35 seconds. That’s how long you are in free fall after jumping out of a plane, or at least that’s what they told me. It feels like a lot longer, a mix of adrenaline, fear, and excitement, overloading your senses and distorting all sense of time. And when the parachute opens and you can really take in where you are and how beautiful the scenery is, you are humbled by how monstrous the world is compared to our tiny being. On the way, and afterwards, I had this song in my head.
It seems like an obvious leap that I would choose this song around this experience. One of the quintessential Tom Petty songs, Free Fallin’ is a song that everyone knows and enjoys. The lyrics describe a girl from the suburbs and them falling in love, and riding the roller coaster that is love. There are highs and lows, and all of it is new and exciting. I think we can all relate to that. Tom Petty was always one of my favorites. His gift was taking a simple 3 chord progression, then writing a fantastic song that is catchy, a song one can sing at will and a story that related to them. He had humble beginnings, and always seemed to be down to earth. He was able to relay that into his lyrics, which seemed universal to all of our experiences in life. I was really sad when he died; I think his heart finally gave out from the lifestyle of booze and drugs. He had his problems, but always seemed to bring a great energy in concert. His shows were great, one big sing-a-long where the crowd’s energy would be palpable, rising to a crescendo, giving you chills. Free Fallin’, Breakdown, American Girl, and others. He will be missed.
Speaking of rising crescendos, lets get back to my Free Fallin’. I’ll take you back 10 minutes before I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. We were standing in the parking lot, and I had my harness on, already anxious and filled with anticipation. Then I see the plane! It looks like it can barely hold 4 people, and was so light I was amazed. My nervous excitement was further building, even more than it had been the entire morning. We take off on a gravel runway, and slowly build up to 10,000 feet where we jumped. I had no concept of how high we were, it was all very overwhelming. I could feel my excitement and fear building to a boiling point. But there was a positive; I felt very secure in my harness, and was attached to my tandem jumper with 3 super solid clips that locked in. Everything was reminiscent of climbing gear, and so that made me feel more comfortable.
But then, just as I’m starting to feel comfortable, he shouts “1 minute” and they opened the door to the plane!!! Holy shit was my first reaction……a blast of cold air and then I could really see the ground below, A LONG WAY DOWN!!!! I tried to control my breathing, but it was nearly impossible. So I put my feet on the ledge as instructed and looked down. Everything was so small, and I had a moment of hesitation. The tandem jumper, doing this all day every day, wisely gave me a nudge forward rather than let me stew upon my current position. And we were off……Free Fallin’! The blast of wind was exhilarating, and we settled into nice body position quickly, and I was able to really take it in and enjoy. I screamed in delight the entire free fall. When he finally pulled the chord for the parachute, I was surprised that it was not more jarring; it didn’t even hurt! I had imagined it jerking me and causing issues with my port, but I was able to position the shoulder straps laterally so they were not directly over the hub. The slow descent afterwards was relaxing and breaktaking, taking in the landscape and the mountains in the distance. I was able to “drive” the parachute, taking little turns and helping us down to the landing spot. Nice and smooth. For the next hour or so, I felt the adrenaline pumping through me like I was hooked up to a generator, my hands and feet slightly tingly. It was an experience to remember, and an item checked off my bucket list!
Happy 4th of July everyone! Happy to be alive and healthy, and living life 🙂