This is such a cliche blog topic it almost makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. But, here I am, writing about it again anyway.
See here’s the thing, everyone goes through these periods where they become acutely aware of their own mortality – as skydivers, this has a tendency to creep up on us from time to time.
I’ve written pseudo bucket lists before – participated in blogger challenges like the “30 before 30″ list and all the jazz – but to me, those things are a bit self-centered (yes, I realize that, at it’s core, blogging is pretty self-centered, but bear with me here if you could).
This time of the year I have a tendency to get pretty reflective – to look back at the year, what I’ve accomplished vs. what I set out to do. I’m not one for “new year’s resolutions,” but I do like to set goals for myself just to keep me going. At the beginning of the year, I’m not going to lie, I was struggling with a lot. My heart and soul was focused on fixing what was wrong inside me and in the environment surrounding me, and I have to admit, as the end of 2011 is bearing down, I came out on top. Take that 2011.
Along with the changes, the accomplishments and the overall happiness that surrounds my world, December has brought on reflections not of myself, but of others in need.
As you’re all very aware, one of the things I pride myself on is the yearly Jump for Diabetes event that helps raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation and support diabetes research. It’s a cause close to my heart, and given that my husband is the founder of this wonderful event, it makes me even prouder that our little family is able to do something to give back every year.
(Small plug here, but if you want to continue to support our cause, you can do so throughout the year at http://jdrfillinois.org and when you click Donate Now, enter Jump for Diabetes in the special instructions. Help us get to our goal and find a cure for diabetes!)
With that, I’ve realized that a true bucket list is about more than what you want to accomplish, the places you want to visit and things you want to purchase by a set date, it’s about how you want to live your life and the ways you want to leave your mark on the world before you pass on.
I’m a firm believer that bucket lists are not set in stone, rather, they’re living, breathing documents that allow us to focus our energies on those things we want to accomplish in our lives. If thought through properly, a bucket list can set the tone for your adult life, provide a foundation for where you want to go, and give you motivation to achieve those goals. It’s not simply a list of to-dos, but a guide for who you want to become.
So below, in no particular order (hence, this list is not numbered) are a few of those things I see as bucket list material. Maybe one day I’ll sit down and draft my bucket list in full and post it here for all to see – but then, it’s seems rather “finalized,” and I like the idea of always being able to alter your path as changes occur in your life. For now, you get to see a few of my goals for living a positive, enjoyable life I can be proud to call mine.
Personally impact one person’s life in a positive way.
Give back in ways that life has provided for me (through mentorship, career and skydiving support, etc)
Spend one holiday season volunteering.
Establish a not-for-profit and spread the word (this one, though accomplished, will be ongoing throughout my life).
Appreciate. (My husband, my extended family, my career, my health, my friends – appreciate all the good life has to offer, even when times are tough)
Commit to health and fitness with green smoothies, limited processed foods, regular workouts, etc.
Give animals in need a home: always adopt from rescue organizations and foster homes.
Don’t miss out on great opportunities because of obligation. Carpe diem – live life to it’s fullest.
Spend every day as if it might be the last – with friends, family and love in my heart.
I have to be honest, I really wanted to put something on this list about living out my wedding vows, and loving my husband. But truth be told, I don’t need to put that on a list, it’s something that comes completely natural to me. Appreciate… even when times are tough, seemed more appropriate, as I, like many people, struggle with focusing on the bad, even when so many things are good and right in my life.
What are some things you’d put on your bucket list? They can be specific or broad, but how do you want to live your life? How do you see your future playing out?
Love and blue skies!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hanging up my career as a blogger. It’s something that’s been a part of my life since 2003, when blogging was essentially online journaling and less of a “trend,” if you want to call it that.
Blogging holds a special place in my heart. Writing has always been an outlet for me. It’s cathartic to sit down and type out your thoughts, opinions, emotions – on any subject that might tickle your fancy (do people still say that?).
When I started SkydiveChick.com in 2009 it was because I was incredibly passionate about the sport – and I still am to this day. I wanted to share it with the world. I wanted this site to be a destination for anyone interested in hearing about skydiving from someone who does it on a regular basis. It was, and continues to be, as I get about an email a week from people who stumble upon the blog and want to know more about the sport. It’s heartwarming to know that I have inspired others to jump into this sport (no pun intended), or provided guidance to students and other fun jumpers in the sport – it’s also quite flattering. *Blushes*
Of course, that was never an intended purpose of the blog, but I’d be lying if I said my audience didn’t keep me coming back to write on a regular basis.
Since the birth of SkydiveChick so many changes have occurred in my life – I graduated AFF, started traveling to boogies, switched from RW to freeflying, met my husband, started wingsuiting, moved to Chicago, switched careers, switched dropzones, adopted a dog, got married and now I’m staring the 3rd winter since I started skydiving in the face – and let me tell you, Chicago winters are the worst. Through the whirlwind that my life has been these past two years, I can honestly say my outlook on life as well as my lifestyle has changed – and I really want my creative outlets to mesh with these changes. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I’ve got some great goals for my near and not-so-near future, but where does blogging fit into that mix? Do I want to continue focusing on skydiving, or is it time to make SkydiveChick more of a lifestyle destination? Given that my life isn’t just about skydiving, shouldn’t my blog reflect that?
One thing that hasn’t changed is my desire to write. With my daily commute via public transportation I’ve been lucky to have extra time (not spent behind the wheel every morning and evening) to do some reading, which actually makes me want to write more. However, with everything that’s changed, I find my time for blogging just isn’t as available as it once was. Which brings me to my dilemma – to write or not to write.
I’ve taken quite a few weeks off, as you’ve likely noticed, but it’s been much needed. I still must admit that I’m unsure if I’ll be returning to blogging at SkydiveChick on a regular basis, or if this return will be short lived. I guess it’ll depend on how this feels – because as much as I love knowing that my writing is benefiting others, I have to think about what that means for my writing as a creative outlet. If I find that my return to the blogoshere continues to be a mutually beneficial experience, then you can count on my regular blogs posts once again. If it becomes a burden on my creativity, then you might just have to settle for Twitter updates and the occasional witty Facebook post. Of course, if I do start to disappear again, you might just find more of my work over on my Flickr page.
I guess we’ll just have to see where life takes me.
As sort of a follow up to my last post about why we’re here and what we’re doing this for, I’d like to take a moment to talk about an issue that’s been weighing on my mind a bit.
The Skydiver Superiority Complex. Now, I’m not talking about those people who rag on other people within the sport – like freeflyers who think their better than belly flyers or wingsuiters who claim “this ain’t no head down bitches!” (one of my favorite lines, btw), as most of this is said in jest, giving others crap around the dropzone – it can be a favorite past time.
What I’m talking about are those jumpers out there who think that, simply because they are skydivers, they are superior to everyone else in life. Like skydiving is this club that, until you’ve gotten in you’re just not cool enough.
Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that skydiving has this way of changing your perspective on life, but that doesn’t mean that, in order to get the most out of life you MUST skydive. Certainly, I’d love to have all my friends experience what freefall is like, to understand the change that this sport can bring about in your way of approaching the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean I think that I’m better at life than those who haven’t jumped – that’s just pure foolishness.
Too often I hear skydivers, especially the newbies, talking about how they just didn’t get the meaning of life until their first skydive. That until you save your own life, you just can’t understand what it means to truly live. Well, here’s the reality of the situation – just because YOU didn’t get how to fully embrace life until you experienced flight, doesn’t mean others don’t get it.
I mean, sure, if you grew up in a middle class family (or above) that sent you to college and you’ve either been in school or working on your career since then there’s a good chance you fall into this category (I certainly did). But I know plenty of people who had different paths who, most likely, know the value of living just as much, if not more, than I do.
I guess the questions here is, do you really think you’re superior to others now that you’ve fell from 14,000 and successfully saved your own life, or is it that you just encourage everyone else to seek out this opportunity as well, but you have a really strange way of conveying it? I’d like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt on this one and say the latter, but I truly believe there are people out there “knowing” and speaking of their superiority because skydiving has become their favorite past time. And for all those, there are an equal number of rock climbers and motorcyclists and other extreme sports junkies scoffing because in reality, their sport is a whole hell of a lot more dangerous than ours.
Next time you think about opening your mouth about how someone just can’t know what living is until they jump out of an airplane, maybe take two seconds to remind yourself that you have no idea what others have been through in their life, and there’s a good chance they know so much more about life than you. Instead, swap some life stories – you might actually learn something interesting about them.
Love and Blue Skies!
When I talk about skydiving, with skydivers and whuffos alike, sometimes I can’t help but step back from the conversation to wonder what it’s all about. Thing is, when you’re a skydiver, or painter or writer, or whatever it is that gets you out of bed in the morning, there’s something deep down that’s driving you.
Listening to skydivers chatter on incessently about how great they are can seem like fingernails on a chalkboard to even the most interested audience. One thing to remember though, is that it’s not just that we like to hear our own voices go on and on about ourselves – though so often that is also true – it’s that we have a true passion for this sport.
It’s easy to get caught up in the madness of a dropzone, the drama and politics that come along with a group of highly connected, type-A personalities who are all working toward the same goal. Thing about that goal is this – you’re truly only fighting with yourself to get there. And I think that’s what I like most about this sport. If you’re good enough, and you practice enough and you put enough of your heart and soul into it, you can get exactly where you want to be.
For some, they crave the ability to be instructors – to get their ratings in order to give back to the community some of what they were given as young pups in the sport. For others, they are focused on getting invited to that next big way invitational. Others spend hours in the tunnel in the off season and bucko bucks when it’s nice out to get extra coaching needed in order to compete at nationals. And some of us just want to be good enough in our discipline to know that on every jump we’ll be a part of the formation and can keep on having a blast! Whatever the goal is, most of us out here have one, or two, or three – all of which include a desire to improve ourselves.
So, it’s not just about being on a record or being the “best” or even having trained with the “best,” but it’s about being your best, and really making something out of the passion in your heart. If that wasn’t the case, I can guarantee 90% of us wouldn’t be here in the first place.
Love and blue skies!
As I mentioned in the last post, this year’s event is going to be low key compared to the past couple years. We’re encouraging jumpers from all over the country to take part by collecting pledges for their jumps for the weekend (Aug 12-14) to support diabetes research.
Remember folks: tax write off here!
For those who plan to attend at Skydive Chicago, here’s what you can look forward to:
* Saturday night raffle: Tickets are being sold for $25 each or 6 for $100.
-PD main or reserve canopy (grand prize)
-Free Taste of Base with Miles Daisher
-Cookie Helmet package
-Free first flight course with Flock U at SDC
-% off Vigil
-% off Infinity and Wings container
-% off Bev Suit
-SDC gear store discounts
-And MUCH more!
For the price of a lift ticket you have a chance to win a new canopy, or other badass prizes, just like that. We’ll continue to keep you posted over at the Facebook Page as we get more sponsors.
* Support the cause with each skydive: For those who want to participate and are feeling a bit too lazy to go out and collect pledges from their friends and family, you can help the cause just by jumping. If you’re at Skydive Chicago Aug 12-14, all you have to do is tell manifest when you check in that you’re Jumping for Diabetes and a portion of your skydive will be donated to the cause. Thanks Rook, for generously taking part!
We’ll be hanging out at Summerfest this year selling tickets, handing out pledge forms and working some general excitement for this incredible cause. Or, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org to enter the raffle, get your pledge sheet or simply to find out how to donate to the cause.
So many of us have been touched by diabetes in one way or another, let’s all join together to help find a cure for this disease, shall we?
Love and Blue Skies!
No, that’s not a typo, the title of this post is “quite the mouth” as in, “he’s got quite the mouth on him.” Not quiet the mouth, as in “quiet that mouth of yours before I do it for you,” but the latter does tend to apply at times.
As skydivers, we live in this community where people love to talk about themselves. The seasoned jumpers love to talk about their latest badass swoops or the world record they were a part of. Intermediate jumpers can’t wait to tell everyone about their first head down they [think they] stuck or the new friendship they’ve sparked with this or that load organizer. Even recently licensed jumpers can’t wait for fresh student meat to come in to force feed their own personal AFF stories.
It goes without saying (but, I’m going to say it anyhow) that sometimes it can be pretty irritating to hear other jumpers talk incessantly about how great they [think they] are.
But the truth of the matter is, sometimes, this is where we can learn the most as skydivers. How many of you out there – show of hands – were told at one time or another during your student training that often times you’re on the ground more than you’d like to be, and the best way to continue your education is to listen to what the other skydivers are talking about?
My hand is up on that one.
Especially here in the North where weather plays more of a factor than, say, in SoCal, it’s not uncommon for students to sit around picking their nose waiting for winds to cooperate. But while you’re fishing for that gewy one behind your eyeball, talk to some of the others on the ground (or, remove said finger from your nostril, wash your hands and approach the nearest seasoned skydiver for a chat).
Seek out those with ratings (instructors, S&TAs and the like) to give solid safety advice. Talk to those who are both seasoned (we’re talking 500, 1000+ jumps here kids) to hear their stories from years in the sport. But, let’s not forget the newbies in the sport either. After all, they (we) recently went through student progression and can tell you a thing or two about that weird, awkward period after getting your A license. The “now what the fuck?” phase, as I like to call it.
Of course, this doesn’t just go for what USPA considers “students.” Just because we have our A (or B or C or even D) licenses, doesn’t mean the learning stops. As I see it, we should be learning MORE. We’re [ideally] jumping more, traveling to new places, meeting new jumpers … shouldn’t we be getting educated along the way as well? Learning from each and every person we encounter (even if what we’re learning is how not to do something)?
It’s important to be able to adapt to new surroundings, to understand about the aircraft you’re hucking yourself from, to know DZ landing patterns, to know how to get out of an icky situation in a pinch. All this comes with experience, sure, but you can learn so much from those “annoying” mouths out there that, at first, might seem to be rather obsessed with themselves.
Learning to filter out the bullshit is an important skill in the skydiving industry – but that doesn’t mean you should stop listening altogether. So on those days where your local skygod is like fingernails on a chalkboard, maybe you should stop and ask yourself if maybe you should quiet your mouth and listen.
It’s not uncommon, when telling someone that I’m a skydiver, to hear comments like:
“Wow, you’re brave!”
“That’s dangerous, don’t you get scared?”
“Aren’t you afraid your ‘chute won’t open?”
You get the idea.
Truth is we are taking risks as skydivers, but they are calculated risks.
Just as with anything else in life, you analyze the risks vs. rewards. With skydiving, you also take a look at the safety factors, like a professionally packed reserve that’s there in case your first go at deployment doesn’t go so well and the helmet on your head with a dytter that lets you know when it’s time to break away and deploy. So, the risks are calculated.
It’s kinda like buying a car with safety features like side airbags and antilock breaks.
Another way we calculate the risks of the sport is taking a look at outside factors like winds, the people you’re sharing the sky with and our own personal setbacks. Each and every one of us has areas that could use improvement, and it’s up to us to determine what we’re capable of without hurting ourselves or others in the process.
I did just that this weekend as I decided to get myself back in the air after a hip injury earlier this season. Sunday’s weather was perfect, and with a 13 mph wind it was just right to set me down gently upon landing. Let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy decision. The last thing I wanted was to get hurt again, maybe worse this time, because I didn’t give myself enough time to heal. However, I also knew that the conditions couldn’t be better for a jittery skydive. Sure enough, my calculations were correct. I tiptoed out my landing and got back the confidence I needed. Can’t wait to get back out there!
Taking an honest look at your deficiencies as well as those of your fellow jumpers is important in the decision to make a safe skydive. I’m a big believer that if your gut tells you not to jump with that person just off student status, or if the winds are just a bit too gusty for your liking, then you should listen to it. There’s nothing wrong with playing it on the safe side, no matter how much of a ribbing you might take for it. There’s lots of life, and skydiving, left to be enjoyed.
Love and blue skies!
One of the things I love most about skydiving is that it’s a constant learning experience. Even after you master one discipline, there’s always a new challenge on the on the horizon.
I’m a true believer that you can always improve, no matter how good you are at something.
That said, in order to improve, you have to be open to it.
Sometimes our skydiver egos can get the best of us, and rather than taking an objective look at our mistakes and soaking up the knowledge to improve, we throw out excuses to pad our egos.
Sure, nobody likes to cork out their first sit of the year, or be the guy who comes plowing into the formation and takes everyone out. And certainly, no one wants to be the guy who crashes his first landing of the season in front of the whole dropzone (yep, I was that guy this year), but making excuses for these things doesn’t do anything but hurt you, in the long run.
Personally I’ve found that sometimes simply owning your mistakes, acknowledging your areas for improvement, can do more for your ego than sitting around defending yourself while everyone rolls their eyes. So what, you f-ed up…we’re all human!
This time of the year, as we’re all a bit rusty from the long winter months, the learning curve tends to be a bit steeper as we get our wings back. As well all know, muscle memory only lasts for so long, so spring time can require a bit of re-training for those parts of the sport that seemed to come so naturally last fall.
It’s also important to remember that if you are a bit nervous about particular skills after a long period off, it might be best to ease back in with a few easy planned jumps, like 2, 3 or 4 ways. Hell, if you’re really concerned, do a couple solos so you can focus on yourself and get those butterflies out. In the end, no one is going to fault you for being overly cautious and concerned about the safety of yourself and others - especially during the early parts of the season.
Just one more reason to keep the beast that is the skydiver ego at bay – it could save your life.
There’s a running joke in the skydiving community that drama at the dropzone can run so rampant at times that it’s like a soap opera of it’s own.
“As the Prop Turns” if you will.
Of course, it’s often not so much a joke as the truth. Dropzone politics can not only be stuffy at times, but downright uncomfortable for students and experienced jumpers alike. Though don’t get me wrong, the adrenaline packed sport is not alone in it’s occasional interpersonal tussles. Skydiving is just like any other niche activity in life, it comes with a community and communities come with aspects of drama and politics. I dare you to show me one that doesn’t (and if there’s one out there, can I join? hehe).
But see here’s the thing, whether you’re a skydiver or a skier or a member of a book club, it’s entirely possible to enjoy what your community has to offer – not to mention the activity itself that you’re so passionate about to begin with – without getting sucked into uncomfortable situations and unnecessary drama.
How, you ask?
Decide not to get involved. It’s that simple. Make a decision to spend your time and the dropzone doing what you love, skydiving with your friends, or solo, or whatever it is you fancy most, have a few drinks around the bon fire and go home at the end of the weekend with a smile on your face. In other words, make it a point to enjoy the activity in and of itself. You can even go so far as to make it a point to completely avoid the overdramatic people, and for the love of all things holy, don’t let the naysayers affect how you feel about yourself. Sure, it might not be the easiest task at hand, but if it’s something you really want, make it happen! Believe it or not, you have control over your own happiness at the dropzone.
Of course, if you’re involved in the sport on a deeper level than simple fun jumper, there are additional challenges as you’re likely employed within the community – and for anyone who has had a job, ever, you likely know that politics are virtually unavoidable – but the insanity doesn’t have to outweigh passion; not by any stretch.
Just as skydiving is like any other aspect of life, your attitude can be adjusted just as it would in these other areas of life. You are the only one who has control over your own thoughts, emotions and actions, so if you truly don’t want to get involved in the crazy drama that can exist from time to time (on or off the dropzone), and if you’d prefer not to be a part in “As the Prop Turns” then concsiously make the decision not to – you’re the only one who can decide that for yourself.
Just like we don’t sit by passively in a skydive and let gravity takes us down, we shouldn’t sit by idly on the ground and let the politics, drama or other interpersonal issues that tend to exists (as I mentioned, in any community) drag our morale down either.
Stay positive. Stay passionate. Stay alive.
Love and Blue Skies!
Whether it’s on or off the dropzone, the key is to make yourself happy (if you find the secret formula for this, please share it with the rest of us). When you’re happy with yourself, you might be surprised how much you don’t give a crap what others think or say. But of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, just give it a try for yourself and see! Keep on keepin’ on guys and gals. Y’all rock!
This weekend marks the beginning of the skydiving season (well, for me anyway). Last year I was blessed to have ample travel opportunities throughout the winter, along with a dropzone within driving distance that’d let me huck myself out of a Cessna on sunny, yet still frigid days. So needless to say there really wasn’t an “off season” for this chick last year.
I must admit, coming back is a bit nerve wracking. Attending Safety Day at both Skydive Chicago and Chicagoland Skydiving Center helped as they were both nice refreshers, but nothing can fully cure these butterflies aside from getting back in the sky!
With today being Friday I can’t help but have skydiving at the forefront of my mind. I’ve actually got a bit of spring in my step thinking about the upcoming adrenaline pumping Saturday. And though there was another canopy collision incident this week that lead to the death of two highly skilled skydiving instructors, those of us diving back in this weekend should learn from this and stay aware in the sky.
Safety first y’all.
So, along with the skydiving season comes a number of rituals, so to speak, that we skydivers seem to pick right back up, as if we’d never had a moment away.
- Compulsive weather checking. Maybe some of you do this all year anyway, but for most of us, we’re checking multiple times a day to see what the forecast is going to be for the upcoming weekend, the next day off or for an upcoming boogie (even if it’s weeks out). This is especially true for those of us who live in more weather temperamental locations. What can we say, we just can’t help it.
- Videos, Videos, VIDEOS. Whether it’s watching them on YouTube, Facebook or on the TV at the dropzone, filming them in the air, editing or sharing, the skydivers I know are all about videos…especially of themselves. This time of the year more and more videos appear on the interwebs and we are all eager to share our recent skydives with fellow jumpers and whuffos alike.
- Bye bye fair-weather outings. If it’s nice out, you know where to find the skydivers this time of year. So much for planning picnics, trips to the local beach, etc. Unless it’s too windy, any day that’s not rainy or cloudy is a dropzone day.
I’m sure there are many, many more, but it’s time for me to get some work done so I can get out there and jump!
For all those who are heading out to skydive this weekend, be safe and have a great one!