By Jasmyne H.
“Hammonds? Standby passenger Hammonds? Please approach the podium for your seat assignment.”
It’s the moment most flight attendants live for. The sweet sound of hearing a gate agent call your name to let you know that you have a seat. After all, standby travel is one of the biggest perks of the job. I’m always thrilled when I snag a seat on a flight. But this day is different. Instead of celebrating, I am on the verge of tears.
It’s two days before Christmas, and sleepy little Norfolk International Airport is surprisingly busy. Business travelers and groups of families crowd into the terminal— waiting to be whisked away to places like Atlanta and Dallas. My own flight to D.C. is set to depart in less than thirty minutes. As I make my way to the podium to grab my boarding pass, I can feel the agent’s eyes on me, probably curious as to why I look like I’m barely holding it together.
“Looks like it’s your lucky day,” the agent says as he slides my boarding pass across the counter. “There was a first class seat open.”
I manage to choke out a thank you as I tuck the ticket in my pocket. I walk away, silently berating myself. Get it together, Jasmyne. This is nothing new. You always work holidays. This is the 3rd Christmas you won’t be with family. You knew that when you got the job that this was part of the deal. And although I know in my heart that this is true, it doesn’t make the vision of waving goodbye to my mom hurt any less.
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I know in my heart that this was part of the aviation lifestyle, but it doesn’t make the vision of waving goodbye to my mom hurt any less.— #FLIGHTATTENDANTLIFE
My first Christmas as a flight attendant was pretty miserable. I was on a 30-hour layover in Oakland with nothing to do but watch Netflix and feel sorry for myself. The second Christmas was better because my roommate and I managed to get on the same trip to Anchorage. We spent the day sipping bubbly mimosas and dining on prime rib. This Christmas, I’d be in New York City. I tried to cheer myself up, telling myself I could go see a Broadway show or go ice-skating at Rockefeller Center. But, honestly, I could be spending the holidays in Paris, and I’d still feel sad because that it wasn’t Virginia Beach. It wasn’t home.
During my first year as a flight attendant, everything was magical and new. It was the same feeling you get when you slide behind the wheel of a brand new car. Christmas alone in Oakland? No problem! Getting called out three times in a row to work the redeye from Anchorage to Los Angeles? Bring it on! I was down for anything. I was just thrilled that I snagged my dream job straight out of college. I’d fly with more senior flight attendants who would smile sweetly, shaking their head like I was a naive child. It’ll wear off, they would say…
And they were right.
Over time, my brand new car started needing a serious tune-up. I felt myself growing frustrated over getting called out at 3 A.M. to work crappy trips. I’ve lost count of the sleepless nights I’ve had, willing my body to feel tired, despite the time changes my schedule imposed on me. There were the coworkers who drove me insane with their antics and negative attitudes. There were the passengers who yelled at me and threw insults like confetti. I took it all personal, carrying every bad experience in my heart as doubts started to creep in. Maybe I’m not made for this. Maybe this job isn’t for me. Should I go back to school? What am I even doing with my life?
But then there are those moments that I like to call my Aha moments. Those moments when I realize why I’m exactly where I need to be. These are the moments when I’m in the galley with sides hurting from laughter with some of the friends I’ve made on the jumpseat. The moment when I’m waiting to board a flight to South Africa or Thailand or Tokyo. When I am able to pass along travel benefits to my parents so they can enjoy a week in Hawaii or Alaska. Or when passengers simply thank me for doing my job, letting me know that they appreciate me. Those are the moments when that car is on cruise control and all the windows are down. Those are the moments when I reclaim that magic.
In flight attendant training, there’s a lot of talk about complacency. That’s when flight attendants get too comfortable in their job duties and start to miss crucial safety details. When we come to work, we have to make the active decision to be present and to focus on what’s really important. And over the past three years, I realized that the same can be applied to my mindset towards this job. I chose this career. I wake up every day and put on those wings. So, it’s only fitting that when the luster and magic of the job starts to wear off, I have to make the effort to create my own.
“When you begin to lose your magic, discover the ways to reclaim it and create new magic.”
“Now boarding all rows for flight 5597 with service to Washington Reagan. All rows, all passengers.”
The same gate agent smiles at me as I hand over my boarding pass. “Have a nice flight,” he tells me. “And Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” I reply. My tears are gone, but that sinking feeling in my stomach isn’t. I walk down the jetway anyway and text my parents to let them know that I got on the flight. It’s going to be another Christmas away from them. But, I know I’ll be alright.
Twenty minutes later, I’m staring out the window as the plane hurtles down the runway, preparing to make the 30-minute journey to D.C. Once I’m there, I’ll have to jump on a longer flight to Portland, Oregon to take me back to my base. I know that long flights and cranky holiday passengers await me, but so does the magic and so much more. I slip on my headphones as the wheels lift and feel the excitement that accompanies every takeoff. I watch as Virginia Beach and Norfolk grow smaller and smaller, and I leave a piece of my heart on the runway.