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Author: Laura T Fyfe
Year: Future

Please note: this piece contains strong language

I’m sitting at the edge of the door of a plane, feet dangling out, 4,000 feet of air between the soles of my feet and the ground. And I’m wondering how I got to be here...

That’s how I felt the first time. And every time, come to think of it. Parachute jumping was my hobby for a while. Memories of those visits are treasures in a time capsule that I revisit every now and then. Snapshots of a time I felt more free.

I used to pick up my pal, Jo, from the train station in Stirling, then drive us up the A9, weaving my little black Clio around cars, lorries and tractors, to Auchterarder, then zipped around farmland bends to Strathallan Air Field.

They say you’re more than two thousand times more likely to die in a car crash than in an aircraft. I’m sure the odds are even better when you compare driving on the A9 to being in an aeroplane with a parachute strapped to your back.

But the odds don’t really mean much when you and three others are shuffling along, the air from the propellers whipping your hair around your heads, looking ridiculous, like orange-jumpsuited leatherback turtles.

The odds don’t really mean much when you’re in a plane, apparently held together by peeling, silvery gaffer tape, and you’re trying not to think of all the things that could go wrong. When you’re squeezed between the pilot’s chair and three people in front of you. The odds definitely don’t mean much when you’ve the silhouette of a plane hanging against the blue sky just a few feet above you, the Cheshire Cat grin of your instructor visible from the door.

By that point, nothing means much.

And it’s fucking glorious. The best stress-relief ever. Perverse, maybe, but when you’re throwing yourself out into the sky, you feel like you can do anything.

I first jumped when I was twenty five. It lasted a couple of years, on and off. It was something I’d always wanted to try. An acquaintance once asked how unhappy I must have been to want to throw myself from a plane to escape my life.

But it wasn’t a death wish. Far from it. Heading to the airfield on a Saturday morning, up that big grey curve of concrete between hills, was a journey to freedom. The luxury of sitting for hours in a steamy-windowed room of tables, filled with the camaraderie and laughter of parachutists. Those seconds between emerging from the plane and the opening of the parachute – pure and utter bliss. Detached from the gravity of the world.

I’m living a different life now. I’m not that twenty-five year old. I’ve a mortgage, two cars and a child. Forty’s got me in its sights and is heading straight for me, ready to mow me down and chew me up. That young man who bought me my first parachute jump is now my husband and he’s called my bluff and booked me another.

Fear’s a funny thing. I never really felt afraid back then. But with motherhood, comes real deep in your bones fear. Now I have something to live for, a love I never expected, nor was ever prepared for. I have a new branch of a family tree to tend.

My five-year-old wants to come along to the airfield too. He’s excited about the prospect of watching his speck of a mother plummet. I try not to examine that too closely.

I worry for him. He’s such a cautious, sensible wee man. I hope that as he grows, he’ll throw himself into adventure. Not simply exist through his years in grey, lukewarm, comfort. I hope he’ll live with fresh air whipping around his body, nipping at his cheeks and the tips of his fingers, flying through blue skies, not knowing whether his parachute will open and not caring because he’s so full of the joy of it.

I want him to learn how important it is to live – not fearlessly – but with fear. Because if you don’t feel even a little afraid sometimes, then where’s the risk? Where’s the fun?

So I’ll show him. I’ll show him that to truly live, sometimes you have to jump.