With the goodest of boys waiting for my turn to fly.
Why did I decide to go hang gliding?
One of the reasons for going was I had had a cancer scare that I was actually mentally ready for. Some of my family members had experienced cancer and, frankly, I was asking for it. Drinking excessively and for more days a week than not, partying until the sun came up, chain smoking, skipping the gym to nurse hangovers. It was my rock bottom and part of a toxic cycle; I drank because I was unhappy and I was unhappy because I drank.
I ended up going my last morning in America before moving to Peru because that was the only day that the weather in Orlando permitted it over my several attempts to go. You cannot have any negative weather to hang glide otherwise, you are putting yourself in serious danger. Plus, Florida is known for bipolar weather.
The irony is that I had scheduled a dentist appointment a week prior to moving to Peru. I had forgotten about it and thought it was just a measly teeth cleaning and it wasn’t a big enough deal to reschedule it. By some random impulse, I did, and one of the first things my dental hygienist did during my cleaning was ask the dentist to add an examination to my appointment. The dentist and my dental hygienist subtly showed me the pair of lesions in my mouth, took samples to send for an evaluation, and to seek out two oral specialists for a second and third opinion.
However, they never gave me any specific information on what it was or could be, they just kept saying it was probably nothing which usually means it’s probably something. So, I Googled what they had written on my recommendation slips – leukoplakia lesions. Precancerous lesions that are cancerous for one out of every twenty cases. The main causes being heavy smoking in combination with drinking as well as a genetic predisposition to cancer. I had killed myself. That was my waking thought everyday after. That I had done this to myself because I had allowed myself to become less of a man. I had allowed myself to be influenced, walked over, and became one the toxic people I had loathed and pitied all my life. Shame on me.
I contemplated for a short time, to my surprise. For some reason, I almost instantaneously decided that I refused to die on my knees and would fight to every last breath had it been clarified to a certainty that I had oral cancer, but, a week later, I received the call from my dentist with negative results as well as confirmation from my oral specialist, who I had had an oral evaluation with, that my lesions were declared to be benign and would heal on their own. For me, it was the embodiment of a wake-up call. I had dodged a bullet yet again.
The thought that kept me up at night was that I thought I was going to die in a hospital bed with tubes in my arm, no muscles mass and a bunch of people laying pity on me – forget that. I was going to live life in every way and do what I was put on this earth to do and if people didn’t like me for me I’d be happy to cut them out of my life or run them over in my pursuit of happiness. Hang gliding was my ironic symbolism that I was going to make the sky the limit for me.
The hang gliders are towed by small airplanes and climb, attached only by a thin rope, until they reach 2,000ft.
Moreover, I had been trying to go hang gliding at Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, Florida for over seven years and had the expired Groupon to prove it. Poor weather, getting called into work, moving away multiple times, car trouble, a broken phone – every problem you could think of happened to me, it was like fate didn’t want me to hang glide! However, the morning of my flight to Peru the owner texted me giving me the okay to come down and hang glide and I just went for it.
Within fifteen minutes of arriving and signing a waiver, I was strapped into the hang glider, which requires you to lay down in a push-up position and get towed by a small airplane. From the beginning of towing the glider ascends within seconds, climbing to two-thousand feet ultimately before disconnecting.
I had realized I should have worn goggles or sport sunglasses because the air constantly blowing into your face causes your eyes to water. One thought clouded my mind, the thought being that I was doing it. I was living the life I was meant to live despite all the idiotic decisions, all the bad luck, and all the second-guesses. I was walking ten feet tall in my own shoes, standing on my own accord. I was living free.
My instructor, who ironically owned the place and had been hang gliding since the seventies, handed the reins over to me and let me steer for the entire duration, albeit the landing. Hang gliding is ridiculously simple, you control a large metal bar in front of you that resembles a pull up bar and simply push and or pull where you want to go and how fast or slow. I had it down within seconds.
During landing my instructor nonchalantly took the reins and stated that he was going to land so that he could grab his water bottle and did like it was part of a script.