(Ellen Huish took that picture cause she's a rock star.)
I don't know why, but I get this thrill from standing on the edge of a cliff, building, or bridge. It's like, I'd love to leap off of it if I knew that wouldn't lead to my untimely death.
So most my life, I've just pushed my limits and have gotten as close to the edge as I could without risking my life.
Now because of this weird obsession of mine, I have always wanted to go skydiving. Jumping safely from an insanely high height? Dream come true!
So after months (seriously, months) of searching for a friend to come with me, I was more than thrilled when a friend asked ME if I wanted to do it. Instantly I agreed, and we set up a time to go.
After both of us almost backed out without telling the other, we found ourselves driving down to Nephi, UT (AKA: The middle of nowhere) for our skydiving adventure.
The whole drive down, I found myself feeling the exact same way as I felt on my way to the Missionary Training Center; thrilled, excited, and absolutely terrified while wondering what the heck I was doing and why I even chose to do it in the first place.
. . . . how on earth is it that the feelings surrounding an LDS mission are comparable to jumping out of a blasted airplane?
So, my friend and I made reservations with a company in central Utah to go skydiving.
First of all, I knew there had probably been fatalities in skydiving, but I had never heard of that happening . . . until I signed up to go skydiving.
I had this EXACT conversation FOUR times with FOUR different people:
"You're going skydiving?"
"Yeah! I'm super pumped!"
"I know (insert someone here of some relation or a person of a person) who went skydiving and their parachute didn't come out!"
"Did they die?"
"....their parachute had to have come out then, because you don't just fall from that distance with no parachute and live."
Let this be a lesson to your all: when your friend is doing something, don't tell them the life threatening situations you've heard of. (You're pregnant? My cousin died from giving birth! You're going to Africa? My friend died there!)
You get the point.
Anywho. Where were we?
Oh yes. Central Utah.
For all my friends not familiar with the geography of Utah, allow me to give you a brief introduction:
This, is Salt Lake City, which is the northern part of Utah:
Oooh, yay, buildings, city, trees, mountains, yay!!
The more north you go, it's more of that plus more snow and residential areas. But that doesn't matter.
Here's southern Utah, which is most popular amongst the adventurous:
Ooh, red rocks, mountains, national parks, pretty things, yaaayyy!
And then, here's central Utah:
Nothing. Well, I mean there's sagebrush. And dirt. And hills. So, yeah. Basically nothing.
So, we drove through a whole lot of THIS, to get to our skydiving location. As we got closer to the destination, there was nothing but fields were in sight. Just as I pulled out my phone to double check the address, my friend stopped in front of what looked like an oversized garage.
"Is this it?" I asked, and looked over to see a big, red sign hanging from the "garage" saying: Skydive the Wasatch.
I looked at it and said, ". . .This is so ghetto. We're going to die. We . . . are going . . . to die."
Note: from this point on, the pictures gradually get more and more embarrassing.
We parked in a dirt parking lot and got out of a car, where an adorable dog greeted us and showed us the entrance to the "garage." The walk from the car to inside I got a horrendous vision of getting a parachute duck tapped to my waste and being thrown from the airplane and promptly dying.
I didn't even get to tell my parents I was doing this! That's gonna be a terrible phone call for them!
Relief filled me an an audible "oh" came out of my mouth as I walked in to see a nicely set up area with snacks, a fridge, some old couches, a bucket labeled "puke bucket: put anything you puked on here," an office area, shirts, set up area for jumpers, various balls that the friendly little dog was playing with, and a platform to watch skydivers. Nervousness left me . . . but only for a brief moment. It returned when I found myself almost literally signing my life away, as I had to initial lines that said things like "Incase of injury or DEATH I understand I cannot sue the company."
And each time, DEATH was capitalized.
As I signed my life away, a large family came to skydive, including a grandpa who had to be around 70.
"Don't worry everyone," he yelled at the large family. "I brought the DEPENDS!"
He lifted up a large bag of adult diapers while cracking up, and the family joined in the laughter, including my friend and I.
The family roamed around looking around the room, while grandpa sat down next to me with his depends, signing the same papers I was.
"Whoo. Look at that airplane," said one of the daughters of the grandpa. "I think I'll want to jump out of that when the time comes."
I snickered to myself and continued to sign the document, that had rid myself of all good feelings and replaced them with "oh yeah, I'm going to die, and it's not going to be anyone's fault but my own!"
Thanks to said family of ten cutting in front of me and my friend in line, we got delayed 2 hours. Yes, my friends. Two hours in tiny Nephi. Thankfully, we got Wendy's to kill some time. You're probably wondering what this family looked like. Some looked like this:
Wait, Carmen, how did you get that?
I purchased pictures to go with my skydive. I got all my pictures . . . plus theirs on accident. I'm not complaining.
I like to consider this "sweet revenge" even though this is technically the end of my "revenge."
I wish I had pictures of Grandpa jumping. Seriously, that guy was my FAVORITE. Loved him.
Two hours later, my friend and I were introduced to our instructors. I was no longer nervous to jump - I was eager, and almost impatient. Two hours was way too long to wait for a skydive (thankfully we got free T shirts because of our wait). Now the thing I was worrying about most was being strapped up to a stranger and having to make conversation with them as we plummeted towards the ground.
My instructor was a nice little fellow who asked the casual get-to-know-you questions as he strapped me into my gear. He was also probably about 3 inches shorter than me.
Boy did I look hot.
I should make this a fashion trend.
Knowing my instructor and I would get to know each other a little too well this hour, I glanced at his left hand and was relieved to see he had a wedding ring. I don't know WHY exactly, but that made him way less creepy in my eyes.
"Okay guys. Who's going first?"
I raised my hand, and they told my friend and her instructor would get into the airplane first, followed by my instructor, and me last.
"Let's head to the plane."
I literally had no idea how to walk in this weird . . . rope thing that seemed to be imitating some sort of bad swimsuit. Not to mention it was gripping my crotch area so tightly I now have a bruise there.
The four of us climbed into this small, propeller airplane. It only had one seat, which was for the pilot. The door slid up as opposed to out, and the inside looked exactly like the inside of a tin can, only with a cushioned floor.
I took my seat in front of my instructor, and he closed the door to the side of us. Minutes later, we took off.
Have you ever walked past a construction sight where there's a jack hammer going off and you can't hear a thing? Or have you ever been in a sketchy hostel with a fridge that sounds just like a jack hammer whenever you open it up, so you avoid opening it and let your food rot in there instead?
Well that's exactly how loud this plane was. I couldn't hear a thing, so my friend and I communicated mostly through raised eyebrows, head nods, and mouthing words.
I watched as we went higher and higher into the sky, and the scenery got more and more beautiful. We were so close to the mountains! I could see the top of them, and saw that they were covered in trees and slightly red dirt!
And then, the wind grew stronger. The plane started to move up and down and side to side. And I registered I was sitting backwards.
I began to feel light headed and dizzy. My stomach was churning. Curse you, Wendy's fries.
It was bearable right now. Maybe I could make myself feel better.
I tried closing my eyes, but that just made things worse. So, I looked out the window and tried to distract myself with the beautiful scenery.
The puke bucket I saw earlier started to make a lot more sense now. Scenery is a lot less pretty when it seems to be shaking.
Minutes dragged by, and I found myself looking out the window thinking, "Are we high enough yet? How about now?"
And it wasn't because of anticipation. Oh, no. It was because I wanted my stomach to go back where it belonged and stop showing up in my throat.
I looked around the airplane, not sure if it was good to look out the window anyway. I stared at the door and saw a screw rattling.
Oh, I'm sure that's safe.
I turned my head back to the window, and saw two other screws rattling.
You've got to be kidding me. Am I in danger here?
I could feel myself heating up. Yes, the plane was hot, but this was the kind of heat that I only experienced in times of severe motion sickness - it's like I'm heating up from the inside out.
Guys, I can't even begin to describe to you how awful I felt in this moment. I was shaking, sweating, and my stomach felt like it was turning into slime and sliding back up my throat. I felt terrible. I began to pray that I would NOT puke, and that I would feel better.
I focused on my feet, my mouth draping open like a dogs would.
"Alright, it's time to get buckled up. Sit on my lap," said my instructor.
I think this was the first time I have ever complied to a male demanding that. The other time was Santa Clause.
I scooted back and sat on his lap as he began to strap us together.
Dude, I'm sitting on your goodies. This canNOT be comfortable for you. I thought, but let's be real here. If this was the best way to insure my safety and get me off of Satan's plane, I didn't care . . . that much.
He finished, and I scooted off his lap so that we were now spooning while sitting up.
"Alright, here's what's going to happen," he said into my ear as I focused on not puking. "I'm going to open that door and put my foot on the step. You're going to put both feet on the step, and I'm going to push us off. We're going to do a black flip off the plane, so make sure your legs bend pack into your butt, and your head goes back, okay?"
"Got it," I said as I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and PRAYED to God that I wouldn't throw up.
"If you keep your eyes open during the back flip, you can see the plane. It's my favorite part. Are you ready to skydive?" he asked.
"Yes!" I said, and I was. I was ready to finally jump from an insanely high height and not have to worry about dying, and I was PUMPED to get off the plane. I was relating so much to the woman I heard earlier - I was ready to jump out of this plane just because of how I felt, and how sketchy it was.
Funny thing about motion sickness, though, jumping off an airplane doesn't help it go away.
My instructor opened the door, and wind rushed into my ears. He maneuvered and put his left foot out onto the step, and I followed with my two feet.
Before I could even register what was going on, we had launched off the step and into nothingness.
(I told you - the pictures get less and less flattering as the post goes on.)
I kept my eyes open for the back flip (which, honestly, it didn't feel like we were flipping at all. It just felt like . . . I don't even know. Nothing.) and saw the silhouette of the plane. The guy was right - it was pretty cool.
And then, we were flying. Well, technically falling.
I wish I could describe to you how it felt but, in the words of my dear friend Princess Jasmine, it was truly an indescribable feeling.
He tapped my hands, which he told me he would do when he needed me to let go of the straps on my harness. I did so, and he stretched my arms out like a bird.
I could hear him cheering as we fell. I opened my mouth and did what I THOUGHT was cheering, but the wind was rushing SO quickly in my face I couldn't hear, and really whenever I opened my mouth so much air POURED into me that I forgot how to exhale momentarily.
Again. Weirdest sensation ever. It did not feel AT ALL like I was falling. I was just . . . I don't know. Flying? Floating? Not plummeting towards the beautiful mountains and fields below me to my death.
Then, my entire body JERKED up.
He had released the parachute.
And my entire stomach churned once again.
I was happy. I was thrilled. I was skydiving. And my entire body was shaking and sweating - and not from nerves or excitement. This was pure motion sickness. As a pair of elders on my mission, passengers on an insanely bumpy airplane ride, and friends with me on a car ride on a winding road through a forest can tell you: when my motion sickness gets severe, I puke. And this? This was the exact same feeling I always experience right before I puke my guts out.
I found myself praying, and praying, and praying, almost YELLING to God, "NO. I WILL NOT THROW UP ON MY FIRST TIME SKYDIVING!"
I'm pretty sure he sent a little guardian angel to pat me on the head and say, "There, there, Carmen. You'll be just fine."
"Great! And a little motion sick!"
'A little' was certainly an understatement. Maybe I thought I could trick my body into feeling better if I pretended it wasn't there. And lying to the instructor would TOTALLY help my stomach feel completely better.
He began to give me clear instructions for when we landed. I listened intently while I stared at the mountains, the fields that made the ground look like a giant, green quilt, your grandmother would give you for your birthday, and most importantly — I focused on not throwing up.
My body began to dry heave heavily.
NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. I WILL NOT THROW UP ON MY FIRST TIME SKYDIVING. I. WILL. NOT.
"How are you feeling?"
"Okay. Just sick."
"Let me know if you start feeling worse," he said.
"I will," I said.
Psh. I wouldn't. If I admitted defeat, my body threw up. If I kept psychologically convincing myself I was okay? I would be okay.
Funny. It didn't seem to work.
My instructor pointed out some locations, including a train that was buzzing by. I looked at them, tried to comment on how pretty everything was from up here . . . but I was so focused on not puking.
"Are you okay?" he asked as I started to dry heave for the umpteenth time.
All I could do was pathetically shake my head no. I feared vomit may come out of my mouth if I dared open it. I could feel it creeping up my throat and I willed it to go away.
"If you're going to throw up, raise your arm up and do it under your right shoulder, okay?"
I nodded, and followed his instructions. I leaned to my right and turned my head, and he leaned WAAAAYYYY over in the opposite direction.
I felt bile come up into my mouth, and once again I refused to open my mouth. Not today, not today.
There was throw up in my mouth. I thought about spitting it out, but I feared more would follow if I did.
So. I swallowed it.
Like a weird sicko.
"We're almost down," said my instructor, to which I didn't respond.
I made sure the last few moments in the air were worth it, even if my legs were shaking in their little harness and begging for ground to rest on.
"Okay, here's the landing. Do you remember what to do?"
"Legs out together and straight," I said.
"Good. Now, it gets pretty fast when we land. Keep your legs out."
This is how I felt about speeding up, when I was already struggling to keep my stomach down and under control:
We couldn't speed up again! I would throw up! I didn't want to throw up! And I certainly figured the instructor didn't want to be puked on either!
The ground came faster and faster, and the bile returned to my mouth. This time, I just held it in there. My whole brain had shut down and just was willing my body to reach land.
Ground . . . ground . . . ground . . . GROUND.
My feet slammed into the ground. Now, I'd see one person before me land on his feet and run it off. And I was NOT about to be a part of that life. My heels hit the ground, dug into the dirt, and my little booty and legs slid on the ground to a stop.
My instructor began unbuckling himself away from me and began to collect the parachute. I sat there for a few moments, taking in deep breaths as my body seemed to yell at my brain: HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! WHY WOULD YOU BETRAY ME IN SUCH A WAY?! YOU PROMISED TO KEEP ME SAFE AND NOW YOU PUT ME ON A TERRIBLE AIRPLANE TO MAKE ME THROW UP?!
I swallowed the throw up again.
A little farther ahead, I saw my friend land. I stared at her, wondering if she could tell how terrible I felt.
I pushed myself up, legs still violently shaking and my body ridiculously hot from the inside out. I began fumbling with the buckles around me. I had to get out and be free. My whole body was SO weak and SO shaky, it was hard to click down on the little buckle around my chest.
"Smile!" said my instructor, sticking the GoPro in front of my face again.
And so I did.
He helped me unbuckle and told me to put the harness inside. I nodded and said, "Wait- where do I go? Where are we?"
He pointed at the garage, which was on my left and said, "There."
And I hobbled over, staring at the ground. As I lumbered into the garage I was asked a dozen times, "HOW WAS IT?"
"Great." I said. I meant it, and I'm sure how I said it wasn't convincing in the slightest.
The adventure dies down from here. I thanked my instructor and told him he did a great job, and was glad I didn't puke on him.
"I'm glad you didn't puke on me, too." he said.
I think that's the most romantic exchange I've ever had with a man.
"Has anyone ever thrown up on you?" asked my friend.
"Oh yeah. It's not . . . fun."
We grabbed our pictures, certificates saying we skydived, free T shirts, and loaded back into the car. My friend felt light headed from forgetting how to breath due to the increase wind in her face, I felt pretty sea sick the whole drive home, and we were both just wiped out.
"Did you like it?" one would ask.
"Yup. You?" the other would reply.
Three second silence.
"I'm glad we did it." one would say.
"Yup. Me too." agreed the other.
"And now we know."
"Yup. And now we know."
I spent the rest of the day watching 30 Rock and doing random things around the house, and slowly my body began to recuperate and trust my brain again.
Would I do it again? Yes.
Would I do it tomorrow?
My goal is to do it one more time, preferably in an exotic location (Hawaii, Africa, Jamaica, etc.) and HOPEFULLY not sitting backwards on a plane that can't handle wind.
Would I recommend it to you? Yes. I felt completely safe the entire time during the jump. In fact, the time I felt the lease safe was signing the document that had DEATH written all over it.
And besides, my life goal is everything is either a good experience, or a good story. And this? This is was a good experience WITH a good story.
So yup. No regrets.
Have a very happy day, and embrace the awkwardness that may befall on you.