I learned a lot about myself from skydiving. Perhaps, my most important lesson was learning to say no and doing what was best for myself.
Daryl was a model, a writer, Canada’s champion skydiver and the first great love of my life. I’d go up to the drop zone on weekends and watch him jump. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder, what’s it like to look down, rather than up?
I decided to sign up for skydiving courses, which took several weeks, and finally I was ready for my first jump. Daryl was the jumpmaster on my first jump. When it was time to get out, he leaned forward, kissed my cheek and said, “The sky is yours.”
A few years and 53 jumps later, I trekked out to a major jump centre in Orange, Massachusetts, with five other members of The Parachute Club of Toronto. I hadn’t slept much during the drive and I was getting a cold. By the time I boarded the plane the next day I wasn’t feeling so great. Unlike the other, more experienced skydivers who were going up to an altitude of 10,000 feet to jump, I was supposed to exit the plane at only 2,500 feet. As the plane lifted off from the ground, I realized—I didn’t want to jump. You have to jump, I thought. You’re going to look like an idiot! The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. Jump Dini, I thought to myself. You HAVE to jump; you’re already on the plane!
Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have to jump. It was okay. I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. So I leaned forward and tapped the jumpmaster on the shoulder. He was looking out the door, finding on my exit point. He turned around and I said, “I’m not jumping.” He gave me the high five sign and stuck his head back out the door.
I sat back and began arguing with myself again about weather or not I should jump out. When the plane reached my exit point, the jumpmaster turned around, grabbed my harness and tried to toss me out of the airplane. There was no way anyone throws me out of a plane! I shouted, “No! I’m not jumping!” and stuck my leg out and refused to budge. He released me and proceeded to help the other skydivers prepare for their jump at 10,000 feet. Despite my resolution not to jump, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as we climbed. When we reached 10,000 feet, the other skydivers leapt out of the plane but the jumpmaster couldn’t exit with them as I had refused the jump, he was forced to ride down with me. Needless to say, the looks he shot me weren’t very friendly. To make matters even worse, the plane suddenly made a steep dive and the g-force caused my arm to freeze before I could find a Kleenex. Apparently, snot is not subject to g-force and I felt it make its way down over my lip, my chin and dangle there. I was now a snotty coward, literally. The jumpmaster just laughed and laughed.
Eventually, the plane landed. Embarrassed, I crawled away from the team and hid in a corner of a hanger. Most of the jumpers who had gone up with me, found me. They smiled kindly and did their best to encourage me: “If you don’t feel like jumping, don’t. Hope you try it again.” I did.
In all I made 55 jumps, the highest was from 5,500 feet which allowed for a 20 second delay before I pulled the ripcord. Committed skydivers or “real” skydivers make hundreds or thousands of jumps. I never got comfortable as a skydiver. Every time I went up, I repeatedly checked my legs straps and worried they weren’t done up correctly. I feared that I’d slide out of my harness when the chute opened. For some reason, skydiving was always a little nerve-racking for me so I gave the sport up. Having said that, skydiving taught me you can say no to things you’re not ready for or don’t enjoy—even if the sky is yours.
When Daryl comes to Toronto, I still head out to the drop zone and watch. However, I have no desire to jump again. Skydiving wasn’t my thing and that’s okay. Learning it’s okay to say no is a huge life lesson—as is taking care of your health with food, exercise, rest and the best supplements out there.