Monday, July 26, 2010

The Adventures of Life

Life is full of great adventures. Although I’ve never climbed Mount Everest, or sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, I’d like to think that I’ve had a few adventures in my lifetime. It seems that often times, one doesn’t realize they’re having an adventure, during the adventure itself. It’s not until afterward during the debrief, the talk around the campfire, the drive back home, or just the replay in your mind, that you realize what an adventure you just had...and often times, how close you were to death. When I think back to my adventures, having the time of my life, usually meant threatening my life itself.

One life-threatening experience that comes to mind was back in my college days. College life is bound to generate adventure. As a matter of fact, I’d say if you didn’t have any adventures in college, you probably didn’t do it right. But this experience wasn’t because I was in college, it just happened to occur in that timeframe. I had landed my first real flying job, and (so far) the only flying job where I would routinely take off with more passengers than I would land with. I was a “jump pilot,” hauling skydivers to 10,000 feet, kicking them out, and returning to earth for the next group. Like most first flying jobs, it didn’t pay anything, except for maybe an occasional sandwich and soda when a skydiver felt pity for me. The only perk of the job to speak of was the opportunity to skydive for free. I didn’t “jump” on the opportunity right away, but during my second season I decided to make a tandem skydive. Not long afterwards, I took the static-line course, and by the end of the summer, I was making group jumps with the other regulars. During one particular jump, five of us were jumping with a sky-ball. A sky-ball is nothing more than a tennis ball filled with lead weight that would fall at the same speed as a human body in a belly down formation. We would form a circle (during free-fall) and toss the sky-ball from one to another. Around 3,000 feet, one of us would tuck the sky-ball into our jumpsuit, we’d all track away from each other, and open our parachutes. Funny that the life-threatening part of the story has nothing to do with plummeting towards earth at 120 mph, it came afterward, when my parachute was open. I threw out the pilot-chute (which pulls out the main chute), once it was open I looked up to make sure my canopy had inflated and the lines weren’t tangled. As soon as I got turned toward the airport, another skydiver floated underneath me. As he passed me, the top of his canopy snagged on my foot. Often times when two skydivers run into each other under canopy, they become entangled in each others lines, and if one is able to get his or her reserve chute out, they may limp away with broken bones. More likely is it, however, that the reserve parachute may get tangled up with the rest of the mess, and they “go in.” (Two words that are forbidden at a drop zone, “go in” refers to a skydiver going in to the weeds at full speed, the outcome not being very desirable). Fortunately, when my foot snagged the other skydivers canopy, it somehow came out right away. The whole event took place in less than a second, and being a relatively new skydiver, I didn’t know the danger I actually was in, until I mentioned it to someone on the ground. That split second brush with death, is forever embedded in my mind as one of my great adventures.

They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you are near death. I never doubted that, but had never experienced it until one day while flying in a small airplane with a friend of mine. I won’t go into details, but it’s true, when my body perceived imminent death, I started seeing pictures in my mind of my dog Spunky and my family sitting around the Christmas tree opening presents. Honestly, if my parents knew all the times I’ve been near death, whether it be on a motorcycle, in an airplane, or falling out of an airplane, they’d probably be near death themselves.

But this piece isn’t about death, it’s about living, it’s about embracing the adventures that life brings you. You won’t always know what your next adventure will be or where life will take you. However, I have a sneaking suspicion one of my greatest adventures is about to begin...and that’s the adventure of life. More precisely, the creation of a new life. Erin and I are expecting a new addition to our family in February, 2011, and I have a feeling, the adventures have just begun.