Interview With Master Of Manifest: Laura Jane Burgess

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



Where were you born and raised and how did you end up here?

photo of Laura Jane "LJ" at Skydive CarolinaWell, I made my way onto the scene at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. My parents were in the Navy, but shortly after I was born, they finished up their commitment, and we moved to Columbia, SC to be closer to my father’s family. I think you can bloom wherever you’re planted, even if you are often uprooted.

We moved around quite a bit when I was in high school for a myriad of reasons. Like many around 2007/2008 when the housing market crashed, we were affected. My childhood home was foreclosed on, and we were forced to move. Things have a profound way of working out in inexplicable and serendipitous ways. The area we were in was a little rough; rough enough to be featured on Gangland, and though, I was never particularly bad, it wasn’t hard to find trouble. I’d always been a stellar student making A’s in every class, but my grades had begun to drop and I was involved in a scraps. When we moved, it was to North East Columbia, where the schools were much nicer and trouble was harder to find. As young ladies sometimes do, I met a boy and followed him to college; admittedly, this is typically not a wise move to make, but it worked for me!

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I attended Winthrop University in Rock Hill. I started out with a double major in Biology and Chemistry, and I left with a degree in English, a concentration in Creative Writing, and minors in Social Sciences and Women’s Studies.

What motivated you to make your first skydive and when was that?

Lobo Rodriguez! He came into manifest and asked when I was jumping. I said, “When I can.” He replied “You can right now, pick an instructor and let’s go” So, I’d been crushing on the most humble skydiving superstar you’ll ever meet and what better way to sidle up to a cute guy than to be strapped to him falling 120 miles an hour? I asked him to take me on my tandem. It was May 25, 2013.

What’s the current equipment that you jump?

I currently fly a Sabre 2 150; it’s great!

You came to Skydive Carolina via Winthrop University. Tell us how that came about?

While at Winthrop, I worked on campus, but I was still struggling to make ends meet. Winthrop sends out an “Opportunity List” where local employers can place ads. I applied to two places, Pelican’s SnoBalls, and Skydive Carolina. I never heard back from the snow cone place.


What were some of the early indicators in your life that may have foreshadowed your future to be a creative writing major and work at a skydiving center?

My life is as much a mystery to me as anyone else! I’ve wracked my brain, and for most things, including my current life writing poetry and working at a skydiving center, there is no seeming thread to connect cause and effect.

What would you say is one of the most important values taught to you by your parents?

Kindness; it is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world during your brief interlude from dust to ashes.

How were you as a student?

Other than freshman year, when I went a bit off the deep end, I maintained a fairly good GPA. I graduated with a 4.74 Cum Laude.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

LJ skydiving solo

I wanted to be a Veterinarian.

Who inspires you?

It’s not so much who as what. The world (by that I mean the culmination of things done by beast/nature and man) inspires me with both its unbounded displays of cruelty and kindness, ferocity and restraint. It’s lovely really, these experiences we are given.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with it?

Hmm, how much?

I’ve no misgivings about my capacity for selfishness and self-interest, so I won’t answer like a beauty queen.

Honestly, I’d buy a Javelin Odyssey rig and a 135 Sabre 2. Then I’d set out to clear some of the debt I’ve accrued through school. Then, if anything was left, I’d take a trip; perhaps, I would go to Amritsar, India. Or maybe, I’d set sights on Cozumel. I really don’t know!

What is something about you that few people know about?

If the skeletons in my closet rattle enough, I’ll let them out. But they are pretty quiet now, so I’d like to remain a lady of intrigue!

When you’re not at the DZ, what do you enjoy doing?

Hiking! I love the physical challenge of summiting a peak. I love the solitude and serenity. I love being swallowed up by a view. I love feeling how small I am and how great and large the world is around me.


Working at a skydiving center is not a typical job description. What about working at a dropzone appeals to you?

I enjoy the people. I’ve never met such interesting humans with such varied stories, personalities, and opinions. It is such a diverse group. No one seems to love anything as much as a skydiver loves jumping.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Well, again, I believe people may be the most challenging aspect of this job. There are so many types of people, and in my position, I have to be cognizant that every customer is different. It’s a bit like being a chameleon shifting colors to suit her surroundings; you cannot approach everyone the same way. The other challenging aspect is, that as an introvert, I’m easily burnt out from consistent human interaction, and I have to remember to put boundaries in place between my job and my personal time and space.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I’m able to share an experience (skydiving) that means so much to so many people. It is a bond like no other; truly it escapes explanation. The staff here is my family. I love them and this place.

If you had to give some advice to someone about working at a skydiving center, what advice would you give?

Be ready to be tired. Also, make sure you (attempt) to establish some sort of demarcation between your life and the dropzone life.

CarolinaFest is around the corner, what is the biggest challenge in preparing for this event?

There is so much to do; I always feel like I’m forgetting something! It is hard to really say what the biggest challenge is. In its entirety, it is a challenge.


Growing up, what was your favorite activity?

I loved and still love reading.

Favorite quote?

It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Bantam Classics)

But, I also love this line from Slaughter House-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: “And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.”

Favorite Color?

Currently, blue is my favorite color.

Your five favorite movies?

  1. Four Rooms
  2. Mirror Mask
  3. WristCutters
  4. From Dusk Till Dawn
  5. Fierce People

Favorite place to visit?

I love taking trips to the coast. Beach culture is a wonderful thing. I’m banking on being a snowbird when I grow up.

Place you’d most like to visit?

I’d really like to check out Machu Picchu and explore Peru.

Five favorite books?

  1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  3. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
  4. Slaughter House-Five or The Children’s Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Your most memorable skydive?

My most memorable skydive would still have to be my first jump with an A License. I thought I was doing a two way with my beau, Andrew Happick, and the next thing I know, the entire plane load follows me out and I’m doing a BFR with my 13 or so of my friends. It was incredible!

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive news and valuable promotions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Now!

tandem skydiving carolina

Sign Up for Our Newsletter!

Oops, a pop-up! We know they can be annoying, but this one brings you an exciting opportunity! Stay updated with the latest news, exclusive specials, and amazing deals from Skydive Carolina. Sign up now to stay in the loop!

You have Successfully Subscribed!