After the jump

7 Feb

My intestines roil. I’m covered in a cold sweat. I want to cry. Or throw up. My heart palpates wildly. Government agencies could probably develop a new class of advanced weaponry if they could figure out how to harness the energy being produced by my combined adrenaline and anxiety levels.

It’s 1998. I’m strapped to a scruffy dude, crammed next to 3 other “hostages” in an incredibly cold and painfully loud sensory overload chamber. We’re somewhere over South Maryland and the minutes pass like hours as my mind alternates between “holy sh*t this is f*cking stupid” and “holy sh*t this is gonna be f*cking awesome!

In other words, my first skydiving experience was pretty much on par with the stress I felt in advance of last week’s proverbial “big leap.” 

First-time skydiving and headlong plunges into willful unemployment are equally imbued with uncertainty. Both require (or at least should require) a fair amount of preparatory research and diligence. At the very least, before embarking on either “adventure,” you kinda-sorta need to face your fate.

In skydiving, this is done by:

  1. Sitting through a video informing you that you could die (*NB: my video was not nearly this cheerful — media messaging has come a LONG way in the past ~15 years!),
  2. Signing multiple releases explaining that you could die, and
  3. Getting strapped into a parachute rig that warns you with a BIG, BRIGHT label that: Yes, You Could Die.

Facing impending doom via pre-recorded video and various lawyerly documents (with their likely totally-unenforceable indemnity clauses) is one thing. Stepping into the great unknown in your professional life is quite another thing all together. There are no videos, forms, manuals, or “tandem partners” to guide you on *that* adventure!

In both cases, however, when you toe up to the line of the great void, fear totally takes hold of you.

There are just SO many uncertainties that you can’t plan for.

There are so many things that could go horribly, horribly wrong.

And if things “go wrong,” you just KNOW that your mother will KILL you.

* * *

Ironically, it was that specific thought that enabled me —in a fit of giggles and relief— to give the “Go!” signal to my tandem partner in 1998: If things “went wrong” on my dive, my mom most assuredly would NOT “kill” me … because I’d already be dead!

She would be SUPER SAD, of course. And if it turned out that I was fated to live in some sort of eternal afterlife (only a dim possibility as far as I can tell…), I would feel really, really bad –forever!– about making her sad. 😦

But I also knew EXACTLY and euphorically what she would say at my funeral:

Cristin lived life on her own terms. I am proud of who she was and what she strived to be.

My mom raised me to be smart, determined, confident, and independent.

When I was picked on in 6th grade for being an undersized, underdeveloped, big ol’ brainiac nerd, she helped me understand that smart never goes out of style — it stays with you as you grow, and it leads you down the most successful paths.

When I decided to apply for West Point while attending an all-girls Catholic high school, she was the one who took me to visit the Academy and encouraged me to work hard, kick butt, and not ever let anyone tell me that I “can’t” do it “because I’m a girl.” And when measles+mono unexpectedly sent me packing from Beast Barracks, she came to the airport to pick up my luggage and my spirits … a story for a later blog post, perhaps.

Throughout my life, she instilled in me the dual importance of (a) accepting myself for who I am, and (b) having unwaivering confidence in that same, totally unique person. Accordingly, I’ve learned that having a positive self-image assures power, strength, ability, and value.

Indeed, I’ve vanquished many demons, conquered innumerable goals, and fearlessly pursued my biggest dreams.

It’s possible that she might’ve raised me a little TOO well on some of these issues, but one thing’s for sure: The lessons stuck.

So here’s what I know now:

There is nothing to worry about.

I have done my diligence.

I know who I am.

I know who I want to be.

I know how to get there and I’m not afraid of encountering detours on my path.

I know that once you are at that door, the only way to get through is to let go.

And I know that once you cross that threshold, the feelings of exhilaration, freedom, and … there is no other word: awesomeness … are overwhelmingly positive.

I very clearly remember what I said to my skydiving compatriots back in 1998:

It’s a good thing that this is so f*cking expensive, otherwise I’d be totally addicted!

Skydiving was absolutely AMAZING. But I knew I could not afford to do it every day, or even every week, month, or year.

Indeed, it would be more than a decade before I again donned a parachute. Here’s a photo of my return to the sky in 2009.

Sky Diving over San Diego

If the photo was radiostatic, you could hear me saying: “This. Is. Awesooooooome!

Second time around with the skydiving = no fear. Only awesomeness.

Second time around with the voluntarily unemployment plunge (remember, I did this “mid-career sabbatical” thing back in 2002, too, when I shunned law firm partnership in favor of Peace Corps Volunteerism) = still a good deal of fear on the front end, but as soon as I let go and crossed that threshold … 100% awesomeness!

Frankly, I’m mystified as to why more people don’t enjoy a mid-career break. I suspect that mortgages and kids may have “something” (!) to do with it. Being without such encumbrances myself, however, I’m fully flummoxed by how long it’s taken me to realize how valuable and important this change can be — and IS!

Taking such a drastic leap is not an “every day,” or even an every year thing — but every decade seems imminently reasonable to me.

Each time I’ve embarked on a new “wild” adventure, I’ve been consumed (at least temporarily) by worry, and yet each time I’ve lived, survived, and, in fact, thrived. Getting right-up-close to my fears has allowed me see some of the best times of my life and I am super loving what I see on the horizon now:

Holy sh*t, this is gonna be f*cking awesome!

Parting thought: The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!” — General George S. Patton, Jr.

One Response to “After the jump”


  1. Naming a Fear / Learning a Lesson | JustAdventures - June 8, 2015

    […] enjoy the journey and wherever it ultimately took me. I wrote about my initial fear/uneasiness in THIS blog post, which included the following passage designed to calm me (and you, Dear […]

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