Doing 25 jumps in one day was way harder than I thought it would be.
I feel like I’ve done some pretty hard core stuff in my 21 years jumping out of airplanes, and I’d say that’s actually accurate too. Things like doing back-to-backs team training getting out at 10,500’ packing in the 4 ½ minutes between loads… like jumping super early in the freeeeeeeezing cold in a partially hidden rig and a skirt hucking a commercial jet drink cart out the back of a skyvan… like swooping the pond in front of 300+ people at night for the giant event you organized and want to go super awesomely (holy CRAP, that is nuts)… like leading basic skills camps for Otter-sized groups of new jumpers every other week for multiple years… like landing in Dodger Stadium in a bathing suit and bad wind, etc. The list goes on.
Even though I feel proud of those things, and some I’d never do again, I don’t list them to sound cool, but rather to illuminate why before this last Sunday went down, I thought doing 25 jumps in one day would be totally no problem.
I was wrong.
Despite all that experience… I was wrong.
It was hard.
By jump 12, not even at my personal record of 14, I felt sick… borderline nauseous… definitely weak. I needed to take a break. I needed to sit down. I needed to put on my sunglasses and not talk to anyone. I needed to drink water and the Gatorade I stole from Seth but knew he’d want me to have even though I didn’t know him at all. I needed to chew a blueberry bagel very slowly and deliberately, managing my mind when it really wanted to start freaking out because of what I was physically feeling.
So I sat. I breathed. I downed Seth’s Gatorade. I chewed that bagel like a meditative master. I breathed. I said yes when James offered to get me food. I said yes when he handed me another water. I asked for a longer break than was originally planned for us. I decided on hop-and-pops only until the end to keep the rigor as low as possible for the 13 jumps we had left. I asked my teammate in the 25, Nikki, to double check my gear every load, and committed to doing the same for her. I set clearer boundaries and took care of my body so my mind could settle down too.
And it did.
So why the heck was I doing this in the first place? Why put myself through such a harsh experience?
It was for a special event, Jump 4 Jaclyn, brought into powerful positive reality by James Dickson. The same guy making sure I had water and food and everything I needed to get through this challenge. He had done 25 jumps in a day at the inaugural event the previous year, so he knew. He knew how hard it was. He was ready to help me, and he did help me.
Again though, why do this?
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation helps kids and families affected by pediatric cancer connect with local sports teams, creating bonds and inspiration that immeasurably improve the lives of the kids, families, AND teams.
My hope is that by jumping out of an airplane 25 times in one day, maybe, just maybe, we were able to help those kids feel loved and supported into something that might be beyond what they currently believe possible for themselves. That they find inspiration to get through the harshness they face in their own experience that has their lives on the line too. I hope in some small way as a bigger team, we were able to contribute to saving lives.
For our 25th jump, we were going to altitude at sunset to finish big and celebrate with the West Point team. I was happy, feeling good, and I still forgot to unbuckle my seatbelt. Nikki pointed it out for me. As a result, I made sure to get myself ready extra early before jump run.. to give myself extra time to breathe and focus.. to keep my stress level as low as possible to ensure our safety and bigger success. At 11,000 feet, I was ready. When I have extra time in the airplane ever like that, I look around at chest straps. I’ve done it for years. So I did it this day too. I looked over at the West Point boys, over at Nikki, and down at James who I was facing right in front of me. When I looked at James’ chest strap, my brain tweaked just a touch. He has a black harness and black hardware and dusk was making it dark inside the airplane, so I looked again. I leaned in and touched it to be sure. And I was. His chest strap was misrouted.
I pause for a purpose. Yeah… that happened. James wanted me to share. He asked me to share. He asked me to share what he learned. He learned for himself that gearing up is now his time to put socializing on pause.. his time to be present and focused on that part of his process.. on that part of his skydiving experience and safety. He asked me to share because, he believes that being seen in both our achievements and incidents could save lives, and because of that it’s always worth it.
I believe this too.
We never know how what we do might contribute to saving a life.
Whether it’s very direct physically right now or in an inspired emotional ripple that builds over time. Whether it’s a simple loving gesture or a complex event funding a bigger mission. No matter what, our effort makes a difference. Even though we can’t predict when or how or how much, know it makes a difference. Thank you to everyone who has made any level of effort for me and our sport at large, I absolutely will continue doing my best for you too.