So, last weekend was my birthday. No big deal. Really. In fact, I’m old enough now that it actually requires effort to remember the exact number of times I’ve circled the sun. This is no doubt due to the lack of any significant age milestones in between 25 and 40. Twenty-one was uneventful because I had little interest in drinking. No, the only birthdays I actually anticipated/dreaded were 17, whereupon my belief that being able to legally drive a car would somehow instantly and miraculously upgrade my “sexy” quotient was shattered (almost) beyond emotional repair– it was just the new cost of doing business. No car. No girl.
The other age was 25, which was a surprise. Up until this point I had unconsciously been operating under the all too cliché notion that I had “all the time in the world” to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Twenty-five blind-sided me with a rude awakening that brought that infantile, but wonderfully irresponsible, way of thinking to a morbid halt. I realized that a full 1/4th of my life was over (if I was fortunate) and that the time to realize whatever nebulous dreams I had was actually finite. Combine this fact with the somewhat inevitable inverse relationship with age and physical ability and my window for pursuing certain optimistic life-goals was actually smaller than a George R.R. Martin character negotiating with a Frey.
So while 25 definitely re-aligned my perspective in general, it didn’t change my perspective on birthdays. This perspective hovered mostly between “it’s just another day” to “cool I get to justify buying myself a cool gadget”. That is… until this last birthday.
G = 9.8 m/s/s
Skydiving has been on my “bucket list” for as long as I can remember making lists and putting them into… buckets. Ostensibly, most of my adult life. However, there have always been reasons to NOT go skydiving – money, it’s “dangerous”, friends to go with etc.. However, with this last birthday fast approaching, my usual apathetic approach to what is really just another day for most people turned into a powerful force of will to make it happen – and drag my two best friends along for the ride. These two friends had their OWN extremely reasonable excuses for not coming. While I gave them an “out”, I made it my mission for them to experience something new and be a part of realizing one my aspirations as a human being – seeing the world from 15K feet in the open air. The next step up will hopefully be at 20 times that height.
Skydiving is a personal experience that makes written description pale in comparison but I will share a few of the things I will never forget.
- I have never signed so many duplicate forms of my personal information for liability purposes in my life – (POSSIBLY with the exception of when I joined the military)
- The wait from check-in to actual free-fall was about 3 hours
- My very cool, but poor English speaking, Italian tandem instructor had possibly the worst BO imaginable. Since smell is the most powerful sense tied to memory, there is a chance I will never forget his particular brand of Stench – by Giorgio
- I never got afraid. Not on the ground. Not in the air. There was a palpable jump in heart rate and anticipation when the first person disappeared from the plane, but fear never struck me like I expected
- Initial free-fall is one of the most exhilarating things you will ever experience. It’s a roller coaster – cubed.
- My instructor let me pull the cord to our chute (which I was told rarely happens). This involved groping behind me and finding the hard golf ball sized handle attached to the release mechanism next to Giorgio’s leg. Despite the inherent homoerotic images this immediately presents, having been the direct cause of halting my inglorious plummet to the planet below was an incredibly satisfying thing.
- Floating at 10K above Monterey Bay is one of the most peaceful/beautiful things I have ever seen/experienced
- Having my instructor make quick adjustments for landing was also one of the more nauseous things I’ve ever experienced – his English apparently didn’t extend to understanding the words “I’m feeling a little sick” during our rapidly adjusting decent. It’s ok, Giorgio, I don’t hold it against you – much
- My kids’ excitement at having witnessed their dad literally fall from the sky was a joy to watch and be the source of
- Having my friends share the experience with me, despite their initial misgivings, is also something that made the day one to remember
In closing, I don’t just want to impart how truly awesome the experience of skydiving is – which I do. It is well worth the paperwork, horrible BO and nausea you might experience… and even the 3rd degree sunburn (if you’re as white as I am). But I’d like to make a larger point.
The flaw in my perspective on birthdays was not in thinking they were just another day – they are. The flaw was that my birthday doesn’t HAVE to be just another day. Birthdays and other occasions aren’t just obligations or commercialism at its worst – they are these things of course More importantly, they are a useful opportunity to make a day memorable – FYMP worthy if you’ll tolerate the conceit. But how you approach these days is up to you. Wouldn’t you rather they be awesome?
Now, I still don’t think I’m going to remember/care much about the number that is tied to my actual birthday in the future (it’s going to be 34 or 35 or something). What I do know is that that day, among many others, is going to be FYMPing awesome!