On a clear, beautiful spring day in Texas, Dana Carpenter sat on the floor of a small plane with her legs dangling out, door wide open and wind gusting in. As her tandem instructor edged them closer to a free fall, she thought, “I can’t believe I’m seconds away from jumping out of a freaking airplane!”
With that, he yelled, “One, two three!” and somersaulted them out of the aircraft.
Not only had Dana never gone skydiving—she had never walked.
A Penchant for Persistence
Dana, a Marin Software Sales Development Researcher in our Austin office, embraced the skydiving challenge head-on, much as she’s done her entire life. As someone with a disability, she’s used to navigating all sorts of situations and terrain, and has competed and spoken at Ms. Wheelchair Texas. Her untiring advocacy is an inspiration to everyone, disabled and able-bodied alike.
She recalls that pre-jump moment: “It goes against all of your instincts to leave the safety of the plane. Luckily you’re strapped to your instructor, who’ll give you that nudge to go.”
As for the training she received, Dana describes it as, “Surprisingly not that much. They had you watch a 30-minute video about what to expect, with a few dos and don’ts. Then you paid and signed a stack of papers, signing your life away! Right before getting on the plane, you met your instructor, who went over a few more things and let you ask any questions.”
From there, it was up in the air and back to the ground, by way of 12,000 feet.
A View from Above
Dana recalls what it felt like being up so high: “While it was in the 70s at ground level, it was really cold up at 12,000 feet. I remember being taken by how beautiful it was up there. The sky was so blue and clear, and you could see for miles and miles. You were so high in the sky that the ground looked like a patchwork quilt of various greens and browns from all the yards and fields below.
“The strange thing was it didn't feel like you were falling at all. During the free fall, you’re falling about 120 miles per hour, so it felt like standing in front of a huge fan with your cheeks flapping in the wind. After about a minute of that, the instructor pulled the ripcord and I came to a complete stop when the parachute deployed. It was kind of jarring.
“The rest of the trip down was very calm and serene. My instructor pointed a few things out in the distance, but mostly he was quiet and let me take it all in. It was literally sensory overload.
“The landing spot was only about the size of your living room, so I remember being amazed that the instructor could pinpoint that tiny circle from so far away. We wouldn't be able to land on our feet like everyone else, so we came in on our bottoms.
“The circle we landed in was filled with pea-sized gravel, so it didn't hurt at all! Also, the shop had a few of the other instructors out in the circle to help catch us, to slow our landing down.
“The whole experience made me feel like a superwoman, but to be honest I was kind of glad to be back on the ground!”
A Story for the Soul
Dana’s skydiving story was so inspiring, it was selected for inclusion in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: 101 Stories about Trying New Things, Overcoming Fears, and Broadening Your World, released in October of this year. Dana shares how they discovered her:
“I receive various writing emails, and one of those emails said that Chicken Soup for the Soul was looking for stories for their upcoming book called Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone. I figured that my skydive story fit that pretty well, so on a whim I decided to enter it. A couple of months later I heard back from them that my story was chosen and the rest is history, as they say.”
Chicken Soup for the Soul received over 6,000 entries and chose only 101 stories. It’s a testament to Dana’s confidence, resilience, and strength that she now gets to share her story with a wide audience.
“All my life, I had been proving to people that their doubts in me had no merit, and now I had just proved it to my biggest critic … myself. I realized I could do anything I put my mind to, despite my disability, or perhaps because of my disability. My perspective had changed in an instant. I have never walked, but that day I learned to fly.”
More About Dana
Dana Carpenter is a Sales Development Researcher in Marin’s Austin Office, joining in 2013. Her team identifies a wide range of digital advertisers for growth opportunities and improvement via Marin solutions. She’s passionate about data, and is a fierce advocate for the disabled.