Just this month I’ve had two good friends call me in confidence, with concern in their voice… and tell me they were afraid of jumping. Like it was this dirty little secret (not good dirty), and ONLY because they totally trust me and know I love them for real no matter what, could they reveal this shocking and shameful feeling. Funny how now I’m writing about it in an internationally distributed magazine. Sweet.* Anyway, the thought that others might feel the same way had never entered their mind, both sure that it had to be something mis-wired in them, cause skydiving’s the sh*t ya know, and how could anyone be scared anywhere after 100 jumps? That said, behind their silence, they were both fairly convinced that their skydiving future was in real jeopardy.
Have you ever felt this? As experienced jumpers? I’m talking after the initial fear on AFF has faded away. After some time in the sport, where it’s only been fun fun fun since you started getting good, and then it happens… you’re scared again. Not just a passing thought, but one you feel… one that makes you hesitate. Maybe it lasts a couple hours after a reserve ride. Maybe you’re juuust a little too uncurrent. Maybe 3 fatalities in two weeks is under your skin and not going away. Maybe you break off at 7 grand cause you think about your pack job in freefall, can’t remember it, and that literally spooks you to go dump. Maybe it just came out of nowhere and the team training you were so excited about, and worked so hard to make happen, is now just plain freaking you out.
Sucky feeling, huh? Totally. Especially when skydiving is one of the things we love most in this world, in our lives, and what we always thought we’d have more of in our future.
Let me tell you right here and right now that this feeling is normal. And it can be fierce. It’s not fun.
It can make us feel alone in a community that has always made us feel completely cradled in like-minded company. You are not alone. We are in this thing together. On all levels, even the sucky ones. The reality in our sport, as we all unfortunately know, is that sometimes people die. It sucks. Duh. And, it’s f*cking scary.
Getting present with mortality is powerful stuff, and in those moments, as much as we love it, we can forget that skydiving is probably safer than brushing your teeth in some countries. That texting and driving is almost certainly more dangerous. That the drags on the cigarettes we “only smoke socially” are more likely to kill us. Questions come up inside us, whether we’re conscious of them or not. Why am I doing this? Do I really want to do this? Is it worth it? And worse, we’re embarrassed. We don’t want to tell anyone. It’s like admitting you’re afraid is taboo. Like you’ll be some leper weirdo who cracked, and gets cut from the cool kids.
We all have nonsensical naysayers in our heads telling us we can’t do stuff, that we might fail, that we might even die.
Fear can have a very extensive vocabulary and convincing stance in our own heads.
It’s deep sh*t, I know, and it can show up all around us, big and small, skydiving or not. For instance, for me, every time I try to write this column, my lame-o inside voice tells me that if it’s not perfect, that if my word choice isn’t cool and flowy and cool enough, my article will fail and the masses of the skydiving world could suddenly not like me. Sounds ridiculous, right? What does your voice say to you? Is it equally ridiculous when you step back from it and look at it written on a page?
So we can likely agree that it sounds like fear is pretty much not ideal. But you know what, the beauty is it’s there to protect us. There is purpose to it. It drives us to be safe. To educate ourselves out of the unknown. To calculate our risks so we can take them calmly and confidently, or choose another direction entirely. To shake us off our to-do list for once, and reexamine our version of the big picture.
It reminds us to really appreciate our lives. To love each other more.
To come together in community and remind each other of the very worthwhile yin to whatever yang. To live boldly, not recklessly. … And in my case, write engaging and insightful meat, peppered with food metaphors that are kinda funny and in the end lighten the mood even after the whole article’s been talkin’ about the tough stuff. No judgment if you need some A1 sauce.. I do sometimes too.
Much love. Tizzle 2.0, out.
(*I actually did get my friends’ permission before choosing this topic.)