Catherine - Saint Louis, Missouri
Entered on August 20, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

For the greater part of my 18 years, I have had a fear of heights. Not an intense, can’t look-out-a-four-story-window sort of fear, but just a healthy does of apprehension when it comes to the high dive at the pool. Knowing this, you may wonder how I found myself in a Cessna C-172 aircraft flying 14,000 feet in the air, about to jump out.

My friend Amanda and I had decided that for our eighteenth birthdays, which fell only a week apart, we needed to do something exciting, something to exert our new status as full-fledged adults. There was not an election coming up to vote in, strips clubs were not exactly my thing, and neither of us smoked cigarettes, so we decided to go skydiving.

We arrived at Archway Skydiving Center around 10 AM, and after watch a brief informational video and signing the requisite forms stating we were aware that a risk of death accompanied skydiving, we were suited up and loaded into the plane. I noticed a faded, peeling sticker in the corner that stated the weight limit for the aircraft was 600 pounds. There were 9 people total in the plane. I did some quick math and started to get seriously scared.

Amanda and I had opted for the tandem skydive, in which you are strapped to the front of an instructor who would pull the rip cord if you were unable. All the other people in the plane were experienced skydivers, and jumped out one by one until it was just me, Amanda, our instructors, and the pilot left. As we edged to the door, the noise was deafening. I peered over the edge and took in the vast stretch of Missouri farmland below. I have never been more terrified. I closed my eyes and jumped, freefalling towards the earth at 120 miles per hour for 70 seconds. I have never experienced something so simultaneously terrifying, exhilarating, and beautiful. When my altimeter indicated it was time to deploy the chute, I pulled the ripcord and glided safely down to a designated field.

Laying there in the grass I had never felt so satisfied. Going skydiving is not extraordinary; hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people do it every day. But I had conquered a fear that had plagued me since childhood. I believe in the power we have to face our fears and the tremendous strength we gain from doing so. Fear is fleeting, so long as we have the courage to face it. My fear of heights was relatively minor, but in overcoming it I realized the potential within myself and all people to do the unexpected, and maybe even extraordinary.

I can now proudly say that I am a full-fledged adult, who is no longer afraid of the high-dive.