The full-body flight suit I wore was blue, puffy, and unflattering. The helmet tightened over my head, the goggles beetling my eyes, and straps harnessing my chest, my crotch, my waist, my wrists.
No one said skydiving was going to be pretty. Actually, no one said it was going to be fun either. Awesome, thrilling, worth it . . . those were the words used to convince me. That, and my cureless, chronic FOMO with which I seem to be eternally plagued.
Through the mid-morning heat, I walked awkwardly across the tarmac, straps dangling from every limb, following my tandem jump guide. A guide I had only just met and been paired with. A guide in whose hands I was about to place my life.
It was summer in southern California, and I was home from the UK for a few months to fill my cup with sunshine, family BBQs, road trips, boat trips, and adventure.
My mother was turning 50 that July. On one uneventful Saturday morning, my little sister surprised our mom with a gift certificate to go skydiving. My sister announced this birthday gift as she burst through the front door, having just leapt out of a plane herself only hours before, the adrenaline still electrifying.
I think my accomplishments that same morning may have included a coffee and looking outside the window at a cat sitting in the yard or something.
No one knew she had this plan — which is just like my introverted little sister to do. Sits quietly. Sits back. Then bad-assing her way to the front, relishing the jaws that drop amongst her family as in shocked excitement we praised and questioned with awe and delight.
My mom, a wringing mix of excitement and nerves, agreed to accept the adventurous birthday gift.
I, not to be outdone by the mom or the younger sister, jumped on board the idea, and a week or so later, jumped on board a small, comfortless plane with them both.
We sat side by side in the plane as if in a dream. Geared up, trained up, and caught up in the momentum of the 10-minute flight, and the 60-second free fall we had paid for. Our matching puffy flight suits, our unbecoming helmets, and pilot goggles squished our faces in tight, hiding our…