I’ve made a few fantastic choices in life.

Once, I wrote a letter to the artist James Victore. As a college design student, I’d spent a few months idolizing his recklessly authentic approach to work and creativity. Victore and his staff agreeably invited me to visit his Brooklyn studio, so I packed up my Jetta and hit the interstate. (It was a bucket list summer that included a “solo road trip” item.)

After driving 14 hours to the east coast, I parked in midtown Manhattan and took the B train to his space in Williamsburg. Before this trip, I’d felt my ambition lacking. I’d be graduating from college soon. How am I meant to find my way? I asked the room. What decisions matter the most? Who can I look to for answers?

“Nobody is going to ask you to do anything,” Victore promised me, explaining that initiative and a headstrong attitude would be the building blocks of my success and happiness. He told stories of alignment, fearlessness, and creativity without pretense. My energy was rejuvenated.

The outside world will try to assign meaning to your journey without asking for your permission.

Don’t let it.

Twice that same summer, I chose to jump out of airplanes falling some 13,000 feet above solid earth. Tall strangers snapped their harnesses to mine as I placed all of my faith in their training (and parachute technology).

There is one element that’s sometimes left out of skydiving stories: The sudden silence and stillness that fills the air when the pilot cuts the plane’s engines.

After takeoff, you’ll ascend for 15 minutes before reaching altitude, and that’s when the propellers are stopped for everyone’s safety. The air is freezing cold as the plane glides without its engine. There isn’t a sound left to occupy your senses until the door is opened and the first diver in line drops out. You’re quickly unbuckled and scooting towards the exit as your entire nervous system is on fire.

This four-panel image shows stills from a video of me falling out of an airplane. Can you even imagine or believe?!
They do it all the time! They’ll throw you out of a plane so fast.

During that first jump, I was almost knocked unconscious by the antigravity I felt in my stomach as we fell. Really, I couldn’t see for a moment, and I clenched my jaw without making a sound. At 5,500 feet, I pulled our parachute.

That thrill stayed with me and we returned for another jump later the same month, taking advantage of a great “book-your-next-jump-today” discount that they offered us.

When it was time for my second jump, I dragged my tandem instructor to the plane’s door. He laughed and pulled me back because we hadn’t received our go-ahead. We leapt out of the plane and I happily screamed for the 60 seconds of free fall.

Like little needles, I felt a hundred tiny stings all over my face (?!) and later realized that we’d fallen through the middle of a rain cloud.

Once, I needed to move to a new place in the state that I’d always called home. I’d been to Chicago many times and had loved Lake Michigan since childhood, but this pull in adulthood was brand new. I gave in and was given so much in return. Patience truly pays off.

You meet so many people who tell you a hundred things as you prepare for your first skydiving experience: Wait with your group here. Now, line up… This is your contract. In case of injury or death, sign here and initial there. Repeat our words so we’re sure that you understand.

I nodded and said “yes, for sure” to everything.

Life had always felt the same, after all—somehow always just around the corner from fear, relief, flight, and solid ground.

Falling at 120 miles per hour helped to calm those nerves.