There’s a moment that happens in skydiving where my mind calms and the only thing that exists for me is the present moment. I always have some nerves as I climb to altitude. The objects of my anxiety run the gamut from second-guessing gear checks and dive flows to unfounded fears of disappointing strangers.
But there’s a moment before I open the door at altitude when the plane changes pitch and a deep calm envelops me. There are moments on the ride up when, with the door open, I look out over the world below and simply appreciate its beauty. So too, there are visions that remain in my head for days after skydiving, like how somebody looks when I’m back-flying beneath them or that sight of the underside of a helicopter as I fall away from it.
These moments mean everything to me. They mean everything to me because I’ve experienced the opposite. I’ve been through deep depressions and gotten so caught up in warped realities that my body was in one place but my mind was off ruminating a million miles away. Having lamented in that place for so long, I value nothing more than those moments in the deep now. I have come to feel as though a good life is nothing more than stringing these moments together—like pearls on a necklace or steps in a dance.
There’s nothing more ridiculous and unnecessary than the effort and resources we put into this sport. Every fuel load and gear purchase reminds me of this fact. Yet when we live with exuberance we acknowledge that, yes, we will die one day, and since that’s true, we must do all we can to laugh and play and live our lives to the fullest.
Skydivers know more than anyone else that freedom is on the other side of fear. When we live this mantra, something magical happens. Our issues don’t just abruptly stop. (I’m not cured of depression thanks to this sport.) However, they shift into something new, where we can play with them and take them along on our lives’ journeys just like we play with our fears by using them for intense focus. We learn that all limits are self-imposed. We learn that there is no such thing as a situation entirely free of risk, so we best build temerity in the face of danger.
I remember my rock bottom. I abandoned myself to my depression. Now, some years later, I think about that when I’m flying my canopy and singing to myself, laughing at just how incredible a journey this has been. At times, I still feel like my life is a battle against that depressed version of myself. But these moments of beauty and strangeness and exuberance and laughter, they make it all worth it.
Conor Murphy | B-46253