You gain so much when you enter this industry.
Flight benefits, allowing you to fly all over the country, the continent and the world. The ability to stand in front of dozens or even hundreds of people and tell them how to be safe. Confidence in yourself and the knowledge that you could help save lives in an emergency. You gain a power you never thought you possessed. You gain freedom. You gain your wings.
With everything you gain in this job, you will also find yourself saying goodbye to a few things. Without further delay, here are the things that I bid farewell to when I became a flight attendant.
1. Your sleep schedule.
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As a flight attendant (especially if you’re on reserve), get ready to kiss your sleep schedule goodbye. Early morning wake-up calls, red-eye flights, cross-Atlantic jaunts and at times, four stand-up flights in a row will have your body screaming for sleep. But there’s a few tricks that every savvy stew has in their bag: earplugs, eye mask, Melatonin and the ability to nap anywhere and anytime there is an opportunity. ALSO: coffee.
2. Your waistline.
Not that you should EVER use how tight your pants are as a measure of how healthy you are … but yeah. Your clothes are going to get a little snug. Part of that is that constant bloating from pressure changes, part of that is going to be all the salty airline food you know you shouldn’t be eating and part of that is actual weight gain. Don’t worry, we all get the “freshmen fifteen” when we start this job. The trick to getting back to a healthy place is finding ways to pack healthy snacks and making sure you are able to fit a little work-out in at least twice a week. Whether that means hitting the hotel gym, fitting in a good solid hike on your days off or always taking the stairs instead of the elevator … find your health routine. And stick to it.
3. Your friends.
Think of it more of a “See you later” than an actual goodbye. This job will make or break your relationships, but don’t think of it as a bad thing. Take it in stride and realize that friendships do change as we go different directions in life. You will see those friends you’ve had for ten years less and less, and your airline friends that you’ve known for six months… well, you’ll have them on speed dial. This job is so hard on the connections you have in your life, but the people who are patient and understanding will make the cut. And just like all best friends, the next time you see those people you’ll be able to pick up exactly where you left off.
4. Your favorite holidays.
I’m sorry to say, but it’s unlikely that you’ll spend a Christmas, Thanksgiving or Passover at home your first year in this job. But don’t be sad, and whatever you do, don’t complain too loudly to the senior mamas! Just accept it. Find ways to keep your holidays alive. If that means wearing bunny ears to the airport on Easter or handing out candy to your passengers on Halloween, have fun. Plan “Un-Birthdays” and belated holiday celebrations with close friends. They will understand. Holidays will happen when they happen in this job. Don’t let it get you down.
5. Your carry-ons.
You start this job with a giant suitcase full of several shiny pairs of high heels and a week’s worth of “going out” dresses. Before long, however, you realize that A) High heels kill your back, and B) When have you ever not just put on leggings and an old hoodie when you get to your overnights?? Soon you’ll switched to a smaller rolling tote and a lot less carry-ons. Maybe Danskos will have replaced your heels and instead of five dresses, you will have cut down to one pair of pajama leggings and your slightly nicer pair of “going out” leggings. Add your favorite hoodie and a pair of combination work-out/”running across the street to the gas station for snacks” sneakers, and you’ll have every outfit you need.
6. Your immune system.
You will get sick. It’s not an “if,” it’s a “when.” There will be times when you aren’t able to fly, but that’s why things like sick days, excused emergency call-outs and unions exists — to protect you when your immune system can’t keep up. There are things you can do as well to try to keep your immune system running as best as it can: Vitamins (EVERY day), drink tons of water, abstain from too much alcohol and caffeine, especially right before a big trip. Wash your hands constantly, carry Sani-wipes in your pockets and don’t touch anything on the plane without gloves, if you can help it!
7. Your fear.
When you start this job, you’ll be nervous. Your voice will shake as you grip the intercom, reading your announcements from your little Flight Attendant handbook. You will be unsure of yourself, and your ability to Be In Charge.
But soon that will change.
The first time you encounter a hectic day, an unruly passenger, a possible emergency or even a real emergency, all of your training will kick in. Your instructors’ knowledge and encouragement will come flying back to you and then something else will appear: this little bud of courage and confidence that you never knew existed will begin to blossom. You will kick into action and Take Charge.
And that’s when you realize that it was all worth it.
You will check your fear at the door and never look back.
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