I remember hearing once from a seasononed older gent, that we live in different stages of our development constantly, unconsciously. One decision could be ruled by our pre pubescent mind, another controlled by our adult self. I took it to heart and ask myself that question at least twice daily. I suppose it is my way of holding myself accountable for my sporadic nature. Most often the answer is obvious, other times the lines warp, like a ship on the horizon. Such was the case when I found myself working at a skydiving school in the middle of the Nevada desert. Living out my own misplaced sense of adventure that first gripped me in my late teens. At that point in my life, I was headed for special operations selection, with the urgency of purpose only a raging teen could feel or understand. There was a war on, and my older brother, was cutting his teeth in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. He had been my surrogate father growing up, not because we were orphans, because our real father either couldn’t articulate child rearing, or was torn between cultures. Our father had been born in Tehran and immgrated to the United States a few years before the Revolution. He married a American woman, had American kids, and never really indoctrinated us into his version of manhood. So we found it our own way. We stayed up nights as kids and reveled in war documentaries. From antiquity, to modernity, our refuge was war. The savagery that built empires became our standard for manhood. It made sense to my brother, and he spoon fed his younger not as competent brother the life blood that would give our lives meaning. I can remember one occasion vividly, we were watching a documentary on the A-12. The A-12 was the test spy plane that would eventually evolve into the SR-71. That night our parents had a blowout fight, and the police had been called. It was a routine occurrence. But the effects at such a young age were always the same, traumatic. My brother, who was 4 years older, always delt with it in a more spartan manner than I. He had been alone for 4 years before I came along, and had formulated a strategy early. One might say he was a student of it, the domestic unrest. That night, after the feathers had settled, we retreated into his room which was catty cornered in the basement. As we watched the documentary, we became transfixed by the shape and pure power of the mysterious craft. For someone seeing the A-12 for the first time, it might as well been the millennium falcon cast into vivid reality. It was mean, it was black, and it flew faster than everything. Nothing in our little lives seemed more transcendent. At that moment nothing in our fractured existence mattered, time had frozen and we sat transfixed. A old test pilot appeared on the screen and unwrapped his rarified experiences flying the plane. He recalled one instance the plane malfunctioned at 90,000 feet, at more than 2.5 Mach speed. The powerful J58 engines got stuck at max power, and the stick jammed in one place. “We were along for the ride after that” The pilot said. The plane broke apart at the edge of space, and the next thing the pilot remembered, was free falling. At that height, the free fall lasted for minutes, and the rush of the wind awakened the pilots senses back to consciousness. “Sometimes your just along for the ride” my brother echoed the pilots words. He would later translate his boyhood dreams into a career in military aviation. I attempted to follow, but came up short, returning home after a brief stint attempting to join the military elite. After that, I shot off to California to transform my former self into a film actor. I mean I was unconventionally handsome, emotionally violatile, and could do a laundry list of cheesy falafel stand accents. It was the perfect fit, or so I thought. A life of divided purpose is not a life that becomes exceptional. I spent my time in the city of angels divided into four categories, physical training, bartending, buying expensive supplements, and occasionally doing something acting related. Not exactly what I would call suffering for art. I would articulate it more as being pathologically hellbent on appearing successful. There were 50 replicas of me on every street corner, well maybe not 50 but you get the idea. I did find some redeeming qualities in that mercurial city. At night after I got off my shift, and effectively fried my brain and body, I would walk. The night air in my neighborhood smelled like jasmine, and on occasion I would come across that same feeling my brother and I shared as kids. As adults we had grown apart, and he had found new bonds with elite warfighters who he shared blood, sweat, and mutual experiences. I understood. He spent his 20s inserting covert troops under night vision goggles, I spent mine bartending for LA socialites. For what it’s worth, he had found a sense of home, and so had I. Los Angeles had gifted me a new understanding of the world, more progressive, and more open. I explored different yoga practices, diets, miracle super foods and all of the new age window dressing. It helped me reinforce my own idea of uniqueness, and I wore it like armor. Then I got sick. I can’t say it happened overnight, but it slowly robbed me of life’s ease. It was neurological in nature, and most doctors rebeoffed my claims as anxiety or depression. After fighting through it for 2-3 years, I retreated 250 miles into the Nevada desert. I had some loose family connections there that offered me support, and possibly a fresh start. That’s when things got worse. Nothing really prepares you for losing your cognitive faculties in your 20s. You just deal with it. Was it MS, Lyme disease, I didn’t know nor did I care after a certain point. It was fucking up my universe and all my relationships. I tried going on and working, taking bartending and serving jobs in the greater Vegas area. That shit didn’t last for very long. After a few days I was smoked in every sense, and I wasn’t inclined to make bosses understand. It wasn’t in my nature. I continued to work out and do yoga to try to do damage control. It helped to an extent, but was by no means a cure. I tried out tai chi, chi gung, and other sorts of esoteric diciplines. Nothing really stood out, but one yogic discipline showed promise. Kundalini yoga was one sort of practice I never attempted in LA.I discovered it in the middle of a terrible neurological episode. I stumbled into a kundalini studio in hopes of finding a clean bathroom. I can recall being miffed that I had to remove my shoes. After leaving with a flyer, I realized that this was something I should try. I attended class after class, feeling invigorated while I did the practice, not after. But that momentary window of clarity was enough, I got hooked. After a little bit of time and dilligent practice, I started to hear faint footfalls of my former self. I wanted to prove something to myself again. So of course, given my nature, I thought skydiving. Luckily for me, Vegas is a experience oriented tourist town. I screened the few skydiving schools in town and landed a gig where skydiving lessons were included. Not exactly the best recovery for someone in my condition, but I didn’t care. I pushed through the fog, and eventually found myself ready to start jump training. I would do kundalini yoga in the morning, work at the skydiving school in the afternoon, and drive a limo at night. It was the epitome of drinking water from a firehose. I had told my AFF (accelerated freefall) instructor that I had done two tandems on the east coast. I was lying, but I wanted him to think I had some idea of what I was doing. He put me through ground school, which consisted of him mostly chain smoking and making grim comments while staring off into the distance. He was a retired special operator, who functioned on a fast paced get it,got it,good rhythm. It was something I wasn’t unaccustomed to. My attention span waxed and waned. I had to put my ego in check routinely, instilling in it that everything was at sacrifice to the experience. Learning to stifle my newfound sense of inadequacy was my new daily meditation. I liked my instructor, he recognized the itch I had, and decided to like me, he didn’t have to. Even though I appeared as fit as a new squared away military type, anyone with a more discerning eye could spot my issues. He never mentioned anything. On the day before my first jump I found a tree to sit under and do some deep yogic breathing. The look my instructor gave me when he saw me was priceless. The plane had fueled up faster than expected and I had less than 10 minutes to get my shit on and board the plane. It was a sort of victory I suppose, not being dead, in a hospital bed, or in some other hard up circumstance. I was boarding a plane, parachute attached, ready to get reacquainted with the sky. The yogic deep breathing gave me a little extra kick, but at that point in wasn’t necessary. My mind raced, my body pulsed with fear and adrenaline. I remembered my brother and I peering at the television. My spine felt like a aboreal python coiling up the trunk of a tree. It’s body rippling with sinew and muscle. By the time we got to 12,000 feet, I was floating. The light flipped from red to green. It was time to jump and I was first. My two AFF instructors gripping onto each side of my parachute straps. At the door now, I hesitated. No matter, they pull me out and the blast of cold air steals by breathe away. “Sometimes your along for the ride.” My brothers words pinballed between my ears at Mach speed, time froze. Then I was freefalling. It really wasn’t how I would have imagined. The time dillaltion. I wasn’t beamed back into my childhood. But I was there in a sense, remembering that old grizzled test pilot’s words. My life had broken up around me, distengrated. Now I was being awakened again, baptized by the fall and the fear. Primordial fear, the kind you can’t imagine, you have to just feel. For the first time in many years, I felt close to my brother again, and ultimately myself.