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Goeun Park: Free falling, the experience of skydiving

Katie Larson didn’t push me out of a plane two miles above ground last Saturday but she did sign me up for it.

It sounded like a good idea at the time — a somewhat dangerous and slightly expensive idea but a good idea nonetheless.

After signing away my rights to sue in the possible case of a gruesome death and watching a very serious disclosure video, I suited up in a harness. Being the epitome of practicality, I asked Katie if I should wear my cardigan to go tandem skydiving.

“It’ll be a little chilly. But that won’t really matter if you end up dead.”

Katie didn’t actually say that last part but I sure thought it.

Despite my all too present nerves, I wasn’t completely hysterical. I knew I was statistically 24 times more likely to die in the hour drive to West Fargo than in the four-minute skydive. I knew my chances of survival were very decent considering the circumstances. Knowing all that, however, didn’t stop my clammy hands from shaking.

It took the pilot a good 10 minutes to circle up before he popped open the door and gave the signal. About 12,000 feet up in the air in shorts and a tank top, I wished I brought my cardigan.

I also wished that the plane wouldn’t suddenly burst into flames and that the instructor strapped behind me wouldn’t pass out and a million other things that would miraculously result in me being alive and intact.

“Ready?” the instructor shouted over the engine.

Not really, I thought. “Ready!”

People seem to think jumping off a plane would be the scariest thing imaginable. Personally, I found it to be one of the easiest things I’ve done in my life. Thumbs up, breathe in, feet out, lean down. Be too terrified to scream, too ecstatic to laugh. It was that simple.

Hurling towards land at 9.8 m/s/s, I made several profoundly obvious observations. One, the earth is round. Two, air is everywhere. Three, clouds are not solid. Four, I am alive. So, so alive.

It was a long way up but an awfully short way down. I’m convinced now that it’s impossible to appreciate how big the earth is until you’re seconds from splatting.

Bustling cities and ruined civilizations can remind me how insignificant I am in the big scheme of things but being up so high and crashing down so fast made my smallness almost painful. Maybe it was just the chill.

Katie’s bad influence must have rubbed off on me (except not really because Katie is basically a saint) because the next day, I more or less bullied several of my friends to jump off a bridge.

While the drop from the bridge paled in comparison to the drop from the plane, the falling part felt the same. Thumbs up, breathe in, feet out, lean down.

It was the best idea I’ve had all week. 

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and plans to attend college in California this fall.