Like many people, I’m absolutely terrified of heights. The thought of skydiving scared me, and for many years I thought I’d never have the courage to try it out. I imagined I’d need to have friends or family with me during my first tandem jump—you know, the understandably normal practice of confronting a fear with someone you trust. One day, however, the drive to jump just hit me; I felt a sudden desire to check the box off on my proverbial bucket list. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, without friends or family coming out to watch. Hell, I didn’t even want to tell anyone I was going. It seemed more appealing to quietly go out and jump. And so I did just that.
Anxiety haunted me the night before the jump, but when the sun rose, I got myself up and drove to the nearest drop zone. Soon, I was strapped to my instructor and climbing up to altitude. I can’t remember much, other than the pilot chute of a booger that was hanging out of my nose during the entirety of the freefall. When I landed, everything was different. My perspective changed; the feeling of shock and joy was overwhelming.
Weeks passed and I could not stop thinking about skydiving. One night I fell asleep and had the most life-changing dream: I was standing in a city, looking up at a vibrant blue sky, something I couldn’t stop doing ever since my jump. I saw skydivers under canopy spiraling down towards me. As they landed, one looked right at me and asked, “Are you ready, Katie?” I woke up in disbelief and instantly called my DZ.
That week, I signed up to start my AFF program. I lost sleep every single night. Ground school made me want to vomit—everything made me want to vomit at that time, really. What made me think I could do something like this? I was the most terrified I had ever been in my entire life, but I was doing it. I questioned what I was doing on the plane so often that I completely forgot what I enjoyed about it. But every time I landed, I remembered.
The one thing I love about skydiving is that there is always something new to push you out of your comfort zone, a new way to grow. I gained so much more than just a hobby. I have met amazing people from all over the world. It seems so many skydivers are wired similarly to me, and their zest for life inspires me to no end. The skydiver who shot outside video for my tandem had said, “You came out here all by yourself to jump at the highest altitude you could go. I think you’re going to be back.” And now that skydiver is one of my dearest friends.
Learning how to skydive provided me with perspective. It was as though I had unlocked a portion of myself that had long been hidden. I already knew how to love myself, but skydiving taught me how to admire and trust myself. Suddenly, all these things that I didn’t think myself capable of were on the table. I figured, if I can save my own life up there, why can’t I down here? I got a divorce and a new job, and moved into my own apartment. I started traveling to places I always wanted to go. Doing things on my own wasn’t an issue anymore.
I’ve accomplished so many things since that time. I went from being the scared girl, who spent most days playing video games, to the main character in her own life. I realized that in order to truly live, one must make decisions. And those decisions may involve risk. I will never sit back and allow life to pass me by. And that, I believe, is a beautiful thing.
Katie Crom | D-39999