“… and you teach your sons and daughters
there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive
is to breathe deep
Andrea Gibson, “Dive”
Barrel rolls in the morning sun; fast, fresh winds lapping at my cheeks; a triumphant yell into the pastures of West Texas: this was freefalling at 10,000 feet.
As I buckled in my harness and adjusted my goggles, I thought of the conversation that drove two Texans, a Chicago native, and a New Yorker to the open fields of a West Texas drop zone in the first place. A few days earlier we were discussing a topic that often crops up between idle friends in late evenings: what do you want to do before you die? Then the classic question: What about skydiving?
When people say they’d like to skydive someday, or own a business someday, or write a book someday, or do some other project someday, it sounds like there is some sort of existential fog between now and when they want to accomplish those things. Yet if we know today that we want those things, why wouldn’t we start doing them? Unlike starting a business, writing a book, or becoming a university professor, skydiving takes only a few hours to complete. In this particular case, I was able to jump out of a plane, grab lunch, and get on a flight back to New York by 1:30pm.
For something so short and so worthwhile, why don’t more people who say they want to do skydive, do? In fact, why don’t more people do the things they want to do overall? So much of human motivation stems from our own desires and needs: for satisfaction, for happiness, for satiation, for love, for fulfillment, for plenty. When so many of our actions spring from these wants, what could possibly keep us from pursuing the things we say we want? For any of the explanations springing from this question, do any provide legitimate reason that is worth the cost of not doing?
Which brought a good friend and myself peering over the edge of an airplane, legs dangling and lungs a-gasp with a biting November chill. We jumped because we could, would, and wanted to do it. I realized that the seemingly innocuous conversation a few days earlier helped me discover a sincere desire to know what it means to take a leap at 10,000 feet.
After I decided that’s what I wanted to do, whatever I had get done – reschedule my flight, stay with a friend, arrange for transport – would get accomplished. I would not leave the state of Texas without jumping out of a plane first. It meant too much to me; it symbolized committing to doing what we say we want to do and embodied real, legitimate action towards getting what we want out of life. It meant the beginning of doing. In this the simple process that brought us to dive came to light: 1. Ask, “What do I want to do before I die?” 2. Identify the first step toward doing it, and 3. Execute.
About the Author
New York, NY
Graduate of Boston University-2011
November 11, 2011
Submission Type: Reflection
Category & Place: Written, 5th Place