Yesterday I saw a quote on Instagram that really resonated with me. It said: “The key to happiness is freedom, they key to freedom is courage”. The key to happiness is freedom, whatever that may mean to you. The freedom to be who you are, to love who you want, to say what you think, to do what you want to do and to spend your time however you choose.
The key to happiness is freedom, whatever that may mean to you. The freedom to be who you are, to love who you want to love, to say what you think, to do what you want to do and to spend your time however you choose. We all want freedom which means something completely different for everyone. Freedom means happiness.
They key to freedom is courage, the courage to do whatever it takes to get you to the freedom you want and that will make you happy. The courage to do something you are scared to do, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, taking steps you would never dream of taking and mustering up the courage to embark on a new journey that can take you to the freedom you so desire. Courage means freedom. Freedom means happiness.
This reminds me of something very significant that happened in my life when I was in my 20’s. As a youngster, I was quite the rebel. A 21-year-old obnoxious loudmouth, not afraid of anything, thinking I was on top of the world and always bragging about all the things I was not afraid to do. I had told my friends that I would go bungee jumping or skydiving without any problems or any fear. Well… I paid the price for that in a big way.
For my 22nd birthday, my friends gave me a certificate to go skydiving. After my first internal “oh crap what did I get myself into” reaction I laughed, thanked my friends and told them this was going to be big fun. The parachute center was on the small island of Texel. I had already decided there was no way I was going to do this, so my thought process was to simply go there, get a piece of paper that said I jumped out of a plane and go back home. No such thing happened. When I arrived at the parachute center all my friends were there without me knowing it, to cheer me on. I was too stubborn to back out, acted very jovial and happy with my friends and seemingly happy went to the 30-minute instruction class on what was about to be the journey of a lifetime. Did I actually feel the happiness? Not so much…
I got my gear strapped on, hugged my friends and went into the plane with a big smile on my face like this was super cool and no big deal. I was strapped to my instruction who apparently does this 5 times a day, and we were attached to a rail that we were supposed to hang on to. I was thinking if Felix Baumgartner can jump out of a capsule from the edge of space, then I can do this, I got this. The plane started taxiing and I waved to my friends one last time. Once I was out of sight of my friends, intense fear hit me from every angle and I started shaking so badly I could not control it. The instructor laughed, put his arm around my waist and said; “Don’t worry girl, I got your back, you’re going to love it”. I was in firm disagreement with his statement and as we climbed up in the clouds I began to understand where the term “paralyzed by fear” comes from. I was absolutely terrified and quietly cried and prayed telling God that if I ever were to land on the ground I would eat a slice of humble pie, or maybe just stuff in the whole pie itself. The happiness level had dropped to minus a few hundred at this point.
We were at the correct height to prepare for the jump. Our instructor moved us to the door opening while I was frantically hanging on to the rail above me. I was so paralyzed by fear that I tried to scream but no sound came out. I received instructions to cross my arms in front of me and I am not sure if I did it or if he did it for me but I know at that moment my entire life flashed in front of me in a matter of seconds. It was absolutely unbelievable. The adrenaline was pumping through my body so fast that I thought I was having a heart attack. I was about to do something that I did not know how it was going to end. It felt like jumping in the middle of the ocean, not knowing if you can swim or not. My heart was pounding out of my chest and from behind me I hear my instructor yelling: “here we go!” and he pushed me out of the plane into nothing. I tried to scream but my body, brain, and voice were no longer functioning and I was convinced at that point I was going to die.
Not a sound, just the wind rushing past my head. The wind caught us and the pressure of the air leveled us out in a horizontal position. I spread my arms and looked below me. The world was so far away but was coming at me at an alarming rate. I realized I was flying! I slowly started to feel life flow back into my body and I regained some control over my breathing.
After about 60 seconds of free fall, I felt a jerk and the parachute opened up and we slowed down to a speed where I actually got a chance to look around me. A sense of total peace came over me, mostly because I started to realize there was actually a chance I was going to survive this ordeal. The world looked beautiful from up there and I experienced a sense of freedom that I had never felt before and that I would likely never feel again because I sure as heck was never going to do this again. As we floated down, my instructor pointed out the landing site where I could see little dots jumping up and down. Those were my friends cheering for me and I waved at them. After about 5 minutes we landed. It was a smooth landing, but it is a very weird feeling to touch the ground after being completely paralyzed by fear and having your gear pretty much cut off the blood flow to your legs. I fell down and it took me a minute to stop shaking and get some blood flowing in my legs again. My instructor helped me up but I was still shaking and could not stand very well, so he made me hang around his neck because apparently standing up and walking is the only way you get your body to calm down and go back to its normal state.
My friends came running, waving their arms and screaming at me, all smiles. I didn’t realize I was crying, nor did I realize I had wet my pants somewhere on the journey. I slowly started to feel normal again as my friends piled themselves on top of me, hugging and kissing me. They couldn’t believe I actually did it, and neither could I. Every time I talk about this or when I think back about that I so vividly remember, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, pride, and courage, which lead to a feeling of freedom I have never experienced again since that day 24 years ago, when I turned out to be a total badass.
There is a song out there by a band called “Something Happens” and the title of the song is “Parachute“. This song and these lyrics (from 1990) got a whole new meaning for me after my actual parachute jump.
Take your parachute and jump, you can’t stay here forever
When everyone else is gone, being all alone won’t seem that clever
Take your parachute and go, there’s gonna have to be some danger
Take your parachute and jump, you’re gonna have to take flight
If the winds don’t catch you, I will, I will
If the wind’s not there, I’m here
Don’t look out before you, you know it’s a long way down
I’ll make it safer for you, your parachute won’t let you down
Take your parachute and go, and maybe come back tomorrow
Take your parachute, I am, stop you ever getting sorrow
If the winds don’t catch you, I will, I will
If the wind’s not there, I’m here
Cause the winds might change, and the winds might blow over you
And the winds might cut you in two unless perhaps you get a raincoat
Take your parachute and go, and wave to me as you are falling
Take your parachute and jump, you’ll hear a sound, it’s just me calling
It’s a beautiful day for jumping, and nothing’s here to keep you back
I’ll make it safer for you, your parachute is on your back
The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to muster up the courage to let go of the control, grab a parachute and jump without knowing where you will end up, you just have to have faith in the parachute on your back that will provide you with the option of a safe landing. You just might discover a kind of freedom you have never experienced before and feelings you never even knew you had. Be brave and courageous, embark on a new journey that maybe you never considered, or thought it would never be an option for you.