How do you decide to take on a challenge? To do something you have no idea you’ll succeed at, or even enjoy? Surely the answer comes from practicing doing things you don’t know if you’ll succeed at.
Slydiving has brought me the courage to take on new tests and challenges. A year ago, I’d never have dreamed of planning a trip to the other side of the world.
First, I finally plucked up the courage to sign up for a tandem, then I booked my ground school and Advanced Freefall course before I could change my mind. I found myself jumping out of plane strapped to no-one. Falling through the air at 120 miles an hour. The first time I took the plane to altitude, and probably for 20 jumps after that, I couldn’t look out the window (I was afraid of heights), when the other jumpers (as a student, you get out last) left the plane, I couldn’t look, and stared at the floor between my feet. The noise as they fell away into the slipstream – something between a whoosh and a pop – made me want to cover my ears and take the plane down again. But. But. The feeling of overcoming that fear, the feeling of flying through the air as free in your head as you are in space and time, was unequivocally worth it. I don’t know how I made myself drive back to the drop zone some days, especially when I’d checked on YouTube to see what my lesson was that day and it left my knees literally knocking with fear.
And the knowledge that I’d overcome that fear and found ecstatic, life-affirming, laughing-you’re-so-happy joy once I was out of the plane, made me believe I could do it again. And again.
And if I could overcome such extreme fear to do that, why not conquer other areas of my life? Since the second I first left the plane on my first tandem (thank you Ricky Capanni) I’ve taken on things I never thought possible – until then I never thought it was possible for me to jump – and it is in no small part thanks to skydiving. Perhaps what kept me coming back in those – frankly terrifying – early months, was the need to keep checking if I still had the courage. Everyone is scared at first, it’s how you get around that to meet the reward that’s down the road.
All the cliches are undoubtedly true – that is why they become cliches. ‘Everything you’ve ever wanted lies on the other side of fear’ has never been so apt. And for once it feels absolutely spot on.