I don’t know how to explain what has been happening in my career and life during the past year; let alone this past month. The ‘unbelievableness’ started with being thrown onto a private A320. That culminated in a first visit to Ireland, weeks in Spain, days in Copenhagen, and then back again to LaLa Land, so I could bounce around the US on a Gulfstream G450 for a few days. Things have only gone into overdrive from that point. Don’t think for a second that I’m complaining. I’m loving this corporate flight attendant life.
The job is partly why I’ve been MIA recently. That and my injury. That and building out a new design for this website. And my writing job. And relationship stuff. And friends. And, and, and…
I saw Meghan last week and she says, “I don’t know how you do it all.” Well, actually, I have a secret to share with you. I don’t do ‘it all.’ And, I’m pretty sure that I’m ok with that. I simply do my best, go ‘all in,’ prioritize and compartmentalize.
I feel like I have dual worlds. When I’m in one, nothing from the other exists but the necessities. I very much need and love my world flying, but unlike commercial aviation, my brain is needed at all times. I’m not saying that negatively, I’m just saying that what I do now is different. I have to think, be creative, and make a decision. And you know what? I didn’t even serve one diet coke on my last trip.
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This life of a corporate flight attendant is not like the airlines. Everything happens last minute and information is always changing. I design menus, boarding cards, and need passenger preferences to create a better in-flight experience. I don’t work for just one company, but am contracting with more than five. I pay for my own health insurances, have no benefits, stability, or certainty. But, I have a freedom and a compensation level that makes the hard work worth it. More than that, every day, I am required to hustle, hurry, and push myself to new levels of learning. I constantly ask, “What could I do differently? How could I have done better?” As a corporate flight attendant, I have no idea what I am doing tomorrow. I have no idea what company will call, what jet I’ll be thrown onto, where I will go, and who I will go with. My life is this one amazing question mark of possibility. Scary as hell and rewarding AF.
I’m feeling more passionate, alive and driven than ever.
As a contract corporate flight attendant, you play in a land of risks and rewards; unknowns and uncertainty. It’s risky because I don’t know who will call and if I will get enough, or too much, work this month. I feel the happy sense of accomplishment when a difficult and challenging flight pushes me so close to the edge of, and beyond, my comfort zone. There are times that I truly think I might break, but stay calm and poised. Everything always works out fine in the end. Living outside of your comfort zone is an addictive experience that builds unstoppable momentum.
I don’t feel unstoppable though. In reality, my job, career, and health are haltingly fragile. I am more ‘unstable’ than I want to admit. I can’t decide if I’m more stupid than the average or tougher than I thought originally. The truth is, I have a broken ankle. Still. The truth is, I have been flying and working on with a broken ankle. To say that I didn’t know this was really the case, was a lie. My first Orthopedist had cleared me to go back to ‘regular life.’ But, I was always in pain. My ankle is always bruised and swollen, but I just want to fly so bad. It’s as if I want to fly as much as I want to breathe, and obviously, more than I want to walk.
“Absolutely not! There is NO way I am going in a cast again— or surgery! Not right now!” I say in defiance to the doctor. The Orthopedist listens patiently to my tirade, choosing not to argue. Right or wrong, he and I both know that I will NOT be getting surgery in December. So, when will I fix what is broken in my life? I find myself furiously angry over the prospect of losing three months more and being taken out of the game I so recently, and persistently, created for myself. I continue to go to interviews, flights, and networking events— walking as if I’m normal, but sneaking on the cumbersome air boot, which was the compromise between the doctor and I, when no one is looking. I have a 30 percent chance of healing with the boot and 50 percent chance if I get recast. Right now, the chance to fly is 100 percent. I guess it’s true to say, that I don’t take risks with everything.
Cliff, the chief pilot who is like my ‘Aviation Father,’ says, “Baby, we’re gonna get you better! You’re not gonna need this surgery.” I hope this man is right. Happy and accomplished on the outside and tormented and worried internally— sadness sweeps over me every time I feel the ache in my leg or look down and see the boot. When I’m alone, my body shakes in sobs while contemplating the reality of the unfortunate situation of a nonunion fracture and marveling over how I am so desperately fighting to fly. I never fought like this for commercial. I never had to. I could leave and come back and my job would still be waiting for me. Nothing and no one waits for you in corporate aviation. There are a million pretty, smart, talented, organized, poised and professional men and women who would kill for a private jet office. “I worked to hard to lose this all now,” I think to myself. “I will not lose.” I don’t know if I’ve fought this hard for anything before.
It’s not that I’m so scared to lose it because I don’t really believe that will happen. What I am most disappointed over is the amount of learning that I will have to put on pause. Every single flight, whether it is Bora Bora, a San Francisco drop, or a Vegas pickup, teaches me. I’m this little sponge to knowledge and learning, and the water hydrant is on full blast. That’s corporate aviation— soak it up.
The first time that I faced this injury, I had no warning and just had to go with it. I find myself now planning and calculating and concocting the ways that I can make a second ‘time-out’ productive and beneficial. If this ankle has done one thing for me it’s that it’s built confidence. If I can fly and go from nothing to a full schedule, with a few different companies, and land a marketing job that allows me to work remotely and pays all my bills, all when life is not ideal, what more could I do and accomplish? There are so many lessons I have learned this year, and I need to devote an entire blog to it. But, if I can tell you one thing right now it’s to, “Be excellent in all that you do, and stop being average.” You are better than average. Average is the slow killer to an epic life.
Broken ankles, broken hearts, broken dreams— that’s truly been my 2017. But, what I feel in my soul is complete gratefulness. I couldn’t have done any of what I am doing now, and be as successful as I am, if I didn’t learn from these painful ‘gifts.’ The moments that break you become the foundation upon which you are built. It’s called growing up and growth is life. I’ve said that before, but it’s too true to not repeat.
While talking to my dad last night, I repeated— “I’m so lucky.” Dad replies, “Isn’t there a saying that, ‘You create your own luck.” “Luck favors the prepared mind,” I reply instantly. There are people in my life who believe in me and every time they do, I am absolutely adamant that I will uphold their reputation. If they have the nerve to tell a pilot or chief flight attendant, “Call Kara. She can do it. She’s one of the best.” I think, “Alright, it’s my job to prove their opinion right.” Your reputation matters and your work ethic is noticed in this world.
At the beginning of the week, the lady that I rent a room from questioned me extensively over the creativity and time I was throwing into prepping for my flight. “Are you getting paid for this? Why are you doing all of this?” “No, I’m not really getting paid for this,” I say as I continue with what I was doing. She continued to give me shit while I continued to work (without a dollar amount directly attached to my actions at the moment). By the end of the week, the pilots thanked me profusely for the effort, professionalism, and care that I take for each and every trip. “You’re our choice,” they tell me. I smiled in complete satisfaction. It all matters. Average is NOT rewarded the way that exceptional effort is noticed and appreciated.
Cutting paper, wrapping ribbon, and gifting inexpensive votive candles wrapped in pretty tissue paper has a pay off. Do things in your life, NOT because someone asks you, but because you know you can do better, be better, and give better. Private aviation is one of the most competitive industries I have ever experienced, but ironically, there is an incredible need for excellent flight attendants. Being excellent surprises pilots. It’s a choice to spend five extra minutes investing a few extra dollars for a reward that could grant you a six-figure income. At least that’s what I have observed.
If you want an easy, simple, and linear profession, don’t even think about business aviation and being a private flight attendant. If you strive for excellence, maintain a high level of professionalism, and have an uncanny ability to deal with the elite ‘1 percent,’ you could be the next best corporate flight attendant. I’m not the best. Griffin even says he’s not even the best (and he’s pretty much my hero at this point), but people trust him to show up and do whatever they say (or don’t say). We care a lot about what we do and to have a job that rewards that type of attitude is an incredible opportunity that we don’t take for granted.
Caring so much means that I will go MIA at times with blogging. Because I care so much, I am launching a new website in 2018. It’s going to be better for you and better for your profession and dreams. This post is all over the place, I know, but that’s my life at the moment. In that same vein of ‘everywhereness,’ I need to end my little speech with a simple thank you. Cliff…you made this happen. Thank you for seeing so much in me. I adore you and owe you for your instrumental support in my journey.
And with that, I’ll promise you— if you want to be a corporate flight attendant, you’ll need people in your life. You will need someone in your corner 300 percent of the time.