While some see skydiving as an activity that leads to death, others have quite the opposite experience, where they find life. There are countless stories from individuals who found that skydiving saved them from themselves, offering both a community and a purpose. Andrew Goodfellow is one of those people, and he recently submitted this piece which details his venture into the sport.
I found skydiving on the run. Ten years of addiction, depression, self-loathing, countless failed relationships, a broken engagement, two suicide attempts (one near success), and the ever-present aching loss of a sibling, left me with a lot to run from. But for a long time, it felt as though I had no one and nothing to run to that could save me from myself.
Almost overnight, skydiving filled a void that nothing had ever come close to filling. At its best, it’s the most pure and vital experience I’ve ever known. Totally thrilling and deeply fulfilling. And at its worst…well I had already tried that route twice…so I figured at least this way I’d part with the world on better terms.
What I found in skydiving was more than I expected. Friends, community, support, inspiration, excitement, challenge, and pride.
The rewards were all around. But I also came to realize how many crucial life lessons were on offer at the DZ. Skydiving is a great teacher. Its lessons are vital. Its truths are fixed and inarguable. It is indiscriminate. It is generous and unforgiving – rewarding and punishing in near equal measure.
It teaches patience and perseverance. It fosters trust and forges self-reliance. It provides constant proof that learning is a perpetual process; perfection does not exist. All are fallible; none invincible. It necessitates calm under pressure. It demands you walk the fine line between confidence and recklessness. It requires you to train and focus and prepare. And then begs you to accept that which lies outside your control. Perhaps most importantly, it forces you to make hard decisions. It teaches you to recognize that crucial moment when the best course of action – the only choice that will save you – is to give up fighting, swallow your pride, and cutaway.
Many of life’s toughest moments feel like a really slow opening, a line-over, a two-out, toggle fire. Blistering uncertainty meets coursing fear, raw emotion and instinct. And above all, a defiant will to survive. Looking back, I’ve had a lifetime of low-speed, high-speed, and total mals. Situations I found myself in – whether of my own doing, or simple tricks of fate – that called for precise and efficient emergency procedures I either couldn’t muster or was yet to learn. Without knowing it, I’ve spent a long time sacrificing altitude for stability in one form or another.
My experiences in the sky have been exotic and intoxicating; yet not without great peace and tranquility. There is a magnetism about skydiving that consumes those it attracts. The primal, electric surges of dopamine and serotonin that flood your brain in freefall lay shame to any narcotic high I’ve ever known. This cannot be overstated. And the constant evaluations of risk and reward are, in themselves, a thrilling version of chicken that each of us plays against ourselves on every jump – at the intersection of the familiar and the unknown.
One quickly realizes, as did I with much dismay, that the phrase “mind over matter” could scarcely be applied as accurately to another pursuit. All the strength and speed in the world won’t help you swim your way back into that plane once you’ve left the door. And good luck muscling your way to stability or control. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. The sky will disabuse you of many formerly held convictions in a matter of seconds, as it calls to you with its Siren’s song. Welcome to your second adolescence. There is much to learn.