It is never too late to let your inner wild child reign, even if it’s just for a few moments. Just ask California resident John Picco, who celebrated his 100th birthday by doing something that some people only dream about, and others might not consider, even if they were paid money to do so. On December 29th, 2016, the brave centenarian celebrated by going skydiving.
When it comes down to it, such an epic birthday should be celebrated accordingly. In a world now overflowing with memes, gifs, and videos encouraging you to check out this epic stunt or that spectacular feat, it takes something monumental to stand out from the crowd. But no one is contesting the level of impressive intensity of this brave soul and his daring leap. Dropping out of the plane at 13,000 feet above the ground, Picco’s exhilarating tandem skydive found him free falling for about a minute. And then, peacefully descending the rest of the way under the canopy for around six minutes.
Picco reported that when he brought up the idea for what he envisioned would be a great way to celebrate his century of life, initial reactions of family members were overwhelmingly that he was “crazy.” Which, the fearless centenarian admitted, was something that he was already well aware of. Despite a delay of about three hours due to wind, Picco didn’t lose his nerve as he waited for the wind to change. He made the jump with a crowd of supporters below, consisting of friends and family members, and even had a few family members join him in the sky to take leaps of their own. Back on the ground, he stated, with wind strewn hair and a smile that the experience was even “more exhilarating” than he had imagined it would be.
How many 100-year-olds do you know with that level of vivacity? Scratch that—how many 100-year-olds do you know?
Well, it turns out that John Picco is in good company. In fact, he says that one of the reasons he made the jump for his milestone birthday was a moment of realization he experienced three years prior. He was struck by the simple fact that he had nothing to fear after viewing a television program that featured a 100-year-old woman taking the plunge thereby planting the seed for his own centennial celebration. Picco and his inspiring predecessor are not alone.
South African, Georgina Harwood, celebrated her 100th birthday in 2015 by making the third skydive of her life, the first occurring when she was 92. In April of 2016, Verdun Hayes of the United Kingdom, made the leap, both to celebrate his centenarian status and to raise money for a local organization. Just a month later, South Australia hosted the centennial skydive of Irene O’Shea. And to kick off 2017, Texas resident Al Blaschke joined the centenarian skydiving club with a celebration in the sky.
First, it is no small thing to make the decision to hurl oneself from an airplane to plunge toward the earth at breakneck speeds; the only guarantee of safety attached to the back of the person to whom you are strapped. An adventure for the true thrill seeker, skydiving is the ultimate rush.
To take this on after ten full decades of life is, in a word, remarkable.
Perhaps the appeal to take to the skies, particularly for those who aren’t repeat skydivers or those like Picco, is comparable to an analogy that can be drawn from life itself. Sometimes you have to take risks, and throw yourself completely into something to truly understand it. Much like the extreme lack of control experienced during free fall, there will be moments that you won’t understand, or that pass in a blur. It is a great testament to one’s character strength, to be able to let go and realize that these chaotic phases can be thrilling, as well as a bit scary. But once that parachute is deployed, the peaceful drifting through the air allows everything to come into focus. Life will slow down if you let it, if you make the conscious effort to appreciate it. Only then do you begin to understand the true depth and breadth of all that you have to be grateful for.
Skydiving to top off a century of life is a true achievement. On behalf of every adventurer, every person with a dream, or unchecked item on his/her bucket list, thank you, John Picco. Thank you to your incredible group of elite peers, for being inspirational heroes we can all look up to. Seeing the opportunity for brand new experiences and novel thrills in each precious moment of every single day is certainly something that many people will wholeheartedly aspire to accomplish. It is never too late. Let that inner wild child out!