“When are you going to get a real job?”, my sister asks me. “You can’t work in skydiving all your life, you know.“
“Yes, some day you’ll have to come and live in the Real World like the rest of us.”
“Well you can’t run away forever. When are you going to grow up? What are you afraid of?”
I’m not running away from anything
To be clear, I’m not running away from your so-called ‘Real World’. I’m running towards something that matters; living a rich, satisfying life with purpose and joy. I choose the way I want to live, and that’s different to yours. It’s different to most of society but that doesn’t make it wrong, immature or escapism.
What am I am afraid of?
I’m afraid of your ‘Real World’. Scared of 9-5 jobs, tedium, commuting and office life, where every day is Groundhog Day. Where I’m supposed to sell my soul to the corporate devil, ponce about in impractical clothes, and toe the party line without questioning. All for the love of money, so I can buy yet more uncomfortable clothes, pose in ever more swanky cars and drink in ludicrously overpriced bars with the In Crowd? No thank you.
My real world
This is my real world. The skydiving world that, to me, has its values and priorities right. People matter. We have a community that cares. We look after each other if one of us has a misfortune. Where you leave your car unlocked all day on the dropzone. You get on a load leaving your wallet & credit cards on the packing mat and they’re still there when you get back. Where you can give your kids some leeway to explore the DZ without worrying about perverts or bad influences.
Life is short, and we only get to live it once.
Here, no-one gives a dingo’s kidney about what car you drive, how big your house is or getting seen with the right people. The only thing that matters to other skydivers is the size of the smile on your face when you land. Or how far you can swoop, what kind of wingsuit you jump, and what’s the best skydive you made this year. Even that’s not elitist. Whatever canopy you jump is cool; I just want to hear what you like about it. Whether you can swoop 10 meters or a hundred is irrelevant; what matters is your passion. If you don’t skydive but something lights up your eyes, that’s cool too… slack-lining, breeding poodles, whatever; you have some fire.
On the DZ it doesn’t matter whether you are a brain surgeon or a roadsweeper. Whether you have Asperger’s or are socially inept. Here, ‘equal opportunities’ isn’t lip-service or forced, it’s so real you see it all around you. Jarrett’s friends carry him from his wheelchair to the BASE exit point of Kjerag and into freefall. Double amputee Al Hodgson wins medals at World Championships. An all-female group sets a World Record in the open category. We all know some skydivers who are society’s misfits. They find it hard to be accepted at work and socially because they stand out like a penguin in a hen house. On a dropzone, everyone fits in.
The only thing that matters to other skydivers is the size of the smile on your face when you land.
You can meet and jump with your heroes in this sport. They don’t think they are any better than you, just because they excel. That’s the kind of role model I want. They pass on their skills, tips and tricks to the next generation. They want to see the new guys get better than they are, they want to be blown away by progress, not hold others back so they can rule the roost for longer.
Pushing the limits
How often do World Records and new discoveries happen in ‘real life’? In skydiving, a single month saw a women’s world record sequential, an open world record, a German national record, a world highest altitude record, 3 head-down world sequential records, 3 national records and 4 Texas state records, an Italian Head-down record. Plus new developments in BASE, xRW between a base jumper and a skydiver, and the launch of a brand new canopy. We love to explore different adventures, stretch ourselves, and find new ground.
Lesley Gale wrote this article in 2016. Even though the feelings expressed in this article are atemporal, some of the facts mentioned are in the past.
Antidote to capitalism
Here, we don’t worship money for its own sake, it’s just tokens to buy tunnel time, a wingsuit and an Otter ride to 13,000 feet. The people who work in the sport, do they do it for the money? Of course not. They do it for the love. Which makes them the happiest group of people I know. They don’t just talk about money mot mattering, it really doesn’t. Future world champions live in trailers and eat cold baked beans so they can fulfil their dream. Base jumpers hitch a ride and climb for 6 hours in blazing heat for the joy of a 2-minute adventure. Students sell their cars to buy a Go-Pro and jump camera, not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
Out there, the so-called ‘Real World’, is dominated by rampant consumerism; freedom does not exist; humanitarian values are a scarcrity; countries are run for profit; the earth’s resources are plundered without heed for the future; and the vast majority of people are not consciously living, they are existing.
Life is short, and we only get to live it once.
I’ll stick to my ‘real world’, thanks. It seems a lot more real than yours.
Keep coming back
Lesley Gale has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. Lesley has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information, and passion about our fantastic sport.
If you want to reach out and share some of your thoughts with Lesley, you can find her at www.skydivemag.com. Thank you for letting me share your article on my blog. Your work for all these years for our community is priceless.
Lesley Gale wrote this article in November 2016.
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