Skydiving gave me peace and taught me how to confront fear.
A short story....
I won an AAD.
AADs, or Automatic Activation Devices, are small electronic/mechanical machines that automatically deploy a skydiver's parachute at a certain altitude in the sky. They are there in case you do not (or cannot) deploy your own parachute in time. They are essential for new skydivers and a requirement from the FAA for all tandem jumpers and students learning to jump out of planes solo. The price range for these devices is high and it's only a small piece of the gear you need to skydive safely. After already spending $1000s on training, acquiring gear is a hearty cost for newbies eager to feel the thrill of flying again.
Early in my skydiving journey, I too was very eager to fly and keep current in my training, so I found myself at a boogie in Arizona, a large skydiving event that attracts jumpers from around the world to practice my newly acquired skills. On the first night, the organizers gathered the newly licensed jumpers and lined us up in front of everyone.
Standing there, they asked us all what it was about skydiving we loved, and the answer came to me without hesitation, even though I had never actively thought about it before. Skydiving allowed me to confront my fears. Not a fear of flying, or a fear of heights, or speed, death, injury, or anything else like that. It was an internal fear I was facing. One that I overcame as I participated in this misunderstood sport.
See, when you are about to jump out of a plane, the impossible feels possible. You have been trained to survive this. You know what to do. Your confidence is intoxicating, and the challenges that plague your existence do not matter at that moment. They may have consumed you before, but now you realize how trivial it all is. Your only concern is to get to the ground safely and to have fun on the way down.
To do this, you have to let go.
So you do. And for a brief moment, you wonder why you feared anything else at all.
I gave my answer. The universe must have approved. The organizers told me I had randomly won a free AAD.
Years later, I'm still asked by the ground-bound why I jumped so many times that year. It's because that capacity for relief expanded with every jump I made. It was like like flexing a muscle. One that I did not have and needed to build. I no longer participate in the sport, but I still feel harmony when the sky is clear and the wind is low, and I know it would be a perfect day to play in the sky. And yet, even on the days when it's dark and stormy, I can still call upon that place of peace and feel that relief again.