By Atty. Lorna Patajo-Kapunan
IT TAKES a certain kind of person to jump off from a perfectly good airplane. You either soar flawlessly to the utmost heights of the blue sky (much like Jonathan Livingston Seagull) or drop to earth and meet instant oblivion. You are either very courageous or utterly crazy. I was both!
April 1, 2019 was going to be my 67th Birthday — and I wanted to do something extraordinary — and I did! I jumped off a plane in Queenstown, New Zealand. They call it SKYDIVING.
My law firm, Kapunan & Castillo, was in Queenstown for our annual foreign trip (a perk given to our lawyers in the hope that they don’t leave for greener pastures). Queenstown is a postcard city where you would want to take a million selfies/groupies for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter postings. It has been said that “God was showing off when he created Queenstown.” Queenstown is also acclaimed as the home of adrenaline and extreme sports — skydiving, bridge bungee jump, high wire bungee, zip line, shot over canyon swing, hang gliding, sky swing and paragliding. I chose skydiving, which seemed to me the most challenging.
That I was old, overweight, physically unfit, had chronic neck and shoulder pain, occasionally giving in to bad vices (“vaping,” single malts, tequilas) perennially sleep-deprived — did not deter me from undergoing this immense personal challenge. I had the one qualification that counted — mental strength. I might not have the physical strength nor physical muscle — but I believed that I had the mental muscle to do it.
My whole life experience prepared me for the big jump (literally!). Years of growing up in a supportive family environment where there were no gender stereotypes; challenges in the legal profession where female lawyers had to have “balls” (another stereotype) to survive and surpass male chauvinist pigs in the courtrooms and the corporate boardrooms; being both a father and mother to my 5 sons when I became a widow; and, running a law firm conformably with high ethical standards in a corrupt and corroding justice system. All these life challenges gave me the mental muscle to confront challenges and adversities.
So, I told myself I can and would jump off that plane and soar! My birthday gift to myself.
At the NZone Activity Center in Queenstown, they assure you that their skydiving gear/parachutes are compliant with Federal Administration requirements for parachute safety and that your tandem skydiving partner has undergone vigorous training and is National USDA certified. However, they don’t give you skydiving lessons except for one instruction — when they open the aircraft door, curve your body like a “banana” and jump. SIMPLE!
A skydive is between 10,000 feet to 12,000 feet (or higher). I chose 12,000 feet. At this height, your freefall speed is at 120 miles per hour for 40 seconds. Then your parachute automatically (hopefully) opens, and you glide and enjoy the sun in your face, the wind in your hair, the magnificent view of mountains, trees, valleys, lakes.
It was the most exhilarating 40 seconds of my life. I did not fear that I was falling — the wind was beneath my wings!
Did I entertain any self-doubt that I could do it? I have learned in life that conversations you have with yourself will either fuel your confidence in moving forward or rob you of the mental strength you need to take action. My skydiving experience, at 67 years of age, to me, is more than just an extraordinary experience. It is an affirmation that if you embrace your fear, do not indulge in self-doubt, own your power, channel your confidence, and rely on your mental muscle — the sky is the limit. You can do anything your authentic voice tells you to do.
Why, BECAUSE YOU CAN!
Skydiving — been there, done that!