For the average weekend-warrior, skydiving is the great escape. The end of each dreary workweek is met with excitement and anticipation. Time to skydive! This is our chance to be with friends who share our passion, and escape the mundane, while we embrace life on our own terms. But with every wild weekend at the dz come the frustrations of another Monday morning…back to “reality”.
And as the weekend highs become increasingly potent, so, too, do the lows of the following week back in the “real world”. This is a problem. Or at least is has been for me.
Skydiving is so much more than the physical act of each jump. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding, and – at times – incredibly fulfilling. It also brings a sense of community, place, and purpose to the lives of many of us. The bonds created at the dz are strong, and the times spent together with friends in the mutual pursuit of pleasure can be as rich and vital as nearly any other human experience. This is why we jump.
But not everyone has something equally rewarding or exciting waiting for them at home. In fact, many of the dedicated skydivers I’ve known sacrifice a substantial amount of their time, energy, and resources in support of those two sacred days each week that they get to spend doing what they love. In many ways, it’s like a drug.
The comparisons are obvious:
- It’s expensive
- It’s exciting and intoxicating
- It’s quite addictive
- It leaves you in withdrawal when you’re unable to jump
- It’s not always socially acceptable (sometimes even forbidden by friends / loved ones)
- It can eventually have negative effects on other parts of your life (relationships, finances, etc.)
- It can consume your mind and thoughts even when you’re not jumping
- It can begin to rule your life, as you reshape your time, energy and resources to better support your habit
What, then, becomes of our prior reality? It’s hard to replicate the floods of dopamine and surges of endorphins unleashed over the course of a weekend in the sky. And as you progress in skydiving towards more demanding disciplines that require greater focus and dedication, all else can become comparatively dull and uninspired.
But there are no support groups for us crazy few. No meetings to attend with mantras to repeat aloud in sober solidarity. We’re left to our own devices – bored and daydreaming about our next fix. This duality doesn’t sit well. At least not with me. I’ve had a very difficult time adjusting to a life split between two utterly separate and diametrically opposed worlds – one of hedonism and excitement, and the other of drudgery and toil.
For me, these two paths could no longer be bridged. I’ve had to choose. And I’ve always been a much more talented hedonist than I have a cubicle-rat, so my choice was fairly clear. Granted, not everyone is in a position to completely cutaway. Some of you have spouses, kids, mortgages, magazine subscriptions, softball practices, and various other entanglements with which to contend.
These types of responsibility have always terrified me. But I’m very interested in hearing from you! How is it that you, the reader, who I presume lives to some extent in both of these worlds at once, is able to reconcile them? What sacrifices must you make? How do you divide your time between the sky (the friends, the bonfires and other sanctioned mayhem) and the so-called “real world”? Perhaps there’s something I’ve missed in my pursuit of balance. And I’d love to hear what that might be. Your thoughts and personal insights are welcomed and invited below!
Nice article. I'm a military skydiver, paid for what I do :) However, there are times when there's a long gap between jumps, continuously imparting ground training and not jumping... Bores. But then suddenly news comes of a new aircraft coming for currency, like C-17 and a jump is planned from 15000'... Milk white clouds!)).. And then smiles on trainees after their first static line jump... And then a High alti hop n pop.. foreign dz.. Things keep going side by side..
Reminds me of a book entitled "Positive Addiction." The author (a medical doctor) said that humans crave endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine, etc. in varying degrees. If your day-to-day existence does not produce enough "feel good" endorphins, you need to engage in recreational activities that stimulate production of endorphins. Endorphin generating activities may include barroom brawling, BASE jumping, marathon running, petty crime, skiing, warfare, etc.
The author recommended adrenalin sports as positive ways to generate feel good endorphins. For example chosing marathon running over morphine injection is a "positive addiction."
Good read. I live over three hours from the DZ so I have some time to reflect and decompress. I married a great woman who supports my craziness. I have two awesome kids who are successful and happy. I have a Savior who has wiped away all the pain and regret of the past and will carry me through the tough times ahead. In a word, I'm happy. Skydiving isn't the source of that happiness. It's a way to celebrate it for me. My joy springs from knowing there are awesome things waiting for me. I just need to have the faith and the courage to open myself up to them.
Wow Andrew, thank you for such a thoughtful topic.
For me, it's a matter of balance. I have been an active skydiver for 39 years and have maintained a healthy work/life balance throughout. The secret (for me) has been to maintain and nurture several passions in my life; family, running, cycling, skydiving and a really interesting career. Thus, when one or more passion is not available, I place my intentions on those that are. The problem with some skydivers (and other individuals that put all their eggs in one basket) is that outside of skydiving, they have no other passions. Consequently, when injured, weathered out or unable to jump, these individuals become surly and depressed. Variety is the spice of life. Sadly, you will not become a world champion with this broad view. However, when the clouds roll in you'll likely have an exciting "plan B" already on tap.
As I write this note, I'm perched at 11,000' MSL at one of the largest telescopes in the world. Alas, there will be no aircraft landing at the observatory for "load 1". Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to a hypoxic trail run shortly after lunch.
Depressed? No way! Full of gratitude and lots of options!
nice job on your article, i enjoyed it. i am a weekend jumper who started in 1984 and i always thought i had the best of both worlds. i have a career that i like and was able to raise a son. work all week and jump on the weekends, what else is there in life right? well i dont own a home [ i rent] and i dont have the money to retire so i think i will work until i drop. but these are the choices i have made and if i had to do it all over again i would not change a thing. skydiving and the people in it are the best people in the world. i feel blessed to have been given the life i got, skydivers know why the birds sing. blue sky s
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