The Return of Melanie Curtis

Thursday, April 20, 2017

If you’ve paid attention to the US skydiving scene over the last 15 years, then you know or have heard of Melanie Curtis.

Photo by Zach Lewis

Melanie is the former events manager at Skydive Elsinore who brought the Chicks Rock Boogie to great prominence. From there, she became a sought after load organizer who traveled the world passionately leading skydivers on the most fun jumps possible. While seemingly, “living the dream,” she took a long break from the sport.

Today, Melanie is back, but we wanted to know where she went, what she learned and what she can share with us.

We present… The Return of Melanie Curtis.


CYPRES:
What event caused you to pause your skydiving career and step away from the sport?

Melanie: My choice to step away from skydiving for a while was a combination of a few things… not to start off this interview sharing another link, haha, but the column I wrote for Blue Skies Mag and the commentary on that column shares my answer to this question better than I would ever want to sum up in a single paragraph. Suffice it to say, our greatest breakthroughs and our highest happiness in life pretty much always are preceded by our biggest breakdowns IF we use those breakdowns as opportunities to evolve and grow. That’s most definitely how I roll, what I stand for, how I always want to lead, and how my life and career are blowing up (in the good way) on the other side haha.. here it is:  Blue Skies Mag: We’re On a Break

CYPRES: During your break, you embarked on a tour that would take you around the world. What prompted the idea for this tour and was there a moment on the tour that affected you positively?

Melanie grabs a quick selfie with Helmut and Jens at this year’s PIA Symposium.

Melanie: I have felt gratuitously lucky in my professional life to have found two back-to-back pursuits that feel deeply purposeful to me. First skydiving then life coaching. I credit my success in skydiving and life coaching on the fact that they both have been, and still are for me, driven very purely by love. Something I am grateful for every single day to this day. 

As I grew in skydiving professionally, I also was building my life coaching business and designing it around the lifestyle that I wanted, one of complete mobility, freedom, and purposeful work. The mobility so that I could live and be wherever I wanted to be, so that I could do what I wanted to do, and be with whom I wanted to be with. That freedom was always a driving value in the choices I made for my business and how I built it. 

So the World Tour, the main motivator behind my going on such a significant journey, and taking on such a significant professional project was because my personal life had just completely imploded and disintegrated. The proverbial metaphorical mushroom cloud as I like to call it hahaha.. funny now, and of course at the time it was agony. Totally universal and understandable feelings for anyone going through heartbreak or significant change, whether we choose it or it comes to us unexpectedly. 

Melanie and Amy Chmelecki

So what ended up happening in the face of such a significant life change for me was the coolest thing… that even though I wasn’t using my mobility and freedom in the way I thought I would be, I realized I could use it to do this epic new thing in the space I now had in my life, and maybe inspire others through my efforts and reflections along the way. So the World Tour was born. I really had no clue at this point what I was in for in terms of grief and healing, but the project of planning and believing in the positive possibilities around the World Tour really helped me through that initial phase of gratuitous life change. My friend Brian was instrumental in making it a reality and in supporting me as my friend at a time in my life when I really needed help. I will be forever grateful for him and our friendship.

As for a specific moment… there were tons, that’s for sure, but sangria in Barcelona sticks out for sure, hanging out with the “assholes” in the Netherlands, crying walking into the Grand Place, the cat that hung with me and my coffee in Santorini, making Binod take a million GoPro selfies with me as we trekked the Himalayas in Nepal… hahaha, the list goes on and on and on. I blogged it all, if people want to read more about that whole journey, every post is here, and if you’re going to read anything, make sure you read “The India Debacle” and “Fake-sleeping Selfies”: Melanie Curtis: The World Tour.

CYPRES: You make your living as a full-time life coach. What were the challenges of maintaining your business across challenging WiFi connections and time zones? 

Melanie: Nepal was probably the most challenging because I had to do my client calls in the middle of the night from the bathroom that was all tile, draping myself and as much of the surface as I could with blankets so it didn’t sound all echo-y like it sounds when you know someone is talking to you from the freakin’ toilet, hoping that the power stayed on at that time and if it didn’t, that the generator kicked on before my computer died and cut us off mid conversation. Hahahaha.. yeah, it was a whole.. ahem.. situation. ;)) And it worked too! So even though it was ridiculous, we absolutely proved it as ENTIRELY POSSIBLE. That is so inspiring to me still, I can hardly stand it. 

Photo by Zach Lewis

The clients who stuck with me while I was on this insane journey, both inside and out… dang… my gratitude for them could probably never be expressed in words. Seriously, I can’t even tell you. Most of them probably don’t even know or realize what a huge deal that was for me, how much having them in my life during this time truly and deeply helped me through some of the most challenging emotional times in my own life. It makes me think about the concept that it’s a gift to others to let them help us… to let them love us… might sound weird, but being able to put my focus, energy, and love on my people was a huge gift for me then. Still is. 

CYPRES: When you returned from your travels, you didn’t get right back into skydiving, what were you up to during that period of time?

Melanie: Given the World Tour was so intense, I really hadn’t been able to rest or fully heal in the ways I needed to, so when I got home, I was still pretty emotionally exhausted. I remember getting to my parents’ place in the Florida Keys and how they were suggesting we go out, see some music, have some drinks, socialize, and all I wanted to do was rest. So that’s what we did. I am supremely lucky to have the family I do. The amount they support me, believe in me, and have my back is unparalleled. 

Suffice it to say, I still really didn’t know what I was doing in terms of rebuilding my life, so I made the decision to move to Vermont, lured by the idea of “Vermont serenity” as I liked to call it… which pretty much was me totally running away from my former life and hiding in the trees away from the majority of society hahaha… I laugh at this so much now, but it really showcases how clouded our judgments can sometimes be and how it’s totally ok to proverbially f*ck it all up and then some. We all do sometimes, it’s all good, and it’s actually GREAT, because every choice we make serves us, and everything that happens is FOR us, all we have to do is trust that and keep looking for those benefits and lessons. I deeply believe this, even the challenges… especially the challenges… so I learned to golf, bought myself some guns, and really tried on the non-skydiving life. I even met my amazing roommate and friend, Sarah Walko. She is a super accomplished artist and professional in her own right, a deep, loving, bold, gutsy, and just f*cking cool chick who I get to run around NJ and NYC with now, only because we weirdly ended up in Vermont at the same time.

CYPRES: Since your break, there has been a new energy and resurgence with your passion for skydiving. What caused that and how is this new passion different than how she approached the sport before? 

Melanie: Continuing from the last answer… what I re-realized living in Vermont was how much I loved people because of how isolated I felt living in a place that had so few people, and next to no one in the same place in life as me at all. That kind of isolation initially feels like a safe bubble, and then, at least for me, evolved into painful loneliness that I was grateful to experience because it made my genuine love of people, community, and shared experiences with my tribe of like-minded, growth-minded people undeniably clear to me. It took the pain to help me see. Once I did, I was like OOOOOHHHHHHH! Then I was like, F*CK YEAH!!!! Ok, I’m out of here… hahaha then I started my effort to make my next choices with this earned clarity. It was awesome.

Melanie Curtis in Santorini, Greece

Skydiving is one part of my tribe. ONLY in stepping fully away from our community was I able to truly and more deeply see how special we actually are. That new awareness coupled with my earned awareness of what caused my burnout in the first place, I feel SO free to ENJOY our sport and community again. THAT feeling… is unreal. It feels so crazy good, I can’t even tell you. It’s like I have found my way back to the pure love that took me down the intense road I went down in the sport in the first place. And it’s even better because now I don’t fear burning out again because I know I can choose how much I work and play in the sport such that I can protect this feeling, and choose in ways that keep me at my brightest. If I’m intense about anything now, it’s about choosing that balance and protecting that love.

CYPRES: Your new home base is Skydive Cross Keys and you seem really happy there…what about your new home DZ do you enjoy so much? 

Melanie: I used to jump at Cross Keys back in 2001 before I moved to CA, and have been invited back to work there a handful of times over the years too, so I definitely have positive history and loyalty from all of my experiences there. I also have great friends that jump there, and Pico and Nadia (Cross Keys’ DZO’s) have been so generous and supportive of me since I decided to start jumping again too. That means so much to me. Plus, the way they support the fun-jumper community and their ultimate goal of creating the “happiest drop zone in the northeast”.. I mean, that’s my freakin JAM, yo!!! Hahaha.. legit, so stoked to be a part of that, and so happy to have a real home DZ again after so many years traveling coaching.

CYPRES: How has skydiving changed you today versus the Melanie that was traveling the country and world as a load organizer? 

Melanie: I have deliberately scaled back my intensity… I used to be driven, pretty unconsciously, by this idea that I had to engage in skydiving intensely… like that was the only way.. or rather the only way I would continue to be successful. It makes sense given my desire to always over-deliver when I’m working, always help people as much as I can on the days I’m there, my history in hard core competition training for so many years… being intense was pretty much the only way I had EVER engaged the sport. So now, it’s been so f*cking cool… so insanely freeing, to fully embrace being more chill in my approach to skydiving… in terms of the amount I work… how much or how little I jump on the days I’m just playing… the time I take on the ground between loads… the amount I chat and make stupid jokes hahaa.. whatever. I’m deliberately and consciously slowing myself down and putting leisure into my approach. Balance, who knew. #lifecoach Hahahaha… 😉

Photo by David Sands

CYPRES: If the Melanie of today could give a younger, new skydiver Melanie, advice, what advice would she give to herself?

Melanie: I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing given I’m so stoked with my life and career now, grateful for all the awesome and all the crazy it took to get me here hahaha… As for advice to young skydivers and my younger self, I’d likely echo that… to know that every bit of what you go through on your own path in skydiving and life ultimately becomes your bigger picture success and epic life story. So embrace it. Love it. Even the parts that suck. Live it all fully while trusting it’s all for you, building you into your absolute best.

CYPRES: You have created a new concept called the Virtual Skydive Center (VSC) to help newer skydivers have a safe place to voice concerns about the sport and freely ask questions to learn more about the sport. What inspired that?

Melanie: Sooooooo stoked with this crew and concept… the ONLY reason I came up with this idea was because while I was living in Vermont, it felt like such a freakin’ TRAVESTY that all the experience, knowledge, and desire to give back in me could only be used if I were physically, literally on a drop zone. It felt so wrong, such a waste. Not that there aren’t plenty of awesome coaches in skydiving, there are tons and I always encourage people to work with whomever they are called to work with. That’s awesome for sure. Just for me, I didn’t want to travel as much anymore, I said no to so much work, and it really bothered me that it seemed like I couldn’t help people who wanted to work with me specifically.

Then it hit me to use modern technology… to create a digital avenue for skydiving education and coaching… for my favorite type of work in skydiving, helping newer jumpers learn, have fun, get connected, feel included, feel encouraged and inspired to grow safely in our sport and community. So I threw the figurative paint on the wall and went for it, while concurrently building my YouTube channel (Subscribe here: Melanie’s YouTube Channel) where skydivers can go to get free education and all the funny movies my friends and I make too. Two new ways to add value. They are both absolutely a work in progress, and I equally am inspired by what we are building over time. I priced joining the virtual coaching group suuuuuper cheap so that new jumpers really had no barrier to entry… that even if they tried it and they thought it sucked, it was really no loss for them. My goal is to add massive value first and always, using that approach to collectively grow this version of education and support inside our sport because I believe in the longer-term vision and potential positive impact. Ultimately, I want to bring in other pros to add even more value to the group, be able to pay them too, and keep the education, excellence, and fun going and growing. Email me anytime if you have questions or if you’re inspired to join us or support the cause, just visit me here

Photo by David Sands

CYPRES: Your life is in the open through your social media platforms, through your journey, skydiving, life-coaching…  What are the things that you don’t post on social media and why?

Melanie: Everything I post on social media is with the intent to add value to those that follow my stuff. All the quotes, memes, articles, videos, stupid selfies, everything.  Everything personal I post is 100% real, I just haven’t historically posted that much real-time because there’s a part of me that is weirded out posting my location. I’m weird, I know. That said, I’m working through this one and have a loose commitment to Melissa Nelson Lowe to figure out how to start using Facebook Live, ahhhhhhhh….. hahahaa… comfort zone expanding, just sayin. 😉 

CYPRES: What’s next for Melanie Curtis?

Melanie: I’m SO close to finishing my first book! I put together a quote book called, “One Positive Thought… Can Change Everything,” given I’m such a believer in the power of mindset and our ability to cultivate the skill of choosing and managing our thoughts as a key piece to core happiness and effecting outlier results. I have seen this skill transform my own life, massively affect my core happiness and peace, and transform the lives and happiness of my life coaching clients over the last 8 years doing that work too. The power of mindset is undeniable. I love the idea of helping others that much more through this medium, while growing and learning through the process myself as well. So badass. So stoked. :)))

 For anyone who wants to hear when it comes out, I’d say join my email list on my website, MelanieCurtis.com, and follow my Facebook profile. So that, working with The VSC peeps, more stupid funny videos because those are seriously my f*cking favorite (YouTube channel), loving New York City, expanding my life coaching work doing more keynote speaking/teaching… add in more life and love, and I’d say that’s the lot. 😉

 

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