The more accurate description would be "I scooted out of a plane" but "jumping" sounds so much better!
My friend arranged for a group of five to go to Snohomish (north of Seattle) on a beautiful September day. It was my 35th birthday and sky diving had been on my bucket list since college. It was time!
We each met the tandem instructor we'd attach ourselves to. Mine reminded me an adorable friend from college (Jim Clark!) so that settled my nerves. For awhile. I started getting very scared when we got on the plane.
Before I could even ask if I could land with the plane instead of jump, I heard one of the other instructors say that nobody can stay in the plane because they don't have seats or seatbelts.
I paid for the extra time during the free fall (not worth it, couldn't tell) and started regretting that immediately. Why the FUCK am I trying to be in the air WITHOUT A PARACHUTE any longer than necessary?
I got really frightened as the plane leveled out. It was SO counter intuitive to push your body out of a plane. Same as when I learned to scuba dive. The brain just doesn't WANT to breathe under water. Every possible alarm bell starts going off "bad idea bad idea. ABORT ABORT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU JULIE NEGRIN!!?!?!?!?!?"
But of course, my friends are laughing and whooping it up. I tamp down my neurotic thoughts and pretend to be fine with it. I'm being filmed which I refuse to share with you because I was such a dork.
I'm the last one out of the plane. We scoot on our butts to the edge. WAIT, this can't be right, no, no NOOOOOO why am I voluntarily pushing myself INTO THIN AIR......
And I'm free falling.
I hated it.
Ha! You weren't expecting that, were you?
I felt sick the entire time, it felt like FUCKING FOREVER. The entire time I was thinking "please let my parachute open up. Please let my parachute open up." That's all I could think.
Thankfully, after about three hours, it opened up.
OMG such relief. I LOVED the parachuting part. It was a gorgeous day. I was relaxed.
I know I should be so PROUD of this. Many of you have commented on all the exciting things I've done in my life.
But the truth is that I've always wondered why I needed it.
Why I craved this kind of excitement.
A few years later, I was invited to Clif Bar as a select group of nutritionists. Which was awesome. Even though they didn't hire me to do anything afterward.
We got to meet these extreme athletes as part of the weekend event. There was this young woman who was a base jumper. I must have been around 40 years old by this point and starting to see extreme sports from a different perspective. I'd also had melanoma by now.
After flippantly mentioning how she watched friends die doing the sport, she explained that inside the little pouch around her neck, there was a small knife, pain medication, and a few other items in case she got stuck in a tree with broken bones.
Why are we so into extreme sports in America? I know there are athletes all over the world that do this. But there are definitely a lot of them here.
I'm not judging others for doing this. I'm more curious about the *why* behind it.
It's just SO hard for me to see the allure now. I cheat death all of the time. I don't need to actively PURSUE cheating death now.
I just finished reading a thread a few minutes ago from well-meaning but completely misinformed people discussing whether people on the Left should engage physically with people on the Right.
No, people. Just no.
Is our culture so sanitized and comfortable that we have to find ways to feel like the tiger is chasing us. Is it hard-wired into our DNA?
If so, why?
All I know is that I'm not the same person that jumped out of that plane eleven years ago.
When I put my life on the line last month - which I'm still processing and tripping out about, not ready to discuss yet - it was so incredibly different than any sort of athletic adventure I'd done before.
It wasn't about excitement, or adrenalin or being cool or whatever I thought it would be back then.
It was about protecting other people.
It was about something much bigger than me.
Bigger than even a Movement.
It's about setting aside my personal needs for whats best for my tribe. Sacrifice. For the greater good.
Jumping out of a plane was fun. I'm glad I did it.
But it just sounds a bit...frivolous now. And that's no judgment if YOU love to sky dive. I really don't care how you spend your recreational time.
I'm just saying for me, at this point in my life, I can't imagine spending time or money on this activity.
I've been living in Survival Mode for so long now - almost four years straight, no significant breaks - it's getting harder and harder for me to understand this able-bodied privilege.
This is not how I anticipated this post going! But I have to honor whatever truth comes out.
Extreme sports seems very, very privileged. Engaging in physicality during protests seems very, very privileged.
I'm actually relieved that I've arrived at this place. That I don't need that adrenalin rush anymore.
I guess the things I want to pursue now that involve people. Meeting people. Helping people. Loving people.
It's always been about people for me. But now. Now with this broken body, it's ONLY about people now. Stuff. Money. House. I never really cared about before but now? Not. At. All.
If I can't buy a new digestive system and adrenal glands, then nothing else I could buy/collect/have means anything to me.
That's the only thing I want in the whole wide world. For myself. There are lots of other things I want for other people.
But for me. I want that. And if I can't have that, then I want experiences. Lots and lots of experiences with other people! Traveling around the country would be an excellent place to start collecting more stories and hanging out with cool peeps.
THIS is what makes me feel alive now. THIS is what living is about for me now.
For my birthday this year, I just want to go on a road trip. That's it. I want to go on a road trip and not be stuck at home.
No planes necessary.
PHOTO #21. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth