My Dream to Fly Free Like a Bird
Guest Post by Silvija Mitevska
I began flying with paragliders at the age of fifteen. It all happened so quickly; on a family vacation in August I was introduced to the paragliding instructor, in September I joined the local paragliding club for a try-out session and two weeks later I had my first flight. I flew only twenty meters above the ground, but it felt like I was high in the sky. I looked from above at the yellowish grass swaying gently, moved by the wind coming from the east. I carefully circled around two tall trees next to a dried riverbed and landed softly on my feet. My whole body was shaking; it was not from fear but from true excitement. I had just experienced the feeling of complete freedom. I took off my gloves, my helmet and my flying suit and started jumping from happiness. I couldn’t believe that I was in the air by myself. I, the girl who never went out from her home-town could fly.
The sensation of flying free like a bird in the sky haunted me in the following months. I wanted to continue learning paragliding but my family did not have the money to support me. Buying the paragliding equipment costed ten times more than their monthly income. But, I was strong-minded and motivated in getting into the air and feeling the freedom that I had dreamt about for the past period. I continued going to the local mountain and luckily the instructor, who afterwards became my mentor, saw my passion and recognized my determination in pursuing my dream to fly. He gave me the possibility to use the club’s equipment and managed to find me second-hand equipment that I paid off over many months.
I trained more and harder than all the other members in the club. I would spend all my days up on the mountain tops waiting for the right conditions to fly. Sometimes I would wait for days before taking off. Paragliding has really taught me how to be untiring and patient. I knew I was missing out on parties with my girlfriends; I even missed out on family New Year’s Eve and Christmas dinners while being away somewhere on the mountain tops. Instead of having the regular teenage routine which includes going to school, discotheques and romantic time with boyfriends, I would go traveling and competing in the surrounding countries. Instead of buying dresses and girly stuff, I would save my money to pay the competition fees to fly. Instead of sleeping in hotel rooms while on the road, and because of shortage of money, I would sleep in the car. Instead of gossiping with my girlfriend, I would share all my secrets with my paraglider who became my best friend.
Many times, at international competitions I was terrified from the flying conditions; experienced pilots would take off in harsh conditions, with lots of turbulence and strong wind. I had no choice, I had to fly too. I remember, in those moments I hated myself for being so stubborn and persistent in chasing my dream. Isolated at two thousands meters above unfamiliar mountains and with no safe place to land for the next fifty kilometers I would push on. And the adventures would not stop there. Whilst learning acrobatic maneuvers the ropes would tangle and I would have to deploy the reserve parachute, falling into deep water. In those intense moments my heart would beat loudly, and my face would sweat so much that I would have blurry vision. But all these things did not discourage me and did not make me quit. I kept challenging myself, constantly pushing my limits, learning to fly better. That is how I grew and became stronger. I knew that I was investing in myself even though I was breaking down barriers by being one of the youngest girls to have become a competitor and paragliding instructor. In time, I became one of the few female aerobatic competitors. I won many competitions and first places. I learnt how to make incredible acrobatic maneuvers and dance magically in the air. The sense of adrenalin made me feel alive and I appreciated every moment of my journey.
Paragliding has afforded me many beautiful and unforgettable days. It’s brought a sense to my life and made me feel unique and special. I loved the girl who would wake up in the early morning, climb the mountain with the paraglider on her back and fly silently together with the eagles and hawks in the thermals. Through paragliding I became stronger, mentally resilient and fierce in life. Paragliding forced me to become reliant on myself for finding solutions. I would take responsibility for my own mistakes and I would fix my own problems. I would live independently and I would make my own choices, likes and dislikes in life. I would not allow silly things to break down my confidence because I know my own value and strength. .
I do not compete anymore. Now, I fly just for fun. But, there is no offseason when it comes to learning and growing- both as an athlete and as an individual. It is not about being perfect. The most valuable lesson sport taught me is that it’s about getting better and improving every single day. I have learnt that success requires tremendous effort.
At the end, all my efforts were rewarded. Today, I have the privilege to do the job that I love. And, I am constantly living my dream. Both- in the air and on the ground.
So girls- go out, play and learn. Sport can teach you about perseverance, determination, integrity and most importantly about believing in yourself.by