Finding balance

“Sometimes it got to the point I was driving four, six, or eight hours from Buffalo thinking, ‘today really sucked, something’s gotta change’, I just didn’t want to deal with that anymore, I don’t need it, there’s other things I can do.” In Feb of 2022, everything did change for Ryan Rebulanan.

Ryan came down with stage four Leggs Perthes Disease just four years after his birth in 1986. Not getting the blood his hip joints required, half of his right and almost the entirety of his left ball joint had eroded. Similar to Forest Gump’s, Ryan wore braces until he was seven and told he’d never be able to play sports. If you were to characterize Ryan’s spirit, this would be it: “I found if you hook your ankles, you could pull your knees together and break the braces.” When he wasn’t busy breaking out of his leg braces, Ryan outran, out jumped and overall outplayed the kids who were less than nice to him. Sparking the beginning of his Parkour and Tricking, he cleared literal and figurative fences and obstacle in his way.

Raised by two members of the Navy as the second oldest of four sisters set Ryan on a path of strong family bonds and hard work. “I don’t have anything to compare it to, we homeschooled. We all hung out with each other and the neighbor, I always got my hair braided.” Born in Adak Alaska, arriving in Illinois around 13, the bond between Ryan and his family grew alongside the value of hard work. At “Whatever the legal limit is to pick things up off the ground and throw them in the dumpster” is when Ryan joined his family in the roofing business, a skill he’s used well into his adulthood, even here at Skydive Chicago!

When Ryan wasn’t getting his hair braided, or working in the family business, he would slink off with his dad’s nunchucks. “My father was into martial arts, he had some nunchucks and weapons laying around and would watch Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan. I would watch what they were doing and just mimic that. Knocked my head around a few times, I learned pretty quick those things hurt, then Ninja Turtles came out and it was over.” Eventually, as long as he kept his honor role status, Ryan started free Saturday morning Karate classes at the Peter Claver Center in Joliet.

Taking a step into adulthood, Ryan enlisted in the Army at 17, despite both of his parents being in the Navy. After almost a year of EOD training, forced to choose another route, Ryan picked Parachute Rigger as his first alternative, despite having zero idea what it was, nor any interest in jumping out of airplanes. Last on his list, first on the military’s was Artillery. “It was fun, we got to shoot rockets and stuff, but it wasn’t that great.” Then came Korea. “Three months in Korea and I got on the Taekwondo team, I loved it, the unit didn’t like it because they just got me trained up and I left. We trained with some of the top teams in the world, Korea is like the home of Taekwondo.” Training 10 hours a day, six days a week with the top teams in the world, he performed demonstrations for high ranking Korean officials, as well as state-side in DC.

Ryan served his time in the Army, plus a year in the reserves. While attending ITT tech, he maintained an income through roofing, which paid for his first tandem. On his golden birthday, on July 25th, 2012, Ryan made his first skydive here at Skydive Chicago. As we’ve learned time and time again, the group he organized to come out with fell through. With his friendly, approachable demeanor, Ryan swiftly found another group. The first skydive went well as he remembers with excitement and nerves. “Trying to do exactly what he said. I realize now how flexible I used to be, I could feel I was pulling him into the arch. He said I had a beautiful arch, I thought ‘ok I did it right.’ I tried to break my back, if I can bend in half, maybe he’ll appreciate that.”

Another season passed before Ryan jumped again, but it was only a month following that he signed up for AFP. “What I would do, just like the tandems, I would go to the AFP room or manifest, talk with the instructor, do my jump, debrief and leave. I was doing maybe one jump a month, some of them recurrences, when I found you could do more than one jump in a day, that was crazy. I didn’t interact with anyone, I was concentrating on not failing the next level.” After over a year from starting AFP, Ryan graduated with his eyes set on four, eight, and big ways. 

After graduating ITT Tech, applying and accepting a job with Phillips in NY, Ryan moved his life and began light networking and installation of hardware in hospitals used to aid nurses and doctors. Not quite what he thought he signing on for, Ryan stuck out the corporate life for as long as he could. Around 300 jumps in, Ryan earned his coach rating, followed by his AFFI at around 500. Altering his course from competition, Ryan found himself “working” at Skydive the Falls and Skydive Chicago on his weekends as an escape from corporate life. Here at Skydive Chicago, he earned his TI rating in 2021 through, continuing to build experience.

With no end to the corporate grind in sight, Ryan realized the work life balance he wanted. The work he was doing wasn’t physically demanding, however without time off, and the faux persona he had to wear, the dam was ready to break. ”The more you can do, the more they want and require out of you.” Ryan officially cut away this February, joining Dan on grounds crew, and investing himself in the community. “With skydiving and being here, I’ve always felt comfortable where I can essentially just be myself and within reason do whatever the hell I want. I’m having fun, yeah we’re working, but it feels like we’re goofing off.” Because cutting away isn’t the easiest decision, it’s good to know that Ryan’s family fully supports him, even if “they still think I’m goofy for doing it.”

Is that it? Has Ryan completely gone off the deep end? Far from it, Ryan’s self awareness and goal oriented mindset is helping him find that balance! “I have a two year plan, this year was grounds crew and to work as an instructor while I can, building as much experience as possible. Next year is trying to get in as a full time instructor”. The requirements here are steep, but I got this. We have massive amounts of coaching here, the quality of instruction you get, even as an instructor is just phenomenal.”

His first year working for the dropzone, Ryan has gotten to see some of the “inner workings” and gained new perspective. “It’s different being on the other side of events, I’m excited to see how things are done on the back end. Actually being a part of making everything happen.” Ryan takes immense pride in what his work, and is happy others are able to enjoy the dopzone as much as he does. He’s learning to unwind from the corporate life, striking a better work life balance. He even jokes about times he’s goofed up out here, expecting to get into trouble, only to find his boss, Dan laugh with him. 

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