Leap of faith: At 18, senior Meghan Kenny realizes dream of skydiving

Fulfilling a long-held dream of her own, senior Meghan Kenny skydives upon reaching her 18th birthday. Photo courtesy of Skydive Chicago.
by Rachael Disher, STAFF WRITER
12 December 2018

By nature, human beings are programmed to have two basic fears; the fear of loud noises, and the fear of falling. Naturally, looking out of an airplane window hundreds of miles above the ground can make even the most fearless person’s heart skip a beat. When it comes to taking that extra step to jump out of the plane, lots of people would never dare. Senior Meghan Kenny took that natural human fear and turned it into her greatest aspiration.

“I remember watching my uncle’s skydiving video at six years old, seeing the gaping smile on his face, the joy of pure exhilaration, knowing full well that as soon as I could, I wanted to jump out of an airplane myself,” Kenny said.

The sheer excitement and passion in Kenny’s voice was clear as she recalled the years she spent anxiously awaiting the day she could finally live the dream. When it comes to the reason for her long-lived fascination with falling, she had one simple explanation.

“Everyone has had those terrifying dreams of falling out of the sky, waking up right before our guts pool out on the ground from impact. We wake up to sweaty palms and a pounding heart. But instead of dreaming, I wanted to live that. As crazy as it may sound, I love those dreams. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I didn’t want to wake up to the safety of my own bed, I wanted to feel my feet firmly planted on the ground after jumping out of the sky and know that just because you fall, doesn’t mean you’re going to crash,” Kenny said.

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Taking flight

Although there was never a doubt in Kenny’s mind, that doesn’t mean that everyone around her was totally on-board with her falling from the sky. Her loved ones were especially hesitant in accepting her dream.

“The last thing you want to hear from your 18 year old daughter, next to I’m pregnant, is that she is going to jump out of a plane. When she told me I didn’t really know how to react. I knew that I raised a genuine thrill-seeker, but I wasn’t really ready to experience the sheer panic that I had the day she jumped. I knew she would probably be fine but it’s still really scary imagining the what ifs,” Kenny’s mother Deborah said.

Kenny wasn’t going to let anything get in her way, and saw her parent’s opposition as more of a suggestion rather than a set-in-stone ‘No.’

“Before I even turned 18, I had a date set with my coworkers for my post-bday tandem jump. I put money aside and kept it to myself that I was really going to do it. I didn’t even tell my parents until right beforehand,” Kenny recalled with a laugh.

Due to the obvious dangers of jumping out of a plane, despite the countless safety precautions taken by places like Skydive Chicago, it’s only natural for a mother to be worried about her daughter taking such a giant risk. That being said, Kenny’s support system is more than admirable when it comes to letting her make her own choices, even if they aren’t completely on the same page.

“The best part is she wasn’t even scared. She just wanted to do it so badly. I think that made me more excited for her than afraid, but I sure as hell cried when she called me and told me she landed safely. My daughter is something else that’s for sure. I know I never could have done it. I’m just glad she had a good time,” Deborah said.

Taking the leap

Even after the years Kenny had spent anticipating the day of the jump, actually living that day is an entirely different experience. Her father joked with her that morning, pretending to say his final goodbyes. To mess with Kenny’s already-anxious mother, he even looked up Skydiving casualties that had occured at the very place their daughter would be jumping that day. More than optimistic about realizing her lifetime dream, Kenny wasn’t too concerned.

“I wasn’t afraid because I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I were really going to die, then so be it. At least it’s a cool way to go out,” Kenny said.

She fondly recalled the thoughts that had been racing through her head when the plane finally started to ascend towards the sky.

“You look out at the ground and everything looks so small. The cars turned into ants and the fields looked like drawings out of a children’s book. You can’t hear anything because the wind is rushing past the door so quickly. The instructor counts to three and pushes the two of you out of the plane. If your jump goes anything like mine, you flip several times before assuming the stable position, aka the freefall position,” Kenny said.

Kenny explained in detail the technicality of the event. Participants jump from 12,000 feet and activate their parachute at 5,500. They free fall for over a minute and then have between 2-5 minutes descent after the parachute is deployed. It ranges by three minutes because they can decide how they want to land. The instructor jumping with them can maneuver the parachute with a strap that he has. He can make them spin, jerk left and right, and even increase their speed falling if he angles the controls at the ground.

“Of course I wanted to do all of the above. After all, you can never have your first tandem jump again. I wanted mine to be an experience,” Kenny said.

After all was said and done, Kenny found that the long years of waiting for her moment were well worth it. Her family, despite their original hesitation, realized this as well.

“I remember her coming home on this pure adrenaline high. She had over an hour ride home and her cheeks were still red and her smile was fixed, like she couldn’t stop grinning even if she wanted to. I asked her how it was and she talked for 10 minutes straight, I don’t think she even took a breath. When I was her age I wanted to skydive too but now that I’m a husband, a dad, and frankly, old, I would never. I laughed at how excited she was and asked if her first time was her last time now that she had it out of the way. She laughed and said no way. That was just the beginning,” Kenny’s father said.

After achieving her lifetime goal, Kenny is eager to take on her next challenge and continue to live her life adventurously. No matter what it may be, she will go into it with nothing but courage. If she can fall from the sky and land on her feet, she can do anything.

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