Lucky breaks in disguise
I trained to do a parachute jump once, back when I was at university. A bunch of my mates did it, so it seemed like the obvious thing to do (as these things do when you are 19). To be clear, this wasn’t a tandem jump where you are strapped to a well-trained professional who knows what they are doing, has jumped eleventy billion times before, knows exactly how to get out of any trouble and basically has their shit together in all things aerial. Oh no. This was a solo jump called a static line jump. Totes solo. Totally. On. Your. Own. For your very first jump. Uh huh. In retrospect, I really don’t know what I was thinking, but there we are, that’s the recklessness of youth for you. We all think we are invincible at 19.
In order to make the jump you had to do a long weekend’s training at a military base: train Friday and Saturday and jump on Sunday. The first two days were spent jumping off increasingly high walls, keeping my ankles together, in a bright orange boiler suit (known affectionately as a “carrot suit”) shouting “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, check canopy!” It was all good fun and jolly japes until Saturday night when the reality started to dawn that we would indeed be jumping OUT OF A PLANE … ON OUR OWN ... THE VERY NEXT MORNING. I was to be number three out of plane three. We practised how we would shuffle towards the door in pretend planes on the ground so it would be smooth in the air. It’s fair to say not a lot of sleep was had in that bunkhouse on Saturday night.
Sunday morning dawned clear and bright. The rules were that the wind had to be consistently below a certain number of knots per hour for 30 minutes for us to jump safely. If the wind exceeded that level, even one gust, then another 30 minutes would elapse before the next plane went up. Sitting on the flight line in my ridiculous orange suit watching planes one and two go up were some of the longest moments of my life. My teamsters jumped. Bright orange specks in the sky. We applauded. We hugged. We were in awe. We were freaking next.
Then, whoosh, a huge gust of wind. Plane three was grounded. We stayed on the flight line. Watching. Waiting. And . . . wouldn’t you know it, we did that all day. Every 20 minutes or so, a huge gust and they reset the clock. We never went up. We lived our lives in 29-minute increments on the flight line that day. Fourteen people in absolute adrenaline-fuelled elation and 14 of us absolutely bricking it. Home we went. Back the next Saturday; too windy, no jumps at all. And the following Friday, out partying, I got bundled over on the dance floor and broke my right arm. Spent Saturday morning having my arm plastered in A & E, while every single one of my teamsters jumped in perfect conditions.
By the time my arm had healed my training had expired. It was all over. I chalked it up as a personal failing, packed my rucksack for Europe and didn’t look back.
Now though, I look at it a little differently. Sometimes I think doors can close for us because they are not meant for us. That circumstance can take a guiding hand. That something we think is a bad outcome or a disaster can actually be a subtle nudge towards something preferable. I think somehow I was saved from myself by a decision to do something I would never have pulled out of but I think was not meant for me. That a broken arm was actually a blessing. It got me out of something potentially far worse that I wasn’t going to escape through my own volition. It was, literally, a lucky break.
Sometimes doors close and chapters end not through our choice. We can spend a lot of time struggling against that decision. We can wrestle with the act of God or someone else’s decision that we disagree with and expend our energy in the wrong direction. Sometimes chapters end as there is actually a far better one in store. Sometimes things don’t go your way, but there is a far bigger win down the track that you are now going to pursue. Sometimes you are being forced into action or opportunity that you would never have considered because you are clinging to a comfort zone. Sometimes you are being saved from your own stupid teenage decisions — made through what I can now clearly see was not genuine desire on my part but peer pressure. When we look back at life with the benefit of hindsight we can see so many patterns we could not see at the time. If a door is closing for you, or a chapter ending, know that maybe there are other forces at work and new opportunities coming. That having your hand forced occasionally just might be the best thing that could happen. And that something that on the face of it looks broken, just might be a lucky break in disguise.
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at bite.co.nz/wellbeing.