> It is the same for us all, we all come about to that conclusion. When you
> make a solo, it doesn't matter at what jump it is, you feel how lonely it is
> with all that space. :^) (glorious space at that!)
It's funny ... but the whole time I was in student progression, I sort of
dreaded the day that I would be on my own ... truly on my own ... without a
jm even watching me in the air or from the plane. When I finally finished my
long student progression, wrapping it up via AFF, I distinctly remember the
feeling of emptiness when my JM told me "okay, you're on your own now. Be
careful. You can spend the rest of your day doing solos ... just manifest
whenever you want some air."
I walked away to think about that. It just didn't seem real. It
couldn't be. "Manifest whenever you want ... " My lord! I don't need to
wait for a jm?
For about an hour, I couldn't even begin to move towards the manifest window.
I just sat there at a picnic table ... in a sort of combined state of extreme
exhilaration (my God, I really graduated?) ... to one of deep dread (what the
hell business do I have being up there alone?).
I passed my time gloating to all who would listen ... "what to hear about my
awesome Level VII dive?" I was stalling ... trying to put off the
inevitable. Finally, in his own perceptive way ... I guess he knew I was
scared shitless ... James gently told me ... "hey, why don't you maybe like
just shut up and jump?"
Maybe that's the motivation I needed. I finally picked myself up and got on
That first solo ... strange ... geared up extra careful. Check the straps
... check the flaps ... "does this look okay?" I asked a passing jm. "Looks
fine to me!" he responded encouragingly. "But you can take the radio off
your chest strap. No one will be talking to you on it. No one's been
talking to you for the past three jumps anyway." Good point. I put the
Walk to the plane ... check ... double check. Everything's looking good.
I thought that ride to altitude would be sheer torture ... slower than
watching the grass grow. I was wrong ... dead wrong.
I climb aboard a Super Otter and take my position way up near the front ...
directly in front of a group of tandems. "Oh, shit! I have to sit here?"
Now I've got real problems. Can't let the tandems see me scared out of my
wits. That wouldn't be fair to them. Their first jump ... no one should
spoil that for them. I'll just have to play this cool ... sit here quietly
and keep my agony to myself.
As we are riding to 'tude, a tandem student leaned over to me. She must have
noticed my student jumpsuit and gear.
"Who are you with?" she asked.
"Where's your instructor?"
That's when it dawned on me. I'm on my own now ... because I *can* be on my
own ... I have proven the ability to be on my own.
It was with pride that I told her ...
"Nope! No instructor. You see, this is my very first solo dive. I just
graduated AFF this morning."
Amid reminders not to forget to buy my beer, I suddenly realized that all
of a sudden ... all the worry and all of the anxiety had just seemed to wash
away. It was at that exact moment in time that I realized ... I have what it
takes and can be trusted to do everything in my power to keep myself alive in
this "high risk" sport. My jm's had confidence in me ... and thus, I should
have confidence in myself.
We turned onto jump run, and I watched the others exit ahead of me. As we
moved closer to the door ... I felt myself smile. As my turn came, I turned
around ... flashed a thumbs up to my newfound friend ... "Have a blast!" I
told her. "You are about to have the most awesome experience of your life!"
With that, and a quick glance at the spot, I spread my wings ... and took
To this day, my solo dives are among my favorites. I only wish I could
recapture that moment in time, though ... that special feeling. It is one
that few people in this life ever have ... and we skydivers are blessed to
be among the lucky ones.