When I was asked to write a piece for this site last year I was still high on the rush from my first season of sky diving proper. I was in the process of an indoctrination that would effectively transform my lifestyle from a work based one, shackled by the restrictions of normative conventions, to a more free-form one where I’ve now become more socially liberated and mobile than ever before.
Whichever way you look at it, there’s a biological reason why Sky Diving is known to be a perfect antidote to a mid-life crisis. Personally, before I took my first dive, I knew that I was circling a drain of sorts. My work life had become so commonplace that I no longer gained any enjoyment from it.
The board meetings, the business trips, the presentations: these used to be a challenge, a chance for me to test my mettle. But the more you’re put into these situations, the less they pose a threat. The important men in suits, the disapproving frowns; these worrying cues soon disappear after you’ve successfully faced them a few times.
I found myself drifting into stranger and stranger habits.
Fast cars, rock climbing. These physical challenges were thrilling but they didn’t reinvigorate me the way that I would have hoped. In truth, my first sky dive, although it was a key part in me forming my new life, didn’t thrill me quite as much as what was to come after.
I’m often asked how I can afford to go skydive two to three times a month. It’s a reasonable question and the sport, quite rightfully, has the reputation for being a novelty activity by dint of it being so costly. Even though I have some financial support, in terms of what I earn in my day job, I still had to take measures to reduce the overall cost of my new hobby that promised to make a serious impression on my retirement fund otherwise.
After my first dive I knew that I needed to do this again. When I inquired with the instructors they told me that the best way was to join my local club, if I wanted to get regular dives at a cheaper rate. These clubs are willing to accept anyone but, as with any social club, there is an aspect of belonging to such a group that requires you to get along with the other members.
Sometimes entering an alien social situation can be just as refreshing as jumping out of a plane at several thousand feet.
Entering a room of happily chatting people, who you are essentially a stranger to, is bewildering. My mind immediately drifted back to my time as a Graduate Trainee, attempting to network and make friends with the strangers that would become my lifelong colleagues.
It might sound sad, but the amount of times that I’ve had the chance to meet new people in the last few years have been incredibly slim. I’ve managed to maintain a small group of friends and I mostly work with the same people, day in – day out.
Now I was presented with a new challenge that I simply had not expected. I now had the chance to prove myself to what would become my new friends that I would rely on in the most dangerous of situations.