Learning to Let Go

Meet Iliana: Resilient adventurer, clumsy goofball, nerd, self-identified weirdo, nature lover and lover of life. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with her to learn more about her recent experience skydiving and crossing it off her bucket list.

Name: Iliana

Pronouns: She/Her/Non-label

Favorite quotes: “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are FREE” - Jim Morrison and “Life is too serious. Sometimes you just have to laugh it off.”

First of all, congratulations on crossing skydiving off your bucket list! I’m so proud of you! What an awesome accomplishment. When did you first decide that you wanted to skydive? Thank you! Skydiving has been on my list since I was in my mid-twenties, when I started to discover more of myself.  When I first added it to my crazy S*** to do list, it was more about the thrill, but as I started being more at one with nature and discovering other ways to find a good thrill, skydiving was just another thrill to mark off the list. However, later I discovered that it was much more than that.

Do you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie? YES!!! Once you’ve felt that rush and thrill, it's a feeling you want more of.

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Please describe your skydiving experience. What was your favorite part of the experience? Skydiving was everything I expected and more. The date was set for June 30, 2018. As I carefully started to examine the actual art of jumping out of an airplane (aka OVERTHINKING), I realized that I would be doing tandem skydiving, which refers to a type of skydiving where a student skydiver is connected to a harness attached to the instructor. All I could think about though was that I would be attached to another human that would have ALL control over my life for the next 7-10 minutes (the duration of the jump).

On the day of the jump, it was the perfect sunny California day. My friend, Amanda, drove us to Oceanside where we were going to go skydiving. I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda through Feliz Afuera, an LGBTQI+ outdoor group.

Upon arriving at the place, we filled out waivers. The vibe of the place was super energetic and fun. While waiting, we had the chance to watch the very meticulous way the instructors were folding and repacking the parachutes. Next thing I know our names are called. As we are getting fitted into our gear, the guys helping us tell us to lift our feet when we’re landing and the instructor will tell you when to stand. Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help, but think that’s it, that’s all the instructions I get. Finally, we walk to the tiny plane that fits about 15 of us. I go in last, which means I’m jumping out first, which is awesome because I was hoping to go first. My favorite part of the experience was free falling and watching as the dirt, buildings and ocean got closer to me.

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What did free falling feel like to you? I felt calm and at peace with what I was about to accomplish. As the plane reached 13,000 feet, my instructor Starkey asked if I was ready. I gave him the thumbs up and and in less than 10 seconds I went from sitting at the edge of the plane to free falling at 130 mph for what seemed like forever, but in reality was about 60 seconds.

As I released another loud and long yell from happiness and excitement, I had released my mind of stress and my heart of the pain the stress caused. I felt free.

I panicked for like 5 seconds. The speed of the wind made it hard to take my first breath, but I calmed myself down and released the biggest scream ever. Starkey then set off the parachute, which slowed us down. He offered me the chance to control the parachute, but I declined it. I just wanted to let him do his thing while I enjoyed the feeling that had overcome me. The familiar rush, but this one was with some added pride and freedom. Mainly because I had in a small way proven to myself that I didn’t always have to be in control and that I would still be just fine. As I released another loud and long yell from happiness and excitement, I had released my mind of stress and my heart of the pain the stress caused. I felt free.

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Quite a few people are scared to skydive. Did you have any fears leading up to the jump? I was more excited than anything else. The only thing that really scared me was the control thing, but I had mentally prepared myself and was ready to just enjoy the experience.

How do you deal with negative emotions and thoughts? This has been a battle for me. I’m still learning how to deal with the negative feelings and thoughts. I’ve learned that that there is always a solution or lesson to be learned from whatever may be making me upset. Some specific activities I like to do to help me deal with these feelings are working out, reading, coloring, staying busy and reminding myself to stay positive. When I stay busy and sweat it out, it doesn’t give me time or energy for negativity. I get some sense of calmness.

For me, nature has also been a way of releasing negative emotions and thoughts.

For me, nature has also been a way of releasing negative emotions and thoughts. As I walk along some beautiful trail, I get lost in my thoughts and remember that at the end of whatever is making me feel bad that it is only temporary. Along the way of these beautiful trails, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of the most amazing people, who oddly enough seem to have had some kind of struggle in the past or are going through one at the time. Together we've conquered some of the toughest hills and gone on some of the craziest adventures. Physically and mentally, these experiences have allowed me to challenge myself in ways I never thought I could. I’ve learn that I can count on myself to accomplish things that sound scary like skydiving, river rafting or even just driving in the snow. I continue to do it and continue to show up for myself.

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In what ways would you say you show up for yourself and what would you say to someone, who is just getting started on their self-care journey? I show up for myself everyday by waking up with a grateful heart and having a steady routine for the most part. This is important because routine can get boring, which can torture the soul at times, but the discipline is necessary. I show up for myself by doing things that bring joy to my heart such as taking a walk, eating something delicious or pampering myself.

If you can’t love yourself, how can you love others or accept the love that is being given to you? Be your own best friend.

If your just getting started on this journey I would first say to you, WELL IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME! Secondly, I would tell you to not feel guilty for taking time for yourself. You’re not being selfish. This is time that will allow you to become a person and allow you to love yourself. After all, if you can’t love yourself, how can you love others or accept the love that is being given to you? Be your own best friend.

Would you go skydiving again? YES!!! In a heartbeat, no doubts or hesitation.