How Skydiving Changed My Life
by Mallory Wisong
by Mallory Wisong | A-72461 | Ossining, New York
Fear does not stop death; it stops life. Learning to skydive has taught me this lesson and helped shape the person I am today. I was never one of those people who had always wanted to skydive. No bucket list, dare or any amount of peer pressure was going to get me to jump out of a plane. In fact, I had never even considered skydiving until my husband made his first tandem. He was hooked immediately and got his license that same year.
Joining him at the drop zone regularly, I would bring a book and sit and watch all the landings. I started to make friends with some of the skydivers, and they always asked when I was going to jump. My response was always, “Never.” Then something changed. Months of watching people land from their first skydives, seeing their smiling, laughing and joyful faces got me thinking that there must be something to it. A year after my husband got his license, I made my first tandem. It was an amazing experience, but at that point I had no desire to do it again. But something about being surrounded by skydivers all the time made me curious about the student program. I took the first-jump course and made my second and third tandems and first AFF jump in April 2009.
Thus began my long and arduous journey toward earning my skydiving license. I have always struggled with fear, self-doubt and perfectionism. In skydiving, the fear took over. It took so much to overcome the anxiety I felt before each jump that I stopped jumping in 2010 after 14 skydives, which included two solos. While I was on this hiatus, I never stopped thinking about jumping. I still hung out at the drop zone regularly and remained friends (and made new friends) with skydivers. I kept telling myself and others that the fear and anxiety I felt did not outweigh the amazing feeling of freefall. For four long years I stayed on the ground while those around me got to fly.
Then, last summer, I started working with a life coach. Skydiving became a recurring subject in our first couple of sessions, and I made the decision that I was going to get my license. My coach, Kate, helped me come up with relaxation techniques to use before the jump (like forcing myself to smile). We also came up with a schedule of inspiring skydiving videos I would watch during the week to keep me excited about jumping and the fear at a minimum. I still had to work very hard to push myself through self-doubt and fear, but then I had one of those jumps where time seems to slow down and you finally understand what it means to be fully present in the moment. I looked around and saw the gorgeous Shawangunk Cliffs, enjoyed the beauty of the lush green landscape and grinned as I passed alongside some wispy clouds that amplified the speed at which I was falling. It was jump number 19, and I will forever remember it as the turning point in my skydiving experience. I remember landing and thinking, “Thisis why we jump out of planes!”
On September 27, 2014, I finally achieved what I thought I’d never be able to do: I got my A license. Skydiving has led me to refuse to live a boring life full of fear and falling in line with what everyone else is doing. I know it’s a cliché to say that life is too short, but it really, truly is. It’s too short not to have amazing experiences, and maybe, just once, to know what it feels like to be completely free.