‘How can I hate this?’ you silently wonder. This was all that you dreamed of— for SO long! Everything about the lifestyle of flight attendants appealed to you, but since it’s been all yours for awhile now, you find yourself numb inside. Numb to what your dreams once were and numb to who you are in the present. You fleetingly think that all of the confusion could simply be the jet lag speaking or the constant rotating door of strangers and friends in your life, but you don’t know. You feel like you don’t know anything anymore. In the dark and lonely moments of another hotel room, there is the passing worry that you are the problem in the equation. No one ever told me slinging diet cokes was so unfulfilling.
Darling, the thing is— slinging diet cokes was always going to be unfulfilling. This was never your purpose, and it still isn’t. You are too smart, too talented, and were created to bring too much meaning into this world to stop at pretzels and peanuts and pretty red lips. You are unfulfilled because something is calling you to more. Before you think that I am telling you to quit your job, go back to school, or drastically unsettle all that you know, let me tell you a story— a little of my story.
Your words of desperation are felt deep within my own heart, for I have been where you are right now. I have been in the place of feeling so lost that I don’t know which way is up in whatever side of the world or sky I find myself. I only write this, because honesty is always the best policy. I have lived through and amidst the confusion of hating and wondering and wishing that all were different, and for that reason, I know what you feel. You are not crazy or maybe you are, but if that is the case, we are crazy together.
I will never tell you to quit or to stay. I hate those who give advice like that. How the hell do they know what a good airline is or a good career is anyway? They do not know what it is to live in the hopelessness of where you are right now, for if they knew, their reaction would be much different. Their response would simply be a look of care, a hug of understanding, and a nod of encouragement that, “You will get through this, and you will be better for it.”
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You tell me that you are lost, but I tell you, “Tell me about a time when you felt unstoppable? When you were sure and certain and confident?” When you think of that moment of completeness and ‘foundness,’ what did you feel about yourself? What actions did it take you to get there?
Were you giving to someone?
Did you feel needed; like you were really making a difference?
Were you proud of your dedication, persistence, or passion?
What was underneath that moment that made you completely fulfilled?
Maybe it was right after flight attendant training, so now you feel more guilty for hating your ‘dream job‘ than ever before. “You’re not helping,” you’re saying to me. I know I’m not helping, for I cannot help you. You are the only one to get you beyond ‘unfulfilled’ and to get there, you must be authentic, brave, and courageous. You must ask the hard questions that most people refuse to ask. Most people never take the chance to live a meaningful life because they are too afraid to face their doubts, despairs, and disappointments. I know you are brave. I know you are on the edge of greatness. You just need a new set of eyes to see your path. You need someone to guide you when you’ve lost your sight.
I have lived through hating an airline job. I sorted out my choices and decisions about what was best for me, and FINALLY, I left. Over six-months later, I still have people telling me I should come back. I still have me wishing that I could go back, and I could. We can ALWAYS do the things we want to do. But, there’s the catch. I didn’t make the wrong decision. I feel that I have lost a lot, but what I have gained is invaluable. Living through the loving, living, and leaving of the airline lifestyle has offered more insight than I would ever be able to afford if there was a way to purchase life lessons. Life cannot be bought or sold; lessons may only be lived and learned.
You are blessed to be in this space of discomfort because in a world of challenge lies incredible opportunity. Until you decide what to do with your job— quit or stay— search out every moment where you can bring more meaning into your work. If you sling that diet coke, sling it with curiosity, care, and class. You may laugh at that, but I am so fucking serious right now. I wouldn’t use that ‘serious’ word if I didn’t want you to pay attention. I would NOT give anything to do the slinging at the moment, but I would give anything to meet a flight attendant when I travel as a passenger, who is bright and shiny and ‘something different.’
You are bright and shiny and “something different.”
I don’t know you, but I know that you are amazing BECAUSE you say, “I am unfulfilled.” I’m proud of you for caring. I’m grateful that you share your struggle. I believe we “get each other.” When your job doesn’t bring fulfillment, which is the complaint of many flight attendants, I know that you are the intelligent, go-getter, that has change- the-world (or at least your world) potential.
To find the powerful and unstoppable part of yourself again, fill your world outside of flying with things, activities, learning, and people that excite you. “This job is making me stupid,” my friend Jasmine repeats often. Yep— it will do that. You know how I survived the stupid moments of jet lag and repetitive questions of, “Would you like chicken or fish?” Well, sometimes I tried to ask those same questions in Norwegian; just to challenge myself. NO ONE WILL CHALLENGE YOU UNTIL YOU CHALLENGE YOURSELF, and you will constantly be left feeling unfulfilled until you step forward in faith; throwing yourself into the possibility of what you may accomplish.
I took every second of my extra time and money and learned to kiteboard. I blogged. I wrote. I found new marketing clients. Pursuing outside-of-flying aspirations brought meaning into my life inside of the aircraft. If you are anything like me and Jasmine, you must infuse your work with more than it is or you will die inside. At the point my airline lifestyle no longer could support the dreams I had beyond the beautiful metal tube, I moved forward to something else. Moving on may be your next step. Only you will know when or if that is what is best.
As a flight attendant, you are an explorer. Don’t let yourself stop exploring simply because someone else has told you, “You have ‘the dream’ job!”
I challenge you Dear Lost Flight Attendant— over the next month— to take yourself mentally back to the place where you loved everything (when I say everything that’s a little extreme I know) about being a flight attendant. Write all of those loves down. Write down everything you love about the job and lifestyle in the present. Then, write down everything you hate. Those hates and loves— examine them carefully. Are any of them changeable by changing your perspective? Can you find the positive in it? Are the negatives too heavy at this point and completely weigh down the positives? You tell me you’ve lost sight of you. Make this next month is one of looking for your eyes again. Who will you meet today? What can they teach you? What can the pain of waiting show you? Stop asking, “Why do I feel this way,” but instead question, “In what ways are these ‘feels of ‘unfulfilled making my life better— making me better?”
You will find you. Be open to “the next chapter,” because I believe you are stepping into it. We, as human beings, are dynamic and ever adapting. You are in a phase of adapting. That is beautiful! Naturally, we come to places in our lives where we question so deeply that all becomes cloudy and unclear. Don’t be scared of this. Give yourself permission to be patient and kind. Your answers will come.