Monday, April 27, 2015

Why I Jumped Out of a Plane

I said this year is all about pushing past uncomfortable boundaries I have for myself. I began the year by diving into a 40 degree pool (that's 5 degrees for the rest of the world) and since have tried to challenge myself to do things that I am hesitant about.

So for my 45th birthday I traveled two hours or so north to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, as my father described it. I never really had wanted to skydive, though I do like the adrenaline rush of speed. This was to prove something to myself as much as anything else.

First: the tangibles and logistics.

My friends and I drove to Cullman to Skydive Alabama for the event. I had been talking about it for a while and when my friend Scott took care of the scheduling, pricing, etc., my bluff was called and I had to go through with it.

I paid for a cameraman with two GoPros on his helmet (one for stills, one for video) to jump with us so he could flim my descent. It was an extra $90 for this footage, but who knows how often I will do this.

We split into two groups of two, and were all strapped to the chest of our tandem divers like we were in a Baby Bjorn. As I sat with mylegs hanging over the side and I could feel the rush of the wind on them and I felt like backing out. But it's all about pushing past uncomfortable boundaries so from 14,000 feet, I let gravity take over.

The free fall is surreal, falling so fast from so far above ground that it seems like you aren't falling at all. The wind made the skin on my face ripple and I felt as exposed to the sun as I ever had.

After we popped the canopy at about 10,000 feet, we gently floated the rest of the way down to a soft landing in a seated position. The adrenaline flood I was experiencing is like little I have dealt with in the past. I was literally inebriated on my own flood of hormones.

So why did I do it? Why push by these uncomfortable boundaries?

When I started this boundary pushing initiative for the year, I was still in the classroom full time. I like to say when people ask me what I teach that my subject field is Social Studies, but I teach teenagers. Helping these young people succeed is part of my job. So many things in our lives we want to do, but we don't. The thing that keeps us from doing these things are internal boundaries we erect in our head.

This year has been really great for me. I have a great new job that I love. The students gave me an amazing send off. I have been recognized as one of the top 16 teachers of the year in the state and was awarded an award for Excellence in Teaching With Technology as well as Most Innovative by my department in my Ph. D. program.

A half of a decade ago, things were different. I was working hard with my classes and steadily improving the way I implemented the blended classroom model. I knew I was doing some good work that was effective.

But I was under the misconception that good work would be recognized. I am not saying that good work is always unrewarded, but if no one is aware of your good work...

Self promotion has always been an uncomfortable thing for me. I do it, but it is uncomfortable. I once heard Tom Petty say that if you have to tell people you are a rebel, you probably aren't. I had my own corollary: if you have to tell people you are awesome, you probably aren't.

But by pushing past uncomfortable boundaries and self promoting, a lot of amazing things have happened in the last few years. I wanted to model this for my kids. If you want to do something but don't, you are probably the main impediment. Granted, there are lots of forces at work that may be barriers to you, but we can get by a lot of those and do what we set our minds to do. Make it a priority and do it.

When I booked skydiving I was hoping to model that for my students. I have shared the pictures and videos with enough of them that I hope that some of them realize what they are capable of and push past their own uncomfortable boundaries.

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