Achievement Unlocked: Gone Skydiving →

"I will NEVER go skydiving!"

All my life, I've considered myself scared of heights. It wasn't until a hot air balloon ride that I realized it's not really the height that scares me; it's that gut-sinking sensation you get when free falling that I couldn't handle.

Over the years, I had a theory that with skydiving, that gut-sinking feeling should only last for a few seconds. After that, the body will adjust, and I'd be able to enjoy the experience.

That was the theory anyways. So over the years, my original vow to never go skydiving slowly became a "maaaaaaybe."

This summer, a bunch of my childhood friends from Saudi Arabia decided to have a reunion in Hawaii, so I figured if there's ever going to be a place where I'd want to go skydiving in my lifetime, it would have to be Hawaii.

"It's not hitting me yet…"

Everyone who's skydived (skydove?) says the exact moment it hit them is the instructors swing the plane door open. Funny thing though: our plane didn’t even have a door!

For the longest time leading up to it, I kept thinking, "This hasn't really hit me yet..." Even after skimming through the legal paperwork, watching the instructional video, strapping up, taking off the plane runway...all those little moments were barely building up my anxiety. But there never was a single a moment I thought of backing out.

Up in the air, I'm taking the time to admire our flight tour along the northern coast of the Big Island. The the lush green island plant life, the gorgeous shades of ocean blue, and the beautifully clear skies that I never get to see in LA. I'm nervous, but it still hasn't hit me quite yet.

Then I see my friend Liz scooching towards the edge with her instructor, tucking herself into a little cannonball. I'm confused because we didn't talk about that position on the ground…I'm just watching her in position, trying to figure out what they hell they're doing, and in a blink, she's falling out of the plane.

And when I say "falling out of the plane," I'm not talking about how someone at the swimming pool jumps off a diving board into the air, decelerates as they hit their peak, and gracefully falls into the water. I swear, from what I saw, Liz went from 0 to 60 just like that.

That was the moment it hit me.

"Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit."

Surprisingly, I still had no second thoughts of backing out whatsoever. The whole time I'm thinking to myself, “OMG THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.”

Then it's my turn. My feet are dangling off the side of the plane, my head is resting back on my instructor's shoulder, and the air is hitting against me the same way it hits you when you stick your hand out of a moving car.

"THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING."

Next thing I know, my body is horizontal and Planet Earth is rushing towards my face at full speed. The instructions were to keep my head tilted back but I couldn't help it, I had to look down. Oh, and one more thing…I FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE. You can see it in the video, for those three seconds that I'm looking down, I'm not breathing.

You know that feeling you get when you're watching a horror movie and the monster jumps out at the camera? There's that momentary shock where your body is paralyzed. It only lasts for half a second, but you can feel your heart skip a beat and your diaphragm freezing up. It was just like that but much longer.

Three seconds into the jump, I flashback to the girl on the ground telling me, "if you forget how to breathe up there...SCREAM." I pull deep from within and force myself to scream. I'll never forget how hard that was.

Now that I'm breathing normally and over the initial shock, I know the ground is rushing towards me at 129 miles per hour but it seems to be moving much slower. I notice all the little fluffy clouds shooting past me. I can see how high up the volcano is compared the rest of the island. In this very moment, I'm living above the clouds and the horizon just seems so much bigger than I've ever noticed before.

(Side note: in the video, when you see me glancing at my Apple Watch, that's me checking my heart rate, lol. On the plane it was in 95ish beats per minute and in free fall about 103.)

Towards the end of my free fall, a big ‘ol cloud moves right into our path. I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that diving into clouds was somehow dangerous, so I'm all questioning this like, "Uhhhhh." We dive into the cloud anyway, and it's white out for me, like a dense fog where you can’t see anything past your headlights.

In the middle of the cloud, my instructor pulls the cord to open the parachute. You can see in the video, when he opens the parachute, the camera view twists all over the place.

If there was ever a moment I legitimately thought I was going to die, this was it.

I can't see in front of or above me because of the cloud, so for that brief moment, I seriously think our parachute got all tangled up and we're about to die.

Thankfully we straighten out and we're out of the clouds so it's back to clear skies for me. I'm in complete awe of what just happened and what's still happening. Other than a couple unexpected hard turns in the air, it was just coasting through a victory lap all the way til we touched down to the ground.

Closing Thoughts

I used to think "living in the moment" meant doing random, crazy, spontaneous shit. Over the years I've learned what it really means is fully immersing yourself in — and appreciating the tiniest details — all experiences as they happen.

Of the 35 total seconds of free fall, I’d say the first 10 seconds of it was pure adrenaline/shock, and the rest of it was me truly living in the moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I can't wait to do it again.

If you send me a text and I text you back immediately, chances are either:

A) I like you
B) I'm pooing

My 2016: "Fail More"

Last year I wrote:

My mantra for 2015 was, "Little acts of courage." Thanks to my therapist and everyone he introduced me to, all of the crap that was weighing on my mind in 2014 slowly eased away. I can't quite say that 2015 was a good year for me, but I can say that it was definitely a better one.

For 2016, my mantra was, "Fail more." It was the next step above "little acts of courage" in that it expects that I constantly push my own boundaries and constantly fail. But instead of getting discouraged, I should feel proud for the opportunity to learn something new about myself. And every once in a while, when I expect to fail…the universe occasionally surprises me in wondrous ways.

For the fourteenth straight year, here is my annual survey of how I spent my year 2016.

Open Letter to Tim Cook: Burned by iPhone Upgrade Program

Hey Tim,

Loyal customer of 10 years and iPhone Upgrade Program customer here. Last night I tried pre-ordering my 7th iPhone under the iPhone Upgrade Program...and now I feel cheated.

Not getting it on launch day doesn't bother me; I completely understand supply & demand.

But what bothers me is that once reservation units ran out, the site/app merely said "try again on the 17th at 8am" and offered ZERO options. I was led into a dead end.

Meanwhile, customers who are not in the Upgrade Program were able to get their orders in and get a shipping ETA. Many in Oct/Nov, but they at least got their orders in.

As an iPhone Upgrade Program customer, I feel like I had a significant disadvantage compared to non-Upgrade Program customers. Isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the loyal customers — especially customers who are committing directly to Apple instead of their carriers — feel rewarded for their loyalty?

I feel like a reasonable solution would have been:

  • let Upgrade Program customers get their pre-orders into the system. Orders ship to the store, even if that's not until Oct/Nov.
  • when a customer's phone arrives, notify by email, let them set up an appointment.
  • finish transaction in store.

This way, at least your most loyal customers have an order attached to their name in the system. The backordered ship date isn't the problem...it's the feeling that we ended last night COMPLETELY empty-handed while less loyal customers continue to get their orders in.

I hope you consider solving this problem.

For me personally, I've been recommending all my friends and family to get on the iPhone Upgrade Program...and now I have to explain to them why we came up empty-handed last night.

-Mel

Update: Tim Cook's people called me the next day and made things right.

How I Spent My Year 2015

Last year I wrote:

2014 was a pretty miserable year for me. I'm sure one would ever expect it. What people tend to forget is social media is just a giant online highlight reel. There’s a whole 'lotta life that happens in between posts, and for me, it was pretty shitty.

My mantra for 2015 was, "Little acts of courage." Thanks to my therapist and everyone he introduced me to, all of the crap that was weighing on my mind in 2014 slowly eased away. I can't quite say that 2015 was a good year for me, but I can say that it was definitely a better one.

For the thirteenth straight year, without fail, here is my annual survey of how I spent my year 2015.

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Why I Cut Back on Social Media →

Essena O'Neill:

I had everything I ever wanted. Now I'm here and I see how contrived, fake and forced consistently proving to the world 'how amazing my life/body/self is".

I spent everyday looking at a screen, viewing and comparing myself to others. It's easier to look at shiny and pretty things that appear happy than stopping and just getting real with yourself. Social media only became great for me because of the amount of effort I put in trying to portray this 'perfect' person, being born into the flesh I have and sharing emotional parts of my life. Being social media famous is a very unattainable thing for majority of people viewing this. I was attracted to the idea of being liked and of value. I put my value in numbers, not real life people, moments or my natural passions of art, writing... Posting on instagram consumed me.

I can't [tell you enough] you how beautiful life is without a phone, without social media, without comparing, or likes or followers. We are not followers, we are beings of individuality and love. I have never felt so free.

This is the EXACT reason why I cut back on social media.

For me, social media was my creative outlet. It was simply a fun way to share how I see the world with my friends.

But somehow during that process, it became less about creative expression and more about getting validation from others. It got to a point where my day was made if I got a lot of Likes, or my day would've taken a hit because I didn't get enough. I was already in a rut, and I'd constantly find myself comparing my behind-the-scenes life with the highlights of everyone else's.

I realized how much of a negative impact social media was having on other aspects of my life.

Looking at the big picture, it scares me to think the next generation of kids is going to grow up believing their value in life is determined by superficial numbers of followers and likes. I'm not sure how this problem will be solved, but it's good to see a big social media personality address the issue.