Monday, June 8, 2015

Stepping Out Into the Unknown



On June 3, 1965, Ed White became the first American to leave a spacecraft and “walk in space” which he later stated was the most comfortable part of the mission (source: www.nasa.gov).  Talk about stepping out into the unknown!  While he was not the first person to walk in space (the cosmonauts had done this 3 months earlier), the American experience did not exist prior to the planning and preparation of the Gemini 4 mission.  When originally talking about this journey, I am sure that it took a “leap of faith” (pun intended) to have the confidence to accomplish this major step in our space program.

How often in our own lives, do we actually step out into the unknown?  I mean, how often do we take on a new challenge, one that we hope will be successful and we need to plan accordingly?  Yes, I know that we can listen to the news, or read in the newspapers or online about people that think they have the super powers to do something the rest of the human race would deem as stupid.  For reference, you can look up the Darwin Awards.  What if you had the chance, were provided a safe environment, with proper planning and preparation, to take on something that most people would avoid for lack of understanding and preparation?

I do not consider myself an overly courageous person.  I like living.  I will do little to jeopardize that; I plan to be on this planet as long as I can, with the goal of reaching a three-digit age.  I did not bungee jump, even when the opportunity was in front of me.  Fear of dying was a strong de-motivator, even though the attraction was COMPLETELY SAFE.  However, this past Saturday, I stepped out into the unknown!

Head back. Rock forward.  Rock back. Rock forward.  The familiar hard surface below my feet was gone.  I saw the sky as I rolled and then the ground far below.  I HAD JUST JUMPED OUT OF A MOVING PLANE!  “Oh my,” said the tiny voice in my head.  No thought followed, as there was no more yesterdays and no more tomorrows, only NOW.  I felt the tapping on my shoulders to let go of the harness and extend my arms forward – I was parallel to the ground.  I saw the video guy float before me, facing me and I remembered to smile.  This was not a dream - I WAS FLYING!  OK, to be exact, I was falling from 13,500 feet towards the Earth.  Weird, I have no sensation of time or speed, so the sense of falling did not register.  All I heard was the massive sound of the wind passing my ears.  I see the ground, I see the sky, and I notice the mountains and the river.  Then I am perpendicular to the Earth, floating gently downward, a chance to really notice the green ground and enjoy the view.  “Feet up,” said the instructor.  A few seconds later, we slid safely on the grass.  I found Gab, who had jumped out of the plane right before me with our friend (and skydiver), James (who was in free fall next to Gab), wearing a smile as large as the one I was wearing.  Then we met up with Debbie who was very happy to have her husband and daughter back on the ground with her.
 15 – 20 minutes flight up, 1-minute freefall, 5 minutes floating.  Was I nervous beforehand…a little.  Was I excited beforehand…very much.  Was I happy for the opportunity…extremely.  Afterwards, we were told that less than 1% of the population has ever jumped from a plane. Would I do this again…maybe.  I had a chance to “step” out into unknown, survived to write about it and thankful for the opportunity.  We jumped as part of Gab’s birthday present, and joined by some friends that jumped or watched.  It was a great day and a great experience.

If you had told me years ago that I would willingly step out of a plane, I would have thought you were nuts.  Sometimes, you never know what to expect, or how you will feel when you step outside of your comfort zone.  With proper planning (minimizing the risk), you can surprise yourself with a fantastic, positive experience.  Keep that in mind the next time you have a chance, in a safe environment to step out into the unknown…