Faster. Farther away. Run. Fly. Go.
I push my foot down on the accelerator and drive off. I push my car up to the speed limit and then just over the limit, daring somebody to stop me. The sky is dark and the clouds gather as I get on the highway, taking me away from home. Away from piles of dirty dishes. Away from boxes of things I have been afraid to unpack. Away from that fight we had last night. Away from responsibility. Away from the things I cannot face.
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
This is for the runaway flight attendant in all of us. This job takes us away from our family, from our kids, from our pets, from our significant others, from our friends, from our daily responsibilities and routines.
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And the secret is, we sort of like it.
There is that part in all of us, flight attendant or not, that craves the chance to just drop everything. You know: put down that dish towel, drive the kids to school, check the dog into boarding, call the spouse and say we’ll be home late for dinner. And then just go. Get on a plane and go.
It’s a crazy fantasy, but I dare you to tell me that you’ve never had that dream.
But then we come back to reality and realize that it’s not feasible. A child is sick and needs to be nurtured. The kennel is closed this week. The in-laws are coming over. The dishes are piling up. The spouse sends you a text that says, “I love you so much. Can’t wait to see you tonight.”
And airline tickets are more than you can afford. So you don’t go. You laugh at your momentary fantasy and get back to life. You take on the challenges, you talk them through with your partner, you deal with life the best you can.
But what if I told you that there was an opportunity to escape life every single day? A job that took you up and away, leaving your problems hundreds, if not thousands of miles away as you soared through the clouds to dreamy places like Puerto Rico, Dubai or even Las Vegas?
Would you jump at the chance?
Would you just …go?
I did. I jumped at the chance. And so did you, my fellow runaway flight attendant. We ran away together. And it was crazy. And glorious. And we never wanted to come back.
But here’s the tough thing. And this is me asking, in all honesty, with tears pouring down my face as I race down the highway towards the airport:
Did we do this for the right reasons? Are we flight attendants, or are we just running away from life?
I know a lot of people who did this job to run away. I know people who were unhappy with their marriages, with their families, with their lives. And it worked. Divorces happened. Flight attendant domiciles far away from family drama. Daily life went from fighting with significant others to new crews, new friends, new layovers every day. No more commitment. No more drama.
We signed up to go somewhere completely new. To become someone completely new.
As I drive down the highway the clouds part and the rain stops for a moment. I pull off the road and into a gas station parking lot. I call home.
“Hey. I just wanted to call once more to say I love you. I’m sorry I left on a bad note. I want this to be better. …I want to be home.”
And as I say it, I know that I really mean it. I start to cry again, and as I do the sky opens up and pours out everything that I’m feeling.
I look at my watch that he gave me. The one I wear so that I always know what time it is at home, where he is. I count in my head. Ninety-six hours and nineteen minutes until I’m home again, I think.
Ninety-six hours and nineteen minutes. This is not me running away if I know exactly when I’ll come back again.
And this is me thinking about why I do this job. This is me being brave and learning how to face my fears, instead of just soaring away. This is me deciding if I should pick up that extra trip with the fabulous overnight and the great crew, or if I should stay home and do the dishes. And talk with my significant other. And work through our challenges.
This is me staying grounded, when heaven knows that my first instinct is to fly.
This is me trying to not be the runaway flight attendant.
Let’s try this together.
For all of you flight attendant hopefuls, I want you to stop for a second and ask yourself, “What are you running away from?”
Because, believe me, it will still be there when you land. Face your fears, take on those challenges and have a life on the ground that you’re excited to come back to before becoming a flight attendant.
Build a happy nest before you fly and don’t use this job to run away from life. You’re going to soar as a flight attendant, but eventually, you’re going to want to land. And that’s not a bad thing.