Louise Thompson

The New Zealand Herald - Bite - - This Week - Louise Thompson

Itrained 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

Sometimes I think doors can close for us be­cause they are not meant for us.

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