Confessions and Understanding

Skydiving was a part of my being for eight glorious years. I immersed myself in the culture. I lived and breathed the sport. I loved the people, their eccentricities and their normalcies, their acceptance of people and their rejection of people. The realization that you can be a weirdo among a bunch of weirdos is an enlightening experience. 

The time has come for me to let go of this wild and wonderful sport, at least for this chapter in my life. I don’t have the capacity to do or afford everything, and my focus has shifted to other things. Skydiving taught me many things. It wrenched me out of my shell and helped me look at the world through a different lens.  The skydiving community is made up of a vast array of weird and beautiful folk from all walks of life. I was introduced to people that thought and acted differently than the people of Pell City, Alabama where I grew up.

 I was forced to be open-minded. I was just shy enough when I entered this lifestyle to be somewhat of a wallflower. To take things in and think about them before forming an opinion. Staying quiet sometimes allows for this to happen. Listening and observing with interest has a powerful effect on a person. Once you voice an opinion, you are more likely to try to support it staunchly and less likely to be open to suggestion.

Skydiving shaped me during a formidable time in my life, but I think I was predisposed to be open-minded. I am an optimistic person by nature. My default is to find the good in a situation, to a frustrating degree sometimes. I am also, myself, different from the average gal. I think these facts, more than others, make me open to different

I grew up very much a tomboy, not much has changed in that degree. One of my dad’s favorite memories of me as a little girl is me bent over in a pretty Sunday dress turning over rocks and bricks in an endeavor to find roly-polies, the frills of my dress and bloomers exposed to the world as I innocently searched for these cute little creatures. At a fairly young age, my parents boldly allowed me to make the decision to chop off all my hair. I loved having short hair, but I confess I looked like a little boy. I didn’t help onlookers out, either, dressing in camouflage and loose fitting, more masculine clothing. 

I am sure many people in my life thought I would eventually come out as gay or, at the very least, transgender. The thing is, I never felt like a boy or was particularly attracted to individuals of the same sex. I was just Amy. I remember somewhere around the second grade being told by a fellow classmate that I could not do a certain thing or dress a certain way (I don’t remember the specifics) simply because I was a girl. My immediate response was, “then, I’ll be a boy.” It was as simple and innocent as that. ‘Boy’ and ‘girl’ were merely labels to me. I realize now why this was a cause for concern for many of the adults in my life. I only carried on this charade in class because, the truth is, I didn’t care to be a boy. I just cared to not be judged and put into a category with such frivolous standards. 

I just wanted to be me. A girl that liked to wear her hair short, don clothes that allowed her to play rough and tumble, and to do the things that interested her most. Sometimes those things were playing with Barbies or baby dolls and sometimes those things were playing backyard football and wading through a creek. I confess that I do get a thrill out of overturning assumptions of normality and how a person is supposed to be, especially as I get older and less self-conscious. I was just me, a little masculine, a little feminine, who, as a female, liked certain things. I never thought about whether I should or should not like something based on something as arbitrary as gender. 

These experiences predisposed me to accept others as they are. This doesn’t mean I don’t find myself sometimes judging people for their views or on their outward appearance, but then, I take a step back and try to understand. To resist making snap judgments for a moment and see the person as they are and try to understand their views and decisions. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with them or even, ultimately, like them. What is does allow is for me to understand them, at least on some level, and accept them and, even, sometimes, love them for introducing me to a new perspective.

My life so far has been a crazy awesome journey. I love it and the unique people I have encountered along the way that have helped to shape my life. Life, consequently, comes with bumps and bruises and lessons sorely learned. Embracing these bumps along the way are some of the most beautiful aspects of life because many times they lead to an amazing view from the top of a glorious mountain of understanding or at the very least an exhilarating leap from an airplane. 

“Extremes are easy. Strive for balance.” —Colin Wright
“There is no right or wrong way to live. Just ways you’ve tried and those you haven’t yet.” —Colin Wright
Amy Gravlee