How Skydiving Changed My Life
by Deb Wright-Risley
I am by no means a skydiver, but skydiving did truly change my life! After I had a heart-crushing breakup, my friend Jenn told me how she once went skydiving to feel alive again after hitting rock bottom. Completely devastated, I agreed, and we made tandem appointments at Freefall Adventures (now called Skydive Cross Keys) in New Jersey. Little did I know that fate had plans for me.
On February 28, 2015, we went off to our destiny in the sky. It was beyond freezing, but we didn’t care. We were pumped up and ready to go. As I sat down with my instructor on the plane, this dude came up and tapped the inside of my thigh. I looked at him, confused, and he said, “Spread ’em.” I instantly replied, “Dude, if you’re going to get between my legs, you better take me to dinner first!” Like a typical, adorable bad boy, he gave me an unforgettable smirk and sat down. Minutes later, I was out of the plane.
After our jumps, Jenn and I felt as high as kites, full of adrenaline. As we chatted away with everybody at the drop zone, the guy who wanted me to “spread ’em” approached Steph, the instructor I was talking with, and jokingly asked her, “Can I pick up the tandems yet?” This was Matt, who had 30-some jumps under his belt and an A license. He received her nod of approval. The evening then took a whole different avenue. Matt and I talked the night away on the couch in the hangar. The next thing I knew, it was morning.
Later that day, I received a text from Matt asking if I wanted to “continue this.” Like with skydiving, we jumped in with both feet and didn’t look back. Nine months later we moved in together. While I was adjusting to a new home and blending my family with his, Matt was making more jumps and working on becoming a better skydiver. At times, I found myself jealous, almost competing with skydiving for his attention. But eventually, I began to see what Matt saw: the bond skydivers have, the camaraderie, the loyalty to one another. It’s a family of misfits who’ve found a home where they belong and feel accepted. Up there, they are all one, free from the rest of the world’s problems, judgments and pain. Once that light bulb went on in my head, skydiving and the people at Cross Keys became my life, too. Matt travels for work and gets to jump at various drop zones, so nine months before his 40th birthday, I bought him a U.S. map to stick pins in so he could track where he’d jumped. He set a goal to jump at 40 drop zones before he turned 40. He met that goal on his birthday at GoJump Oceanside in California, and I made a tandem and accompanied him in freefall. I was proud of the hard work that he had put into achieving this, but he maintains that it was a team effort: Someone needed to hold down the fort while he was throwing himself out of planes!
In the three years we have been together, Matt has received his USPA Coach rating, racked up hundreds of jumps, learned how to wingsuit, put more pins in the map, flew an American flag into an airshow and accompanied my daughter, Kay, on her first jump for her 21st birthday. Let me tell you, watching my baby and my fiancé leap from a plane was more terrifying than doing so myself! They had a blast, bonding on an unexplainable level.
The crazy thing is that I knew she was in great hands with him and our Cross Keys family. I know I must seem insane to talk to skydivers about how skydiving has changed my life, but it really has. It is a part of our life, a big part! The people, the thrills, the events, the experiences … it’s all a part of me. Our friends are not just friends, they are family. Drop zone locations now figure into our vacation planning. Events are no longer something we attend, they are things we volunteer for and become a part of. If I had never gone skydiving, I would not have the adventurous life I do now, I would not have a stepdaughter whom I adore or a crazy stepdad for my girls to love. Most of all, if I hadn’t had the courage to go skydiving, I would have never met the man I can now proudly call my husband.
Skydiving didn’t just change my life, it created it!