To Jump or Not to Jump
If you’re looking to put your life in perspective, there’s nothing quite like jumping out of a plane at 14,500 feet in the air. Dangling your feet over the edge and preparing to defy all laws of sanity and gravity is a sure fire way to get your mind working overtime. Skydiving is the great equalizer of opposites -- terrifying yet enticing, controversial yet mainstream, high-risk yet potentially life-changing. It embodies every known fear and thrill in one 3-minute freefall.
My fixation on skydiving began when I was 16. I would go on YouTube and watch hundreds of videos of people's various trips and teach myself different techniques to maneuver and position my body in the air for the full impact of the jump. My parents, not too keen on the idea from the start, fought to avert my attention to any other kind of adrenaline-packed activity, but my heart was set on nose-diving through the sky at 125 mph. For me, nothing else would suffice. Now a college student and capable of risking my life on my own terms, I decided to actualize my dream. I convinced my dad and brother to join in and the three of us bought tickets for the upcoming weekend.
It just so happened that Yom Kippur fell on the day before the scheduled jump. Nothing gets you in the mood to plead for your life in front of G-d like preparing to jump out of a plane headfirst the following day. I can hands down say that I have never read “Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die” quite like I did on this Yom Kippur. However, I rationalized that the best day to put my life in G-d’s hands would be the morning after my clean slate and, with that validation, I finished Neilah and studied up on my previously researched skydiving tips.
I did not sleep at all that night. My mind went from worst-case scenario to even worse-case scenario, and I wondered if I was making a mistake. But, I had hyped it up so much that I felt I couldn’t back out now, and, as we got ready to embark on this journey, my Dad got a call from the skydiving center. Apparently, winds had picked up and they had canceled all skydiving trips that day. As we looked up at what appeared to be the bluest and clearest sky, I debated whether or not this was a sign. Of all days, this one looked perfect for the experience; there wasn’t a cloud in sight. And, in the 19 years that I have lived in Atlanta, I cannot remember a single time that I had even felt a consistent gust of air, let alone wind strong enough to keep us from skydiving. But weather is unpredictable and, since next week looked just as clear, we rescheduled the flight and marked our calendars.
Two weekends went by with the same outcomes: we would schedule the session for that day and then we would get a call an hour before to find out it had been cancelled. The woman on the phone, sympathizing with the strange sequence of events that we had encountered, informed us that these were the most cancellations they’d experienced in years. So what is to be gleaned from an episode such as this? Judaism instructs us not to believe in signs. But, in that case, how does one label such a series of events? Is this a dream that is better left unfulfilled, or were those weekends simply not the right time for such an endeavor? And how can I ever be sure one way or the other?
As of now, I am scheduled to fly at the end of November. And if the weather abides, I will, G-d willing, be actualizing my ambition. However, the events of this past month have left me with much to ponder as I work toward a decision -- one way or the other. To jump or not to jump? I guess only time will tell.