My Memories of Skydiving: What It’s Like To Leap Out Of An Airplane Before You Realize What’s Happening

Four panel image showing my first skydive jump

In the summer of 2012, I went skydiving two times. I’m forever changed.

The lead up is a blur. My friend probably shared her plans with me earlier in the year, maybe around springtime. I agreed to join and thought of the “only living once” vibrations that so many of us felt in the air back then.

Weirdly, I didn’t think about the plans again. Almost never again—until the week of the event rolled in. Then we all woke up on a midwestern July morning and drove to Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois.

Have you ever heard from someone who has done this? Maybe you’ve gone skydiving yourself. First, you’ll wait—patiently or impatiently, depending on how you’re feeling. You’ll gather in a room to watch a series of training videos. You’ll sign pages of waivers. Depending on the weather, you might zip up in a full-body jumpsuit to stay warm.

Four panel image showing my first skydive jump

And if you were me on that day, your tandem instructor would show up late!

I waited and watched my friends rehearsing the steps with their instructors until a tall man rushed into the room to meet me. “Is this your first jump?” he asked me. Yes, it will be. “Mine, too,” he replied. This was too silly for that moment in time; at that point, though, I’m not sure if I would have cared either way.

Once the plane pulled up and we all walked out, anxiety washed over me. I remember feeling my blood pressure and ringing in my ears. Why on earth hadn’t I researched or thought about this beforehand?

Outer silence, inner noise.

As our plane climbed to altitude, the air temperature dropped below freezing.

Maybe fifteen minutes passed and then it was go time. Our pilot cut the engine for everyone’s safety, and the plane continued to glide while someone raised the door. People leapt out, in singles and pairs, so quickly. The air was silent and still, and this was unbelievable to me, considering that I was watching humans exit an airplane with very real urgency. We began scooting towards it. I suddenly felt electrified in the worst way.

During that first jump, I nearly passed out from the antigravity as we fell; my jaw was clenched and I didn’t make a sound until I pulled our parachute. I couldn’t comprehend the fall. Riding the parachute back down was a blast, though! While we twirled and changed direction, I knew I could do this again if I had to.

We were offered a discount on our second jump, and several of us reserved it before leaving.

When we were in the same place the following month, I was assigned a different instructor (he’d shown up on time, too). In the air, I all but dragged him to the plane’s door. He laughed as he pulled me back because we hadn’t even received our go-ahead.

Once we tumbled out of the plane, I happily screamed for all sixty seconds of the free fall. ✶