You signed up for this. You choose to go to work everyday. You greet and smile at passengers like you love your job, but inside you feel like your airline is ruining your life. Your pay is terrible. The crash pad life is killing you. It’s a constant fight to keep your eyelids open. Your relationships are past the point of suffering. “I thought I would love this job?” you muse. “I thought this was supposed to be amazing! I thought, I thought, I thought…”
I thought I would be happy—That’s what The Instagramed Flight Attendant Life showed me.
You bore witness to layovers in London, Los Angeles, and Copenhagen. You observed smiling cabin crew in capes. You watched this experience change lives and read about wonderful adventures. Then it happened to you—flight attendant life —and like a terrible accident, everything in your own life began to crumble. It’s nothing like you expected.
So, the complaints begin like a quiet babbling brook, quickly morphing into a loud and roaring waterfall of airline job abhorrence. “This airline has the worst schedules. The base is awful. I hate my trips. I’m missing a big holiday…” Welcome to the fun club; a club where nothing is ever perfect and airlines seem to find a sense of joy in ruining lives. Prior to throwing all the blame in the employer’s field, remember it takes two to have a tango. You joined the dance that has now wreaked havoc on your personal life and spirit. I think the only logical thing to question now is “What were you thinking this would be and what were you really expecting?
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This job will never be what it’s not.
You must take a portion of responsibility for wanting more from a cabin crew career than it will ever be able to give. An income where you can buy as many Louie Vuittons or afford rent in New York City, or any city for that matter as a new hire? Forget it. This job will never be super settled. It’s not for those who hate airports or people. It’s just not so many things, but it is so many other things.
I fell into a discussion the other day with a colleague who was complaining about our long 16 trips. “I just need short trips and scheduling won’t give it to me. It’s awful. I need to be able to pick my schedule.” I shook my head, a half-smile on my face. “This airline will never be what it’s not. If you want something different, go somewhere different.” It’s not your airlines job to make you happy. If something is not working for you, take an active approach in creating a new and better existence. Not all airline experiences are the same.
I discourage many from applying to my airline, not because it’s not great, but because people have different needs out of a flight attendant career. This is not for someone who needs a settled adventure and days with family. Manage your expectations and it could be the best experience of your entire life. That statement can be directed at many things in one’s life. I was talking with a friend recently about the quest for happiness and humans’ desire for joy. “If you want to be happy,” he said. “Lower your expectations.” I laughed slightly, but there is truth to that sentence. Maybe you had too many high hopes for what you wanted the job to be in your life. Remember, it’s fun, but it’s still a job. Not every day is going to be amazing. It’s ok if it’s not for you. It’s not for everyone.
I didn’t lower my expectations with my airline, but I can’t expect it to be conducive to anything outside of fly life. Here, it just doesn’t work that way. If I wanted something where there was long-term career stability, my personal life had a little more room to breath, and I could control my schedule, there are a TON of airlines hiring right now that could give me that. But, oddly, I’m kind of crazy about my airline right now. I love it—all its good and all it’s bad too. You can never have it all.
I don’t want to go somewhere else and give up what I have right now. So, I deal with commuting and jet lag and never having a choice in schedule. And then, I live the parts that love, like this moment might be the last I have here. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow and I don’t where I will be next. I find myself looking up at the sky, watching dancing clouds, walking through New York’s Meatpacking District, and wandering Copenhagen with a sense of wonder. My life is far from perfect, my job far from ideal, but it is what it is and can only be that.
After taking a leave of absence and returning, my airline experience has ‘clicked.’ I am loving it to a degree that I never have before. I don’t what changed. Maybe I changed. We are always changing. I guess I no longer expect my airline to magically be what it isn’t. I know enough now to know that I have it pretty good. I take everything that my airline gifts me— adventure, friendships, long haul, new aircrafts, favorite places— and maximize the goodness. I live a unique fly life for an American and unique is where I find joy. I find stories, challenge my curiosity, and discover so much in the midst of everything that the airline will never be.
Choose to be or choose go, but stop letting your airline’s downsides dictate your upsides. Positivity is so much more magnetic and attractive than constant negativity. You have so much control over where you are going in your life. Always remember that. If you wait on an airline to make all your dreams come true, you will be waiting forever. Your life will be dictated by cancelled flights and constant delays.
If you don’t want to be where you are, figure your stuff out. Go where you fit. Do what you love and manage those expectations a bit. Just saying…it may change your life. You may change your life.