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Published: May 1, 2013
There is a reason that people who crave that rush of adrenaline that skydiving and other extreme activities brings are called adrenaline "junkies". After a while, it becomes like an addiction. How many times have you smiled and nodded politely after hearing about someone's first time skydiving as they excitedly rambled on about it? You know it's the only thing they're going to be talking about for at least the next week or two.
And you were that person once, too.
Once you get hooked, it changes you and how you relate to the world around you. Your relationships change, your priorities shift and your work/life balance gets thrown off a little. Skydiving is an expensive hobby and not understood by many people and even frowned upon by some. Once you really start getting into it, you can see how much money goes into it and how much you keep wanting to do it more and more and more ... well, you can start to feel a bit like a junkie (but a really healthy, ruddy-cheeked and constantly smiling junkie, not the zombie stand-in kind).
The very nature of the sport sort of feeds into a constant need to fall and fall again. Because, after all, unlike most other sports, you can't just hop back up once you're done a fall and try something again, you've got to wait for the airplane to go back up. And you might have to do some finagling with mother nature (I've found she's a pretty hard bargainer).
Like any addiction, it can be tough to find that balance in life between skydiving and everything else. For a lot of us when we begin, there is no everything else ... which, I guess, means there's nothing else, or at least nothing else that matters. It's all about perfecting belly flying, or sit flying, or head down or trying a wingsuit.
A student skydiver asked me once how I balance it all and find time to fit it all in, which made me really sit back and think about it.
Although I don't have any kind of formula or any true answer to the question, the best answer -- and this admittedly sounds kind of lame -- is that I just got used to it. But not used to the skydiving, I mean, I got re-used to the all theother parts of my life. Imagine my surprise when I woke up to the fact after being in the sport for a couple of seasons that there is still life outside of skydiving. Up until then, my sole focus was on getting up in the sky and jumping out of a plane as often as possible, traveling to out-of-town drop zones when the weather got bad, going to any boogie I could reasonably get to and just generally spending every waking minute I could to feed that freefall need.
While that might sound like the perfect life to an avid skydiver, my obsession started bleeding into other aspects of my life. Although I generally enjoyed my office job, it really started to suck being at work because my mind was never there. I was constantly daydreaming about the next jump. My family and friends got sick of being around me (except for the ones who I went skydiving with, of course) and I finally had a wake up call when I was a bit short on rent one month because I just had to get in some more jumps that month and rent be damned! Obviously, I didn't care about anything else at that point.
So I took a step back.
I didn't pack up my 'chute for good or have a retirement party at my local drop zone or anything like that. I just took a weekend away from it and hung out with some old friends who I had sort of lost touch with.
That was when things started to balance out again for me. I came to realize that life isn't always about the next adrenaline fix. Sometimes it's about taking it slow and savoring the moment. It was like before I was just freefalling through life but now I'm still freefalling ... but with a freefly suit on ... or something. Okay, analogies are not my forte.
I got to talking about this balance thing to a freefall photographer once and he gave me the advice to embrace each moment and live it to the fullest (yes, I know that's the tritest piece of advice in history, I didn't say the guy was Buddha). But living life to the fullest is what skydiving is all about. When you step out of that plane, you leave everything else behind for the next 60 seconds. It's just you and the freefall ... and the wind, there's always wind ... and maybe some friends if you're doing a formation or something ... and the view, maybe.
It's not easy to do that with every aspect of your life. Like I don't know how much I can possibly savor the feeling of my fingers pressing down on the keys of my laptop while I write this but the point is that there are wonderful moments in life outside of screaming through the air at what feels like a zillion miles per hour.
I've heard the word 'compartmentalize' tossed around before and I guess it helps to think of life a bit like that. When I'm in my work 'compartment' I try to focus completely on the task at hand to the best of my ability. When I'm blogging, I'm focusing on the topic and giving the readers something worth their time and when I'm skydiving, I'm focused on ... what was I talking about again?
Maybe not everybody has this same issue keeping their life balanced between skydiving and everything else in life but for those who do, just try and remember that everything in life has something to offer, some of it is obvious and some of it you have to look for, but it's there.
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