There was a clinking of metal as he pulled the straps and buckles tighter between my legs; my heart hammered painfully in my chest with anticipation. No, I wasn’t participating in some terrifying bondage event, although that probably still would have been more in my comfort zone than the current situation.
Why couldn’t I have dealt with a soul-destroying break-up like a normal person; by sobbing into a family sized tub of Ben and Jerry’s while stagnating in front of Netflix for a few weeks? Yet here I was, dressed in a giant red onesie, strapped to a stranger, about to be pushed out of a plane, with only 15,000 feet between myself and the mountainous landscape below.
New Zealand was always somewhere I’d wanted to go but had never had the courage. After all, I’d thought – isn’t New Zealand for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers? But after endless night of sobbing, convinced that I wasn’t brave enough to Go-It-Alone, I had decided to finally take the leap; I just hadn’t anticipated it being so literal.
The town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island had beckoned me with its snow tipped mountains and mirror-like alpine lakes, but right then I couldn’t focus for long enough to appreciate the view. As I peeked out of the window of the tiny plane, anxiety fizzed in my chest like a shaken-up cola can. Then the moment finally came. Strapped together, my buddy and I did an awkward synchronised bum-shuffle toward the plane hatch, open wide onto the sprawling views of glacial carved valleys below. My knuckles were white and shaking as I gripped onto my shoulder straps, trying to remember my safety briefing back at the bunker, to hold on tight throughout the free-fall until my skydiving-buddy tapped my shoulder, the signal to let go after the parachute opened.
Then we fell. Tumbling through the clouds. My stomach lurched to catch up with my body. Adrenaline sparked through my veins as I plummeted face-down toward the earth at 200KMH. Colours splattered across my vision; familiar images from bizarre angles, like an abstract painting. Yet, despite the deafening rush of wind I was blissful, calm, and clear. I didn’t have any control over my fate and it felt exhilarating.
I threw my arms out wide in a Redeemer-like pose as we floated gently over the yellow, brown and green patchwork quilt of farm and fields. A winding river snaked through lush green valleys until it met with the milky blue of Lake Wanaka, which welcomed me with a cheeky twinkle of sunshine as we glided across bright blue sky. My cheeks were flapping unattractively but I couldn’t help but smile, bursting with pride at having just had the courage to leap towards my new life.