was in. I knew that my family would be taken care of with my life insurance policy and in case I didn't die - AFLAC had me covered for hospital bills.

We reached 1500 feet - and the door of the plane slid open. There was one person ahead of me and she was screaming her head off. Which was actually kind of crazy because on the ground she told the rest of the group that this was her second time skydiving. You would think someone who has done this before would be as calm as I was, but maybe it was because she was first in line and it had been 3 years since her first jump. Out of the plane, she went.

My instructor and I positioned ourselves at the edge of the plane. "Banana, girl!" my instructor said as I positioned myself to tandem jump out of the plane; and then we went!

At first, the jump out of the plane feels similar to what you would feel going down a steep rollercoaster. There are three parts to a skydiving jump, in my opinion: the free fall, the parachute flying, and the landing. When most people describe their skydiving experience, they focus on the parachute flying and landing, and maybe touch briefly on the free fall part as it pertains to the first 3 seconds of when you jump off the edge of the pane. In my experience of the many Youtube videos I watched about skydiving, no one talks about the free fall wind. After the roller coaster feeling subsides you’re just kind of freefalling at (my guess is) 120+ mph. That's a lot of wind in your face! It felt like I couldn't breathe. The exhale was okay, but trying to inhale at those speeds felt like my body was struggling for oxygen. It was kind of hard to enjoy the free fall because I had to focus on not having a panic attack from not being able to breathe. At one point in the video, my instructor tapped on my should for me to wave to the camera but he ended up having to tap me twice because I was focused on not having a panic attack!

The second part of the skydive experience was the parachute flying part. Once he open the parachute, the wind kind of died down. It was still windy but I could at least breathe! Which was welcome! There are two handles that allow you to control the direction that you're flying in. Pull right to turn right, pull left to turn left, and the harder you pull - the faster you turn/spin. You are able to do this trick called the "corkscrew" if you pull down really hard in either direction. I tried this once but ultimately ended up just kind of enjoying the glide down. It's actually really hard to pull on the handles because there's so much resistance from the wind. The flying part was my favorite part with the exception of the harness kind of squishing my boobs down which kind of hurt.

Lastly, the landing. Most people fear the jumping out of the plane part I feel like, but for me: I feared the landing. Not in the sense that I thought we would die or something, but I know if you don't do the landing right - you can break something and seriously injure yourself. My instructor gave me a brief reminder of what to do as far as putting my legs up (so as not to get in his way as we landed) and then we proceeded to land. My instructor was amazing because my landing was a fairly smooth one. My feet didn't even touch the ground until it was time for me to get up which was great.

All in all, my first experience was an awesome one. I keep saying "first experience" because I honestly do believe I would do it again. But you better believe I won't be sober for it!

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