Last week, October 11, 2022, I did one of the craziest, the most insane and perhaps the undoable thing in my life. It was something that I had in mind for a long time but had neither courage nor time to do it. I still cannot believe I did it. Looking back, it feels like a gap between reality and a memory. Difficult to explain… Imagine a nightmare you breathlessly wake up from, hardly able to distinguish whether it’s real! For sure, mine was not a dream! It was real… What was real indeed, were the shifts in emotions, attitudes, and perceptions towards life, rather than the act itself! Just like a breakthrough, it opened a doorway to stretch my limits, reexplore myself and experience a new sense of freedom.
You must be saying “Come on…. what is it! What have you done?” The truth, even while typing these lines my heart is pounding loudly. What I did really feels abnormal! So… what I did is… I went up to the blue sky -the sky at which any normal person with their feet on the ground would look up; climbed to 4200 meters high and jumped down! That’s what I did; I skydived from 4200 meters! The crucial part is how I did it, with whom, which tools and with which courage… that is a story of its own! I’ll try to explain…Why? Definitely not to show off! The contrary, to share how I felt and what I added to my life as experience. While putting these into words, I come to realize even more… At this very moment (October 16th, 2022; Sunday 12:47), while typing, I still vividly feel and live those moments… And, what impacted me most was not the jump itself; but all that went in my mind and heart, up until I let myself down that plane… Plus the self-reflections I had later…
So… It all happened on a Tuesday morning (October 11th) at a town called Empuriabrava (https://www.skydiveempuriabrava.com/), 1,5 hours’ drive from Barcelona. My husband, daughter and I arrived there, anxious, and unsure about what’s expecting us. After registration we met our instructors with whom each would tandem jump. We put on the equipment, got briefed and headed to the plane. Taking the engine’s hot air onto our faces, we got on board a tiny tube-like propeller plane. We left all our personal stuff at the office. Being always on top of things -in case of emergency- I gave my mom’s number and told the location of our house key to a friend, who randomly had called to ask where we were going that morning… (Reflecting back, I realize the magnitude of the responsibility I put on her shoulders!) Although having made my mind up for the dive, I also texted my ear doctor to ask if there would be any risk from pressure change due to high altitude. By the time the response came, I was on my way up in the sky…
Buckled-up, seated side-by-side, facing one another, in that narrow space, all 15 of us were heading upwards into the sky. Opposite me was my instructor Xavier, my husband on his left and the cameraman to record my jump (out of anxiety, my mind seems to have missed processing and recording his name) on his right; at two of my sides were my husband’s instructor and cameraman… Since we were last to jump, we were by the cockpit. We could see all the flight control panels. Nevertheless, I barely saw anything; my eyes were looking; but the mind simply wasn’t processing; all I knew my heart was about to pop out! My daughter, that was to jump first, was sitting at the other end of the plane, by the exit. I could hardly see her face across the 8-10 heads between us. She too was excited! Hers was a different kind; mixed with courage and youthfulness…
On our way up, we were chatting about this and that… Everything was getting smaller and smaller, out of the tiny window behind me. I could see lands, clouds, just like the scenery I am accustomed to see from a Turkish Airline flight. But neither I nor my gazing eyes and feeling heart were the same. The instructor next to me showed the altimeter and said, “we are at 1500 meters, we’re heading up to 4200 meters, we still have more to go.” In half shock I asked myself “Gooosh… what the heck am I doing here… what the hell are we doing?” and turned back to him and said, “just remind me not to do this again!” That, in fact, was a message I was telling myself! Later my husband said that my face was as white as a wall!
In between all these, suddenly, I gave a pause! I decided to clear myself from these fuzzy emotions and thoughts; by inhaling, taking deep breaths… by letting myself notice the reason me being there… by searching inside myself, cognitively being aware and reflecting to myself. And I realized that this was one of the things I wanted to do -like a Bucket List*- my entire life, and here I was to do it. This was my conscious choice and free will to be there… I was there because I truly wanted to have the experience, despite the enormous fear and anxiety. I was determined and I wanted to enjoy it!!!
Finally, the time has come. We, the tandem jumpers, began getting prepared; in a kangaroo-like manner, each got attached to his instructor, straps firmly and safely connected, finally were ready for the jump. Exit door opened and there was my daughter ready to go… I placed a kiss on my palm and blew it towards her. She, catching the kiss with her palm, placed it on her chest -her heart! Doing the same, she too sent me a kiss. Then…. Hoop, she jumped! There was neither anxiety nor fear, but I felt mere joy and happiness! Through a flashback, I went back 18 years in time; to the day she was born, the moment I had her in my arms; when she was a tiny, naïve, and vulnerable baby… All of a sudden, watching her jump out of the plane felt like rebirth; becoming a grown up mature young woman, who is smart and skillful, knowing herself and being in charge of her life. That was the moment I realized; my daughter grew up!
While busy thinking about all these, all solo divers had jumped, and it was our turn… Standing by the exit, facing the -10 degrees freezing cold, I turned to my husband and said “bye…” My cameraman had already jumped and up in the air he was waiting for me! I took a deep breath, looked down and thought “this is it, just enjoy!” Xavier and I made that small leap and began going down in open air at full speed. Like birds… flapping our arms, as if flying or swimming in the air and were whirling round and round for a minute or so… “Shirli, this is real… you are free falling…” (Actually, we were falling down, in full speed!) I thought, “…and you, were about to kill this experience with your fear and anxiety!”
It was an amazing experience. At the end of that one-minute Xavier pulled the shroud line to open the parachute. Going down in full speed, we instantly began bouncing upwards, and floating up in the air. For another five minutes or so we fluttered down, slowly making our way down, making rounds… Apart from the magnificence of the scenery beneath my feet; conceiving the reality -of me and my white Nikes floating in the air in that scenery, was even more amazing. No words to describe this sensation! I flew like a bird and was about to land. Fear would be inevitable, as this was a totally an unfamiliar experience… But the urge to enjoy the moment and take the best of its marvels just outnumbered the fear. This was, what one may call adrenaline at its peak! When we landed back at the initial point, I felt no fear, anxiety, or excitement. Instead, there were a lot of new revelations, pieces of awareness, and loads of emotions and thoughts…
I noted some of my takeaways below…
- My daughter’s jump somewhat symbolizes the cutting of the umbilical cord once again and signifies as her flying off and living her life on her own. The two critical moments in her life, me giving birth and her jumping down the plane, got united.
- This was the first time ever in my life, that I chose to trust and handover my life to someone I barely know. I indeed did trust him! Even though I had had many workshops and personal development programs, never have I had a trust test as this one before.
- Corona and the pandemic had taught us how we cannot have any control over our lives. Personally, I consider myself having had significant progress. For the first time I was able to let go of the control and hand it over to an expert.
- I realized that holding on to having control does no good! Because, while we are busy with keeping it, we are actually missing out the real experience. Once we learn to let go, we’ll truly let ourselves be able to enjoy life and its marvels. Despite saying “I won’t do this again” before the jump, surprisingly I said, “I’ll do it again!” during the 60-second freefall.
- Besides the issue of letting go control, I had the chance to experience something incredible with my own choice and will. I am referring to the dreadful sensation of coming face-to-face with death and experiencing fear. Well, I must admit I somewhat met the angel of death twice in my life, where both brought such takeaways that were key in leading my life then after. The first was in 1999, at time of the destructive Gölcük earthquake; in those 47 seconds of earth shaking, I remember promising myself, “Shirli, if you get to survive this nightmare, you shall change what you don’t like and live as you like.” The second incidence was in 2016, on a Turkish Airline flight from New York to Istanbul; we had to make an emergency landing to Halifax because of a technical issue -where soon after we learnt it was a bomb alert. It was then that I said to myself “Shirli, you’re here with your husband and daughter; if this is the end, there’s nothing to do; until today you’ve carried a life fulfilled in a way you wanted, you achieved your goals, on the other hand, there is so much more you want to further accomplish…” and promised myself, “If you survive this craze, you shall not change anything, and will go on living as you’ve been doing.” This skydive was the third experience… Once again, I was facing the fear of death, but with a great distinction, which it was with my own will, deliberately, to explore and stretch my limits. This time I promised myself “Shirli, if you want to enjoy the marvels of life, let go of the control.” So, that’s what I did, and doing!
- Unsurprisingly, my ear doctor eventually did call and text me, while I was up in the air. Guess what, he said! “Do it! Not even with a single doubt!” He even asked if I had done it and how the experience had been. I responded him with a video recording saying, “it was awesome, amazing, incredible!”
- Frankly, I did not share this outrageous thing I had done with many people. Interestingly, as time goes by, it gets normalized; I perceive it as more normal than abnormal. Almost everyone whom I told reacted with shock, either saying things like “God, what have you done!” or being speechless -who in particular were my parents! Their reflections signified the abnormality; however, all of the takeaways I had at the end and the courage for another jump made it quite normal! Needless to mention the small detail that my instructor Xavier did his 5th jump with me that morning. Now the crazy question is revolving in my mind: What I had done, was it abnormal or quite normal? This question I leave to you!
October 16th, 2022
*Bucket List is derived from the expression kicking the bucket that means dying. It was proposed by the scenarist and film director Justin Zackham, in 1999, by adding the word list as reference to realizing one’s dreams before death. In 2007, he directed his film with the same title Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Perhaps the film and its title has inspired many to realize their dreams before death.
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