The only reason I went along was because I was trying to impress a would-be boyfriend, who just happened to be one of the parachute instructors.
For 2 days, we trained on the ground. Then it was time to put what we had learned into practice.
The manoeuvre, for exiting the plane, involves putting your left foot on a small step, over one of the wheels, and pulling yourself out of plane, hand over hand, via the strut that attaches the wing to the fuselage.
So there I am – standing on the step, and smiling in at the jumpmaster to indicate that I’m ready.
“Go,” he says.
“I can’t,” I reply.
So he leans out, grabs hold of me, and drags me back inside the plane. I feel humiliated and angry, and I know, now, that there’s no hope of ever being his girlfriend.
What stopped me from jumping? For years, I thought it was either fear of heights, or fear of the unknown. But when I analysed it, recently, I realised it was because I was doing the jump for the wrong reasons.
I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it to impress someone. And at 90 miles per hour, 2,500 feet above the ground, that wasn’t reason enough to make me hurl myself into the void.
Back on the ground, I decided I wanted to have another go. But this time, I would be doing it to prove to myself that I could – not to impress the guy. That boat had already sailed.
A month later, I did my first parachute jump – and I learned several lessons from doing it.
But I realise, now, that the one lesson I didn’t learn was about not doing things to impress other people – because I still catch myself doing it, now and again.
When I’m trying to impress someone, I’m not being authentic, because I’m spending far too much time trying to second-guess what they want – afraid to ask questions, in case it’s taken as a sign of weakness or incompetence.
I even sound different, when I’m trying to impress. And I hate it.
I never used to bother about impressing people, when I was younger – I was happy for them to either take me or leave me. But over the past few years, I seem to have lost the knack of knowing that I’m enough.
Not “good enough”. Simply “enough”.
Being “good enough” implies some sort of effort to please – to impress someone.
Being “enough” means that you can be yourself, and that being yourself is all there is, and all there needs to be. And I know, from past experience, that people find that incredibly attractive anyway.