By Tim Law
Life looks a great deal different from 12,000 feet. Sure things are smaller, that’s obvious. Almost everyone knows that things get very tiny when they are so far away. No, what I mean is looking down from so far up in the air you can almost believe that everything is at peace. Things certainly are not the same in the plane. The engine hammers and thumps, a racket worse than a lawnmower on Sunday morning, a raucous so deafening that it is impossible to think, to hear, to do anything else but try to settle your flip-flopping tummy.
Why did I do this?
You look across at your brother and then you recall that ridiculous moment when he told you about his birthday plans.
“There is going to be twenty-one of us, all jumping out of a plane together.”
I think to myself, nineteen of my brother’s mates, him, and me. I’m honored that he wants me to be a part of this. I must admit though, I have my concerns.
“Have you ever skydived before?”
“No, have you?”
“Nope, I can’t say that I have.”
“Don’t worry, bro, the first jump you have to do is tandem.”
“A tandem jump? What’s tandem?”
“You get a professional strapped to your back, they tell you when to jump, and they are the ones who pull the cord.”
“They take all the responsibility?”
“Exactly, now you’re getting it.”
“Alright, I’m in.”
“I knew I could count on you.”
Of course the night before the big day and the phone calls start rolling in.
You can’t do it? You can’t afford it? You’re sick? You forgot? One by one the mates pull out until that dream of twenty-one guys jumping out a plane dwindles down to only two. Two fools. I’m still in and so is my brother. We’ve never done anything like this before. The most exciting thing we’d managed before then was to finish high school and pick a university. Life looks a great deal different when you are about to jump out of a plane. I envied those guys who had made the call to quit, looking down on the world from so high, preparing myself for my first jump, trying to remember all of the training and recalling none. Yes, I regretted ever saying yes, but I couldn’t do that to my brother though, say no; no I couldn’t be the one to completely ruin his big birthday event.
So we find ourselves high above the earth, the thumping of the engine making it impossible to hear any of the last minute instructions that the guy strapped to my back is yelling in my ear. I gather up the guts to every now and again peer out the open door, it is a long way down. Somewhere down there is my family, mum, dad, little brother and grandma. Little brother is only just too young to jump with us, itching to be there but told he can’t. Life is a great deal different in those younger years, those years when you don’t have to choose, you don’t get to choose, most of any decisions are already made for you. He is down there on the ground, alongside mum and dad, and grandma of course. Dear grandma who gave us the money we needed to jump.
“Here boys, early inheritance, do with it what you wish.”
It was grandma’s words that inspired my brother’s birthday plan. Without this early inheritance we would not have been able to pay for the jump. I had wanted to spend my money on other things, like music CDs, computer games, and my favourite books. But, when the opportunity appears unexpectedly, who can knock back the chance to jump out of a plane? Not me.
My brother goes first, gives me a goofy grin and a hand signal that is supposed to show excitement when I can clearly see in his eyes that he is just as scared as I am. And then, just like that, the camera man jumps and then so does my brother. The plane still thumps and rumbles, a droning in stereo.
I shake my head and I can feel the guy I’m strapped to laugh.
The guy who will be filming my jump is suddenly gone.
And then the wind hits me in the face as all I can see before me is cloud and sky. The sky is grey. I pray I make it to the earth again in one piece, not one hundred. The world flies past me at breakneck speed, or is it me who is flying past the world? Bye world! It has been nice knowing you…
Then boom! The chute opens up above us and we are through the clouds, the world beneath a tapestry of farmland. I can pick out the colors, green, yellow, green, a pattern. I feel the worst wedgie that I have ever suffered as gravity tries to pull my waist to the ground while my shoulders are connected to canvas.
“What a view!”
“You’re not wrong, mate!”
I forgot I’m not alone. But now that I remember we chat all the way to the ground. So high up and gliding gently through the air your view of life changes. Adrenaline kicks in. You almost died, or at least you could have. Now you want to do it all again.
At 12,000 feet the world seems at peace, but the wisest of us know that the problems we have left behind are still waiting for us when our feet touch ground again. That top down view gives us new thinking though, new ideas, brand new ways to tackle problems. Now, years later, I look back on this memory and wonder, perhaps it is time for another venture skywards, the chaos of the now, present problems, what keeps me lying awake each night; solutions to all of that and more may just be waiting for me 12,000 feet in the air. I guess it all comes down to the point of view.