This story was submitted by Amy to enter to win an L&B ARES II digital altimeter through my Gear Giveaway #2. Submissions accepted until March 31st, 2023.
My first tandem will stay as the moment my life would change forever.
It was September 13th, 2021 at Skydive New England in Lebanon, Maine. The first time I went skydiving I was in a hard place in my life. To spare the details, it was a very depressing time for me, with a lot of big life changes not seeming to ever settle. But I knew I needed a huge change, an opportunity, a sliver of light in a very dark time. So, when a friend suggested we go skydiving, I immediately said yes. I knew this was exactly what I needed to kickstart my life back into motion. This depression was going to fly right out of me, and that’s exactly what happened. I knew how special this place was from the very beginning. The welcoming and friendly environment, the people wiggling and jiggling randomly to the beat of the music on the speaker, or to a beat of their own. And of course the intense pride and support of their fellow peers, something I have never had before. As a kid I moved 25 times and went to 13 schools all between the ages of 6 and 18. I never gained a strong bond with anyone to really share my achievements, but I could tell that it didn’t matter to these people. It didn’t matter who you were, you could be jumping for your first time or your 1000th. Everyone was pumped for each other, I was pumped. But I’ll never forget the very moment that I knew I wanted to be a part of this community. It was on my way up during my first tandem jump. I was sitting, strapped to Matt Becker, staring out the window over my left shoulder with a smile so wide that the corners of my mouth could rip. Tears start falling from my face as I look at the world, as I feel the peace, and as I let myself feel the fear and the excitement of finally living again. I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s the videographer checking in to make sure I’m okay. He must have noticed my tears. I shake my head vigorously and say that I am perfectly fine and I’m just so f***ing happy. A symphony of skydiver’s voices are filling the plane and I know that I’m going to do this again. And again. And again. “ohhh sh*t we’ve got one” “another AFF here we come” “get ready!”. My heart is warm, and my eyes are wet.
A year later, on June 12th, 2022, and I go for another tandem with my same friend. We had our jumps scheduled for the end of the previous season but ya know, weather. Already knowing that I was going to sign up, I made sure to tell the instructor, Jeffrey Donais, that I would be signing up for AFF. He immediately put me to work. This time around I had an altimeter to watch what we were doing at what altitude and it just solidified my desire, this sh*t was too cool.
Now this is where the journey gets a little turbulence ;) Flash forward to July 15th, 2022. I am hanging upside down 40 feet high in a tree, right by the entrance on the edge of the drop zone, after my very first jump of my AFF course. Not off to a great start. But my hopes are nowhere near crushed. People were at the base of the trees before I even made contact. I’m cracking jokes about it being the perfect position for a keg stand, but also mentioning how weak my hands are getting after 20 minutes of holding myself still using only my hands and the backs of my knees. Little branches crack around me. All was well, a charming tree man with a tree name, Cedar, came to rescue me along with the 20+ more absolutely amazing people. People whom, at the time, I didn’t know would each make a lifelong impact on my heart. Flash forward. Things are going well, I’m not great at the sport at this point but I’m a little better every jump I do.
About a month later on August 17th, jump number 6, I break my leg on a hard landing in a hole in some tall grass. Womp Womp. I splintered my tibia and cracked something else next to it. I got 4 screws put in on September 14th, and now I have a super sexy caterpillar shaped scar to remind myself what a badass I am.
2 months of healing and I’m back at it. I travel down to Skydive City in Florida to see Noah Clarke, more than ready to be back. We absolutely nailed it. I am blown away by his ability to bend technology with sport, to help a visual learner like myself know exactly what I’m doing in the air and what I could do to correct it. 5 days, and 18 jumps later and I fricken did it. I finally got my A-license. December 7th, 2022, that same smile from the very first day is about to rip my mouth right off my face, again.
It only took me 5 months, 4 screws, 2 states, 1 concussion, 1 tree landing, and an army of supporters that I can now call family. But gosh darn it I DID IT. Which means, I know that I can do anything I put my mind to.
This is just the beginning.