How Skydiving Changed My Life - Nicola Cullen

How did skydiving change my life, in 700 words or fewer? I could more easily succeed at the task if I were to go with, “How did skydiving not change my life?” There wouldn’t be much to say on that subject. As for explaining how it turned my entire world upside down and gave birth to a brand-new me, I’ll give it a shot.

My skydiving journey began, as has so many others’, when I was given a tandem jump for my (we don’t need specifics!) birthday. I ventured out to Taylorville, Illinois, one Sunday for the jump and had the time of my life. By Wednesday, I booked my first-jump course. I began AFF training that very weekend.

I should go back briefly to explain that I am not a native of the Midwest. As a SoCal girl, I’d found it difficult to fit in and adjust, and I never fully acclimated to the local environment.

That is, until I found skydiving and, more specifically, my DZ family. Heading out to jump every weekend was like going home: finally fitting in and having a place I belonged in that foreign land of corn and soybeans. (By the way, between the two, soybean fields are preferable when landing off.)

I had been jumping for a little more than a year when one September Sunday, a stranger walked onto the DZ. I saw him as I landed from the first load of the day. Handsome! Intriguing. Casually smoking a cigarette before entering the hangar. He strolled over to where I was packing and we introduced ourselves. “Do you want to jump?” he asked. We manifested together for that next load and jumped with each other almost exclusively over the next couple of weeks. He was visiting from Colorado for work. Two weeks to the day from when we first met, after another great day of jumping, he asked if I’d like to go out to dinner. That was the beginning of the rest of my life. 

In December, I brought him home to San Diego to meet my family. I flew out from Illinois and he drove from Colorado. He presented me with a new pair of jumping shoes for Christmas and tied into the laces was an engagement ring. We were off and running. We set the wedding for July, and it was time to make some big decisions.

I am a palynologist (studying live and fossil spores) by day and had an established career in Illinois. I also taught music at the local elementary school before work and was very involved in a volunteer prison reading program.

My (now) husband owned a business in Colorado. We were going to have to figure this out! And so I talked to my supervisors about working remotely; I said goodbye to my students; I resigned my position as lead volunteer for the prison reading program; I gave away and sold what I could, loaded up my car and moved to Colorado in February.

We were married on July 3 at the DZ (of course!). Our minister, who is a friend and fellow jumper, performed the ceremony in the plane. The entire wedding party jumped, and our friends and family from around the world greeted all of us upon landing. We held the reception in the beautifully decorated hangar and celebrated our new life and future.

A little over a month later, we found out that skydiving had changed our lives once again: We were expecting a son! Nine months to the day of our wedding, after a long day of packing at the DZ, our little boy burst into the world. He has nearly 100 jumps himself, and we’re pretty sure that the water training in utero should earn him a B license.

We have settled into family life in Colorado now. We have a perfect little home, a loyal family dog and a beautiful son. We are both coaches at the local DZ and spend most weekends with our sky family. On September 1, 2013, I made my first jump. I never could have imagined then just how much skydiving was about to change my world. And oh boy, did it ever!

Nicola Cullen | C-43127 | Pueblo, Colorado


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