In the 19+ years that I have been sport parachuting, I hear people come up with reasons of why NOT to skydive. “Never, in a million years”; “Over my dead body’; “It’s too dangerous”; “I’m afraid of heights”; “It’s not the right time to jump”; “I’m too afraid to die”; “What if the parachute doesn’t open?”; “What if I can’t breathe?”; “I’m too old”. These are just a few totally justifiable excuses. We all make excuses (especially when it comes to making choices that go beyond our own control or comfort level); we learn to make them as a defense mechanism in this short and precious life. I understand completely, truly and totally. The thought of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane seems insane to most, and is considered a death-wish by many non-skydivers. I GET it. It’s scary as hell, and mortality is staring one in the face at a speed of 120mph. Catapulting one’s body towards the earth goes against every survival instinct known to man. Believe it or not, I’m afraid of heights, when that sense of imminent death appears to be a real threat to my survival (i.e. standing at a cliff’s edge, or positioned on the glass floor of the CN Tower, and at one time, jumping out of a plane above 2000 feet).
Yet long before the innovations and accomplishments of non-powered flight (the Montgolfier brother’s balloon in 1783 and Leonardo Da Vinci sketches centuries earlier), human flight has captured the dreams and fancy of many a visionary. Myself included, from my wee early years, before I even knew what the term parachute and skydive meant (and well before my fear of high places had been formed): I dreamed of flight, and the freedom it evoked. Kind of like the movie ‘Avatar’ and its effect on me, stoking my desire and daydreams of morphing into a Na’vi, living in the jungles of Pandora with my own personal airborne Toruk :).
Today, with 1350+ skydives under my belt, jumping out of an airplane is the ultimate thrill and pursuit in living vibrantly, fully and with a life wish. Living life to the fullest, no excuses.
Our friend Minna Mettinen-Kekalainen is one such person who lives on the edge of existence and reality, no excuses necessary for life’s subtle and obvious obstacles. Imagine jumping out of a plane, hampered by the inability to fully control ones body. Trust me when I say that this ‘disability’ [def: a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities] elevates sky-jumping to a whole other level. One that inspires me beyond words and pride. If you’ve jumped out of a plane, you’ll understand what I mean. Minna has courage beyond the imaginable (being a base jumper on top of her brave skydiving accomplishments). Having ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) has only inspired her to live without reservation, appreciating each and every day that her body is able to physically jump.
With each passing day here in Zephyrhills, I resolve to embody the spirit of Minna. Such a brave and courageous woman. No excuses. Zip. Zero. None. Can you say the same?? Can you resolve to become braver in your everyday existence, whether it be jumping out of airplanes or conquering a niggling fear??
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
~ Oscar Wilde