23 years later

I woke up yesterday morning with a BRUTAL sore throat and felt sick to my stomach. Apparently I'm not quite over this bug yet. I groaned a bit and considered sleeping in longer, but then I remembered the reason my alarm went off so early: it was time to go SKYDIVING!

My best friend Kaitlynn and I joked a bit in the car about how I could potentially die in a few hours, but I was more distracted by the fear of arriving late to Skydive Oregon than the fear of an unsuccessful landing.

Upon arrival, I was given a clipboard with a small stack of papers upon which I promptly signed my life away. When they called my name for class, I hugged my friends and said goodbye, assuming I'd be gone for quite awhile, learning everything there is to know about jumping out of an airplane. A mere 10 minutes later I had completed "skydiving class" and was back outside waiting to get "suited up."

I was presented with a highly fashionable blue one piece suit and an even sexier cone-shaped padded helmet, which I soon learned was more for the instructor than for me (apparently there is a tendency to get your nose broken when strapped to the back of someone and jumping out of an airplaine... go figure). I stepped into a harness that transformed my "chicken walk" into a sophisticated waddle.

I was the first one to climb onto the tiny aircraft, which became even smaller as they packed more and more people in like sardines. At 5,000 my instructor began the complicated process of hooking us together. At 10,000 feet he finished this process, and there was no way either of us was going anywhere without the other. The view was absolutely gorgeous. I saw downtown Portland, Mt. St. Helens, three sisters, and miles and miles of lush green Oregon land.

I was in the process of praising God for His magnificent creation when I noticed my videographer climbing out of the airplane. That was my cue. "Natalie, are you ready to go skydiving?" "ABSOLUTELY YES!" I screamed. Butt down, feet out, cross your arms, smile at Ted (the camera man), and here.... we.... GO!!!!

Next thing I know, I am free-falling from 13,000 feet above the ground. My biggest fear (though it may seem ridiculous to some of you reading this now) was breathing, so it was the first thing I tested out before I REALLY let loose. Once I confirmed that I could, indeed, take in oxygen, I decided to let it all out with a rambunctious SCREAM of delight. You could not have wiped that grin of my face if you tried. I was LOVING it.

The wind roared past me as the patchwork Earth became clearer and clearer. I have no idea how he did it, because we were spinning around like crazy, but Ted stayed right with us capturing almost my entire free fall on film. Although it was technically only about a minute of my life, it felt like it lasted much much longer. When the time finally came to release our parachute, we had the lovely surprise of it not opening properly. It's okay guys, I was trained on how to deal with this situation... in my 10 minute class, remember?

Now you might think I panicked, but I actually loved that even more. As soon as my instructor told me to cross my arms in front of me, I knew exactly what was happening, and I laughed right along with him with the relief chute opened. He gave me full control of the handles as he loosened up our harness to "make us more comfortable" (ha) and I steered our canopy into a series of magnificent spins and swirls above the world.

When it finally came time to land, I sought out my beautiful friends on land and resisted the urge to wave to them (I was under strict instructions to keep my arms crossed and my legs sticking straight out). I did, however, let out a nice loud scream of approval as the ground zoomed in closer and closer. Once unhooked, I literally "jumped for joy" and grinned the whole way across the field.

Looking back now, I can't believe how completely calm I was about the entire experience. Never once did I panic. I never questioned myself or my safety. I was so sure of my decision.

Dad says it's 'cause I'm "right with God." I kind of think he's right.

Best birthday present I ever gave myself. :)


Vanessa's Dad said…
Marvelous blog. Thanks for the photo's and the narrative. You've increased the SkyDiving Business significantly.

God continues to Bless you.

Amanda said…
I agree! What an awesome birthday present!
Anonymous said…
This is incredible Natalie! MAN! What an amazing experience!
Kendra said…
That's great that you never panicked. Because I seriously RE-Panicked just now reading it!!! YOUR FIRST CUTE DIDN'T OPEN FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Skydiving rocks! I'm so proud of you. It's amazing - such a cool experience. I have my skydiving photo hanging in the hallway and have to agree w/ you BEST gift I ever gave myself.