Once I Break the Clouds

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On August 16th , 1960, Joseph Kittinger leapt from a helium balloon gondola hovering 102,800 feet above the air. He broke numerous records, as well as setting new heights for man to climb further and further into space. 48 years ago, space was a mystery that was virtually unknown. It was unexplored, unpredictable, and a dangerous place that only the bravest would venture. Scientists didn’t know what the atmosphere could do to human bodies, so Kittinger volunteered his for the good of the future.

For three hours, Kittinger ascended to his maximum altitude. For seventeen years, I’ve ascended through my education in grade school, and now I’m close to reaching the maximum altitude, the conclusion of my high school career. The end of senior year is the spot at which the preparations will be complete, and I will step forward, and make my leap into college. That leap, that first step off the gondola, the one with a sign on it stating, “this is the highest step in the world”.

This leap is one of the most significant in my life, one of the most crucial. If I’m too lax in my preparations, a malfunction may arise in the suit at a distance three times the amount of a commercial airplane’s cruising altitude from terra firma. If I’m too obsessed, too chained down to my studies, I’ll miss the view around me as I fall. There must be a balance: on one side, my discipline and hard work, and on the other, my dreams and aspirations to reach for, or, more appropriately in this case, fall towards.

Joseph Kittinger reached a max speed of 614 miles per hour during his fall, but reported that in the thin air of the upper reaches of the atmosphere, he had no sensation of motion at all. It was the fastest a human being has ever fallen, and he couldn’t even feel it. I will keep this in mind, and value my years in college, trying to make every second count as I hurdle towards the surface, closer and closer.

Once I break the clouds that I saw approaching from the outside as I fell, I will pull the parachute, halting my freefall and bringing me to a slow, swinging descent. By the time I pull that cord, and slow to the pace that the rest of my life will be at, I want to have gathered enough memories, enough knowledge, and enough experience in college so that I may float with ease down to the surface of the earth. Touching down onto the surface after my journey will be the beginning of my life as my own person, always retaining the ability to aid others, but also seeking to do whatever I can for myself that will enable me to reach my full potential as a human being.


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