Ever since I was young, I’ve been the adventurous type. I constantly seek new experiences and never let “no” get in the way. I’ve never had the mentality of letting life come to me; I’ve always chased it. I’d see something I wanted to try and go after it, whether it be acting in movies (I was in two), doing stand-up comedy or excelling in my career.
My career is what’s important to me—earning a sustainable living and not living paycheck to paycheck. I grew up in a lower-middle-class family, and some nights my parents could barely afford to feed us, let alone get all the nice things we wanted. But they tried, and they were good parents who always did their best, with their chins up. I was fortunate to always have a roof over my head and clean clothes on my back. But like I said earlier, I’m not one to settle for less. I set out in my career to be the best at what I did, to have a healthy bank account and not stress about paying bills or providing for those who depend on me. But that’s where I messed up.
I got so wrapped up in it that all I did was work non-stop, morning to night, 80-plus hours a week. I did not appreciate what I already had, and I didn’t take time for myself. Years went by, and I became severely depressed. I had no friends to hang out with, and on my days off I just sat in front of a television and binge watched movies, waiting for time to pass until I could go back to work the next day. Or some days, I just slept through the entire day. My life became empty. Hollow. That fire in me, my drive to be something better, slowly started to fade. And I started resenting my life, my work, those around me … everything.
At work one day, I was talking to a co-worker and the topic of skydiving came up. We laughed and talked about how fun it would be to try it. But it was just small talk, and though the conversation stuck in my head for weeks, I did nothing about it. I started to spiral downward in my depression. Lonely, sad, hating life and, yes, even suicidal. This just wasn’t me.
So, one Sunday—July 5, 2015—I decided to go to my local drop zone. My mood was bland, but I was determined to change something. Even if I did it only once, it would mean I did it. I watched Bill Booth’s video, and I started to get a little nervous. They paired me up with my tandem instructor (who is now a good friend of mine), and we got on the plane. In my mental state, I didn’t care if the plane went down with me in it. It was a very dark place that I’m somewhat ashamed of being in, looking back.
The ride to altitude was quiet. I just sat looking out the window. We got on jump run, the door opened and people started bailing out. That’s when reality started kicking in. “Holy s***, they just jumped out! Holy s***. I’m about to do the same!” We got up and waddled in tandem to the door. With my feet on the threshold, I was looking down and for a brief moment I thought about nope-ing the hell outta that. Then I heard my T.I. yell, “One!”
At that moment I said, “F** it, we’re doing this.”
“Two!” And out the door we went.
The silence under canopy entranced me. The views … spectacular. After we landed, I lingered at the DZ waiting for my certificate. People came up to me and started conversations. They were friendly, welcoming and chatty. I wasn’t even one of them yet, but they talked to me like I was. For the first time in a long time, I felt welcome. I felt … different.
The following week, I made another tandem. The week after that, I took ground school. A few months later, I got my A license. And now I have a C license and a USPA Coach rating, because I want to give others what I received from my experience. I feel … whole. Almost four years after that first jump, I’ve built close friendships with my peers and my mentors. I gained knowledge and trust in myself. And most importantly, I learned how valuable life really is. There is a lot of wisdom in this sport, about life and, unfortunately, about death itself. It’s taught me a great deal of respect for both.
Colton Wadley | C-45938
Pleasant Grove, Utah