I jumped off a plane from 18,000 feet and survived!

Awe-inspiring. Existential. Exhilirating. Beyond fun. Cathartic. Serene. Contemplative. Exhausting. Numbing. Mindless. Stupid. Inane. These are all words I'd describe the feelings and emotions I had when I jumped off a plane at 18,000 feet! The feeling was amazing, complemented only by views I had never seen before.

It was a beautiful day. We got on a small one-propeller plane (about 10 of us). I believe there was more risk of us crashing because of the plane, than our parachutes not opening. I was somewhat nervous, but I've been more nervous on amusement park rides. However, matters weren't helped much when a student skydiving who was applying for her license and was doing her first solo jump panicked and had to be literally pushed out of the plane (as I was waiting on the ground, I was ready to jump solo, but I think jumping by yourself and jumping tandem are two very different ballgames)! I was jumping tandem and was thus attached to my instructor Yoshi. After we dropped off the student at 15,000 feet, we climbed to an altitude of 18,000 for which we had to wear oxygen masks.

Finally it was my turn. The small plexiglass window opened and out we went, without hesitation.

Falling. From 18,000 feet. The highest in the world. The first thing we did was a tumble as I saw the sun and the mountains whirl before my eyes. And I felt us falling fast for a few seconds and then we had reached terminal velocity and it was as though we were floating. Travelling at 120 MPH and free falling for about 75 seconds (from 18,000 to 6,000 feet), one of my first thoughts was "I must be crazy to be doing something like this!" When I jumped, it was without a thought as to whether I'd survive or not.

Flying. There was a moment there when I felt I was in a Zen-like state, where I was one with the rest of the Universe. It is the feeling I cherish most about this experience and it is the feeling I want to experience again and again and again!

And then just was I thinking "I hope the parachute opens", there was a dead calm as it felt everything had just stopped. I have to admit that as soon as the parachute opened, I missed the free fall. While you get to appreciate the view better, I could've gone on free falling forever. We rode under the canopy for 4-5 minutes and I got to play with the controls of the parachute a bit.

Finally we got closer and closer and touched the ground gently. I just wanted to sit on the ground, completely speechless (I'm normally pretty loquacious, if you can't tell), simply in awe of what I had experienced.

This definitely was an existential experience for me. This is what life is about. I think life is meaningless from a cosmic perspective (i.e., we're no more no less significant than a speck of dust), but I think the meaning of life is that we're alive and we're aware of what we are. And as I was free falling, I became aware of that with an extremely keen sense of sharpness.

Pseudo-intellectual ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org