Tag Archives: adrenaline

Operation Free the Flamingos! (Part 1/2)

When you hear the word “flamingo”, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some people think of their local zoo, flashing back to memories of their first-grade field trip and broccoli they threw in the animal pens. Others vaguely access factoids regarding the strange, yet amusing, coloration of their feathers and why flamingos are so flamboyantly pink. But on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, only one thought comes to mind:

The honorary city bird that resides on Bascom Hill.

The pink flamingo has become iconic throughout Madison and beyond. It is the symbol of the Annual Fill the Hill campaign, each feathered friend representing a donor that contributed to the fund. The established tradition of the UW flamingos on Bascom Hill is beyond popular, standing 2nd only to the prank involving our very own UW Statue of Liberty in Lake Mendota. Both of these pranks, and many others throughout the history of Madison, can be traced back to the legend-(wait for it)-dary man Leon Varjian.

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The #UWFlamingos gonna get #snatched

And after the successful takeover of flamingos on Bascom, his indomitable spirit of prank-dom continued to live on. And it would manifest itself… in me. I, too, wanted to live by his political slogan and embrace the legacy that he left behind. And I thought of the most brilliant way to live up to my predecessor’s image:

Leon filled Bascom Hill with infamous pink lawn ornaments. I would take them all away.

“Honesty, integrity, responsibility … Pail and Shovel doesn’t believe in any of them!” – Varjian’s Slogan

The idea of taking a flamingo was enticing. But taking 1,008 of them? The thought overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even imagine what that many flamingos would look like, let alone where I would store them all. But I would think about that later. I just needed to get them all first… somehow. Bold stories of stolen flamingos constantly circulated around campus. There had to be other students that would join me in my mission. In fact, I already had a partner-in-crime that I knew would help me. And whether it was to have a new piece of furniture to complement their curbside sofa or they needed a makeshift drinking apparatus to store their alcohol, other students would steal the flamingos every year. And this year, I would lead them all.

This is what I would yell as I led the charge onto the battlefield

I wanted a flamingo before I read about Varjian (the bucket list!), but I did not have any real, compelling reasons. I wanted a flamingo simply for the fact of wanting a flamingo. But my partner-in-crime who wanted to do this had other intentions driving his flamingo fervor. This mission had sentimental value attached to it for him, in contrast to my primary motivation being a longtime childish rebellion against authoritative figures and social norms. This flamingo had the power to reunite distant connections and trigger memories of what once was. To some, it meant nothing more than just an improvised beer bong. To my friend, it meant honor. To me, this meant that I would get a flamingo at any cost. “Operation Free the Flamingos” just got personal.

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A taste of what is to come…

Part 1/2 complete

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Flying, Falling, Freeing

I don’t know how this happened. I just know that it did. I remember earlier this year after watching “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, I wanted do everything that they did. For three weeks, I had new idols and new life ambitions. My focus on becoming a Kingsman faded with the initiation of finals week, but I still relished the idea. When my roommate mentioned it was his lifelong dream to sail through the skies at terminal velocity, my mind was made up. We were going to do it. On nothing more than a whim, I gathered information, identified cheap tandem skydiving sites, and coerced my closest acquaintances into my psychopathic fantasies of this potentially fatal pastime.

During the ride to the Wisconsin Skydiving Center, I was so psyched to be doing this. Skydiving?!? This was in my wildest dreams. And I would be doing it with my best friends. It was pure excitement. It was uninhibited joy. It would fulfill my thrill-seeking, adrenaline-crazed, sense of adventure quota for the month! Probably… But this would be a highlight of my summer. A highlight of my life.

Unlike them, we will all knew that we had parachutes… or at least we were attached to people that had them

Scene from “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, uploaded by Steve Hubbard

When we arrived at the Skydiving Center, my enthusiasm skyrocketed. We were here! I could see the hanger, the planes, and the instructors donning obscure jumpsuits. My objective was sitting right in front of me and I would waste no time to completing my mission. My roommates and I quickly signed the papers and completed the training. I didn’t really pay attention much though. I was too focused on the end result to pay attention to the basic life-saving maneuvers and standard operating procedure for basic skydiving survival skills. Talking about the experience wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t continue living vicariously through brochures and pamphlets. I want to create my own adventures.

Naturally, I volunteered to go first. I would tribute myself to appease the skies. The wind wanders aimlessly, searching to release unsuspecting travelers from the Earthly chains that bind them. We must sacrifice our Earthly natures in order to ascend. The sky has something to teach us and I was about to discover the secrets that it held most dear. Guru Laghima said it most appropriately:

“Let go your earthly tether. Enter the void. Empty and become wind.”

zaheermeditating

FAVORITE LoK Villian right here #trueflight

We would soar ever higher, above the cloud layer and over 9000(ft). But as we continued our slow ascent to the heavens above, the reality of the situation began to register in my brain. We were 10,000 above the ground. Two months ago I could only dream of the possibilities of floating among the clouds and observing the atmospheric processes that directed their movement. But now that my eyes – along with the rest of my body – could view the masses of clouds and feel the direction of airflow, I wasn’t so sure that this was what I wanted. But it did not matter anymore because we had arrived at our destination. The sky was the limit and we had reached the end of the line.

The end of the line meant that we were supposed to be ready. The instructor unlocked the latch and opened the door to my demise. My initial excitement immediately melted into a distressful terror. What was I doing at this height?!? 10,000 ft in the air? How did I get here? Before I had not questioned the sequence of events that led up to this moment, but now that was the only thought on my mind. I grabbed the rope with my hand. My mind was racing, but my heart beat faster. I put my foot on the step outside the plane. My inner being was telling me to choose life. And I was in the perfect position to fall.

But that’s why I was doing this. I wanted to live.

The time fell upon me. We were here and there was only one thing left to do. I longingly stared down to the Earth, remembering the comfort that solid ground beneath my feet gave me. I did not know what was going to happen, but I knew I had to do this. I took one last breath.

And then I began to fall.

We first fell backwards and I could only stare at the sky and wonder how there existed anything above our current altitude. But then we flipped and I was tumbling though the air, swirling in endless loops in all directions. We stabilized. I felt a rush of air blasting upward, cutting through me. Into my body and into to my soul. I tried to scream. I couldn’t hear any words. There was air all around me, but I couldn’t even breathe. I was shaking. There was no weight to my body. I didn’t exist anymore. But when I made the strange realization that I was nothing more than a disembodied conscious, it was then that I was free.

I looked towards the ground knew that I was flying. –Er, well falling. Plummeting more actually. But I was in the sky and I was the wind. I felt the acceleration of my body, falling faster and faster. And I extended my limbs to their furthest points so my entire body could capture this moment. My mouth was wide open trying to take in the experience because I knew that any attempt to gasp for air was futile. I had released my Earthly tether. I had entered the void. I emptied and became wind.

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A vicarious viewing of my socially deviant behavior

But then I was pulled upward. Yanked back into my body and out of this otherworldly experience. The parachute had deployed. Our freefall was over. We began our leisurely descent back down to Earth. And it was in these moments that I learned the most.

Now that the most exhilarating moments had fleetingly left us, it was time to reflect. My instructor told me to sit in silence and observe my surroundings. I looked across the horizon and down to the Earth, in search of new insight for my fatigued state of mind. I could see everything from up above. The organizational layout of the cities, the plots of land dedicated to agricultural production, the thin strips of black road that transport people from one location to the next. But none of the people below even knew that I was up there or that I even existed. I was an inactive participant, removing myself so I could observe the story unfolding before my eyes and the people creating it. As the wind guided us gently to the ground, it gifted me with the experience of flight and a new perspective with which I could view the world.

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7/10 for the landing – Didn’t quite stick it…

When I landed I was breathless. Partially because my heart still had not stabilized, but mostly because I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened! It wasn’t until afterwards, when I sat and reflected on the experience that I began to feel more down-to-Earth (likely because I had Earth to stand on now). But in all honesty, I did learn the power of sky. The power it has to see what others cannot. The immense beauty that it contained. And the potential for danger that it held.

Skydiving provided irrefutable evidence for my next step in life. It showed me that I should not be afraid to jump head-first into the unknown. It is where we can learn the most about ourselves and the world. It is completely necessary to push past the boundaries of our comfort zones. And sometimes it is the only way. We can move forward by being in the moment. We can welcome our journey into the uncharted lands of the future.

“… And once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci

EDIT 08/24/15 Changed quotation credit from Zaheer to Guru Laghima – newb mistake, I know…