Take the Leap

By Kimberly Hall

I have a confession. I absolutely love to travel . . . but I hate to fly. My fear of flying started in 2001, when I flew to Greensboro, NC to bury my husband. Looking out the window, tears flowing down my face, I replayed the same conversation in my head over and over. My husband would say, “You should never worry about me flying. The chances of having a plane crash are very slim—I have a greater chance of getting in a car accident.” When he passed away on June 8, 2001, that very slim chance became one hundred percent reality. 

After that day, the thought of that “very slim chance” popped into my head every time I boarded a plane. I would be fine until there was turbulence. I would close my eyes and start praying: God, you owe me, so now is not the time to be tripping. (Yes, that was my prayer. Crazy but true.) 

Through the years, I had to travel a lot more for work. I had to figure out how to make this anxiety go away. I actually became a little more comfortable flying . . . with wine. Yes, a glass of wine took the edge off, and I could relax a little. 

No one knew I was anxious about flying except for a few close friends. If you sat next to me on the plane, you would think I was fine—unless there was bad turbulence. If the turbulence was bad, I unconsciously would grab the arm of the person next to me and look them in the face with despair. I’ve been fortunate to have very kind people sitting next to me! They would assure me that we were fine and it was just a little turbulence. Most times I would feel embarrassed and apologize profusely. 

A few times, I thought of other ways to get back home—like taking a train, renting a car, etc.—but I would talk myself into flying back home. My emotions were truly all over the place. After a while, I had to find other techniques to help me through my anxiety. 

As soon as I got on the plane, I would close my eyes and slowly breathe in and out. I would pray for the pilot and ask God to keep myself and the other passengers safe. When turbulence would hit, I would say “God, you got this.” I would say it through every bump and turn. That was and continue to be my pre-flight ritual. As the years went by, I felt safer, with less anxiety. 

Then I decided to do the unthinkable. I decided to face my fears head-on and go skydiving for my 47th birthday. Fifteen years after my first incident of flight anxiety, and I was totally stepping outside of my comfort zone! 

Everything about that day is still so clear to me. That morning I boarded a plane to San Diego, CA to visit one of my favorite customers. Someone I worked with in San Diego had experience skydiving. I sent her a text:

Hey, I’m traveling to San Diego today, and I want to go skydiving. Want to go with me? 

On the four-hour flight to San Diego, I started to feel anxious. I was like, What I am doing? Am I crazy? I told myself that if she texted back and said she was busy, then I wasn’t supposed to go skydiving. Once we landed, I turned on my phone, hoping she hadn’t texted back (or that if she had, she was busy). Instead, she had sent me this text:

OMG, I would love to! See you there at 2:30 p.m. 

I had a total deer-in-headlights moment. OMG, I had lost my everlasting mind! 

I arrived at Skydive San Diego, and there was no turning back. We signed our lives away in paperwork, went through some training, and boarded the small airplane. Nervous, I decided to try out my pre-flight ritual, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I told myself, Do it afraid. When it was time to fly tandem, off we went—just like that, I took the leap at Skydive Diego on April 23, 2016. 

That day will forever be etched into my brain, being, and soul! It will forever be a defining moment in my life. What I’ve learned in life is that sometimes you have to take the leap and face your fears. I am so happy I took that leap.