By Ambassador Kitty Egelman
In my last blog I explained what paragliding is. This time I want to tell you what it is to me, what it means to me. One of the things I hear a lot when I talk about my sport is: ‘you’re so lucky you found something that became your passion’. Apparently I glow. Everything I say is so full of passion that I get people excited just by talking about paragliding. And they are right, paragliding is my passion. But it’s so much more. It is my one true love, my ultimate happiness. The thought of not being able to fly ever again is the most terrifying thing in this world. Flying is not just a passion, it’s a way of life. I can’t even tell you how much flying means to me but I’m going to give it a try.
It all started with my little brother. He always wanted to be a pilot. When he had his 18th birthday I gave him a tandem flight in Holland. And I came with him. It somehow creeped into my blood. Every time I was on a holiday and saw them fly, I wanted too. I took tandems and decided in 2012 that I wanted to fly on my own. The timing seemed right. I had both my car and motor license so I had room to pursue something else. In the summer of 2012 I started with a beginner course from Paragliding Holland. I was hooked in an instant. That whole summer you could find me on our winch field in the middle of Holland. I decided I wanted my own gear so I ordered a new, custom colour wing.
My little brother and his tandem flight.
In October 2012 I ended up in a car accident. They brought me into a local hospital with several injuries and legs that didn’t work. Over time, I learned that my brain shut down my legs and there wasn’t anything physically wrong with me. I did however, have a lot of internal bruises, whiplash and a massive concussion. After a week I was sent home. A week later my wing came in. I had my first mountain flights scheduled a month later. I was convinced I was going to be okay by then. But I wasn’t, I wasn’t at all. I had to cancel my trip and faced one of the hardest periods in a long time. My body was recovering, but so slowly that I was not able to deal with it. On top of that I was diagnosed with PTSS. What followed was a long process of therapy. I fought, every day, every moment, against my body. I fought because I wanted my body to work. I my eyes, there was no reason not to.
Several months passed. I fought against myself every day. I fought against the thought I could never fly again. I hadn't even really started! After several EMDR sessions, followed by sessions on Mindfulness. The road to recovery was just getting started. It took me several sessions before I came to see what everyone always says, I had to stop fighting and let go. After that, I found my way back into seeing the things I actually was able to do. My drive to get back into flying grew every day, I became stronger and stronger. About a year after the accident I decided it was time. Time to go back to where I belong, into the air.
I booked a course with my school and went off to Bassano, Italy. And then and there I lost my heart completely. On my 5th mountain flight my instructor let me follow one of the other instructors in the air. While everybody else did a start and landing, I flew, I flew away. Away from everybody, higher than all the others. I felt for the first time in a really, really long time that I was alive! After 50 minutes I was exhausted and landed. That moment, that’s one I will never forget. That was the moment I realized, I was the happiest I ever been. Nothing could break me, nothing could hold me down. Nothing and nobody would ever stand in my happiness. I’m in charge and no one else.
I’ve been lost ever since. Lost in a way it’s a blessing and a curse. I am like a drug addict. The moment I come home for a trip I have to book a new one. Days after flying I still feel my legs like they’re in the air. Every free day I need to get into the air. Every moment I’m not able to fly, I watch fly videos. My heart found ultimate happiness and I desperately search for that moment back, every single day. All my holidays I want to fly. I’m afraid that there will be a moment I can’t anymore and I’m desperately trying to not let that happen. A lifestyle has been created. I’m no longer a girl with a dream. I’m a girl with a mission. Experience that ultimate happiness, over and over again. A pilot has been created.
Flying all of your free days, spending all your holidays in the air, following your ultimate happiness doesn’t sound so bad doesn’t it? You might ask yourself why I call it a curse? I will tell you. Although I found ultimate happiness. It also has a flip side. Living for such high peaks of happiness makes you vulnerable for the low peaks. On these moments it makes you yearn desperately to get back to that ultimate feeling. Although I have the training, it’s not always as easy to be mindful in these situations. For me it’s a constant struggle to feel okay when I can’t fly.
Yes this lifestyle gives me incredible highs and moments of ultimate happiness but it also forces me to deal with incredible lows. Some might argue I search for an unrealistic form of happiness. They might be right on some level. But I know the ultimate happiness is out there. I found it and I find it over and over again when I’m in the air. I will always want to go back there, and nothing will stop me for doing that.
Flying has given me a way life, a goal. But it also took a lot from me. More than I can handle in some moments. There are moments it makes me doubt if I've made the right decisions. But in the end, I think that I’m a lucky person. I have found something that makes me incredibly happy. I think there are a lot of people in this world that never have that luck. There are lots of people who don’t dare to follow their dream. I choose to follow my dream. I choose to fight with every single fibre in my body to achieve my goal and I will never let go.
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