I Can Breathe

The job’s not finished. We still need to win Georgia in January to win the Senate.

But after 240,000+ deaths being dismissed as “just a flu”, being ridiculed for wearing a mask to protect everyone I directly/indirectly cross paths with, being mocked as sheep for trusting ongoing scientific research around the world, watching the president convince his followers that “it’s us against the world”, watching social media surface the most vile thoughts & theories from the darkest parts of the internet, and waking up every single day for the past four years, bracing myself for some sort of new controversy coming straight from the top of our government…All that election anxiety I’ve struggled with for months has suddenly just disappeared, and I’m once again hopeful for some sort of normalcy in America.

The job’s not finished. But for the first time in a very, very long time…I can breathe.

Dear Japan →

In just a few short days, you’ve taught me how beautiful an entire country can be when every single person practices courtesy & respect, and crafts their work with the thought & care of a true artisan.

I have yet to hear an impatient driver honk their horn. I have yet to see an angry customer arguing with a worker. I have yet to come across restaurant staff, a store employee, bus operator, taxi driver, or subway worker who will give up on me because I don’t understand what they are saying. I have yet to even find a public toilet here that isn’t clean!

You have warmed my heart the way your toilets have warmed my bum...and I will carry that with me forever.

Love,
Mel

How I Spent My Year 2017

In 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.

2017 was a bit more of a year of getting comfortable and settling into the adventures I started in 2016. Other than Hawaii and my first dance performance, this past year was a pretty laid back one, in many ways. For the 15th straight year, here is my annual run down of how I spent my year 2017.

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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