What if I fall? Oh, but darling, what if you fly?
It was March 2016. I was in Hawaii, and secretly wishing I was anywhere else. I stood on a wooden deck with the smell of incense wafting through the air. I paced around trying to ignore the growing knot in the pit of my stomach.
“Don’t do this!” my insides cried. “This is crazy. You could get hurt! You could die! They told you so in that creepy video they made you watch that literally kept repeating YOU COULD DIE.”
“Shut up!” I would yell back, looking at the sky. Dark clouds began rolling in from distance and I listened to people mutter about ideal weather conditions, and how it wasn’t looking good.
“Maybe something will happen and I won’t have to do this,” I thought. “Easy out. Wasn’t my fault they wouldn’t let me do it.”
I stepped cautiously into a harness that a large man was holding for me. He pulled on different straps and began explaining what we would be doing. “That can’t be tight enough. He’s going to tighten that, right?” “I’ll tighten these more when we get in the plane,” he told me. I nodded. I was not embarrassed to admit that I was terrified. That I wasn’t sure if I could do this. But, somehow my feet kept moving, eventually climbing into a tiny plane.
I walked along the metal floor and sat down on a bench, my legs straddling it, while my jump partner sat behind me. The plane was loud. Too loud to talk to anyone. I looked around at the rest of the group, searching for an ounce of the fear that I was feeling. They didn’t look scared at all. I closed my eyes and reminded myself to just breathe.
We went higher, and higher. I eventually had to keep my eyes shut to ward of the panic that was growing in intensity. “We can’t possibly go any higher, right?” Wrong. I made the mistake of opening my eyes and looking out the tiny window. “Oh, hell no.” My stomach flipped and my eyes snapped shut. “Breathe, Ashlee. Just breathe.” I repeated the mantra over and over.
A gush of wind brought me back to where I was. On a tiny plane, preparing to jump out. To JUMP OUT! White and blue filled the opening where a door should be. My partner hoisted me onto his lap and began tightening the straps around me, and then connected himself to my harness. Any other time this would be an awkward arrangement, but in that moment, I didn’t feel close enough.
I would be the last one out of the plane. I watched as one by one everyone fell out and vanished into the vastness of the sky.
“You ready?” I heard in my ear. I shook my head, heart pounding in my chest. I stood up anyway, my body feeling foreign in the grips of fear, and crouched my way toward the opening. I looked out, standing on the edge of the plane, and my breath caught in my chest.
“Oh my gosh!” I yelled. And then I screamed.
I did it. I fell into the nothingness, falling faster and faster. Laughter erupted out of me. I put my arms out and watched the earth swirl beneath me. Each second that past filled me with something that I can not explain. I felt…wild.
The parachute was pulled and we drifted gently across the ocean and back. No longer was I the, “I’ll just watch” girl. I wasn’t the one sitting on the sideline wishing she was brave enough to try. And holy shit, it felt good.
I made a promise to myself once my feet safely touched the ground, alive with adrenaline that pumped through my body. I would never allow myself to simply watch life from the sideline again. I was going to experience it. I am going to be wild.
And that, my friends, is how I crossed off the first item of my 101 things to do in 1001 days.
To anyone standing on the sideline of their own life, I hope you jump. Whether you are literally about to jump out of a real plane or a metaphorical one, you’ll be glad you did. Hell, you might just fly.