“I’ve been up for 17 hours straight.” I look up from the dry cleaning sheet I was scribbling in as the last few words of that thought escape the pretty flight attendant’s lips. “Oh— wow! I can only imagine how exhausted you must be right now,” I respond; commiserating with her fatigue like I have no idea what it’s like to be on an airplane that long. But, I know full-well the dizzying feeling of being up for 17, 24, and 32 hours straight. I know that feeling so well. Where did you come in from?” I ask inquisitively. “Ireland.”
I quietly finish the notes for the dry cleaning. ‘I was you— in some sort of fashion,’ I think to myself. ‘Now, I am making dry cleaning notes for you and washing dishes for other flight attendants.’ I feel the punch of irony hit me hard as my heart subtly sinks. These aren’t my dishes. These aren’t snack baskets for my guests. This isn’t my dry cleaning. I deal with leaky kitchen sinks and long Saturdays, but I don’t get to be in London, Copenhagen, or San Juan at the end of it. I know exactly what the pretty flight attendant is speaking of (in the sense of the feeling of jet lag. Please note: I’m not saying that I know all about your job private flight attendants). But, I’m here while she gets to be there. It’s so strange not knowing when I will get my “wings” back…
A small amount of sadness seeps into my soul with the thought of this. I tell the pretty flight attendant that I couldn’t imagine how she must be feeling, but I do know. At least in a way. I’m not saying that I know all about private flight attendant life, because I’m new to this. I have a lot to learn and to discover, but what I do know is that “starting over” is filled with a mix of excitement and frustration; sadness and joy. I shake my head, purse my lips, and tell Whomever could be listening; “Please, just find me my place. Just give me a smile. Just give me the patience, energy, and work ethic to ‘make it.’ Make this worth it.”
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the job that I have and where I am at, because I am so blessed— beyond measure. I’m lucky, but I won’t lie and tell you that it was ever easy leaving or ever will be for anyone making that decision. I wasn’t too naive to know that switching from commercial aviation to private aviation, and starting at the bottom, would not be a grind at times. See, it’s strange to be stocking shelves and pulling expired items when you have already had the world at your fingertips. But, I was looking for another world; a different world, and to find that, I start here. I don’t (in any way) regret leaving. I just sometimes wish I wasn’t the type that was so damn curious and determined. If I wasn’t that way and I wasn’t me, I would have never had to leave.
Today, “Here” means missing kiting, London, and that stupid hat. I even miss that silly hat. Here means wanting so badly to find an owner and an account (that means a private jet owner and airplane) I will love and one who will love me, but not really sure how to go about doing that. Here means wishing I could go to Panama and kite. And kite and kite and kite. Here means being home, sleeping every night, and seeing Rachael, Nasim, and my favorite crew friends when they are in LA on layovers. Here is ok too.
Because, we all need to be ‘here’— at some point— to get to ‘there.’
It’s about waiting, working hard, and doing the best job that I can, no matter what little or big task it might involve. No matter whose dishes or dry cleaning I’m doing or jotting down. For someday down the line, there will be a moment when I whine about being forced to go to Geneva or Hong Kong, and the girl on the ground, helpfully smiling while she tosses a bag of catering into the fridge, will wonder and wish she could have her jet lag back or possibly feel it for the first time.
I’ve been stripped of what I’ve known— all to be repainted and rebuilt. I feel bare; like a structure of what I was last year. Kiteboarding— such a part of my every week and life has faded into the background. So has travel blogging. So has travel. So have the aspects of my life that made me cry. Commuting. No sleep. Crashpad life. I sometimes think that if I didn’t quit, I would at least have been closer to seeing M in London or The Australian in Paris. I would have been closer to kiting and Copenhagen. I would have been closer in the current moment, but I want more for my life than a bunch of fleeting, beautiful moments. Ultimately, staying might have offered moments of magic, but in the long run, I would have been further from my freedom and where I hope to land one day.
So, this you must remember:
You will be forced in your life to choose your destiny— and that choice may initially make you take a few steps back.
But, you are a long-term investment.
It’s ok if, today, you are washing other people’s dishes and at the bottom of a corporate ladder.
Because, that’s today.
That’s today and maybe tomorrow, but ten years from now, you may be leading the company.
How you show up today, when sinks break and your job isn’t the most glamorous, really does affect where you end up tomorrow.
Today makes a difference. It’s rebuilding you for an amazing tomorrow.
And remember, ‘Here’ is actually pretty good, too.
I write that to encourage you. I write that for me.
I sit back in the big black recliner, writing while looking out at the Pacific Ocean. Tears of memories, missing, and moments glitter my skin. I am happy to be home, but I cry because I did give up the good along with all the bad. I cry because Copenhagen was another home and my crews were my family. I cry because goodbyes always make me cry. These tears do not mean I wish that I could go back and do it all different. I made the right decision. I know I am where I need to be. You can know you are in the right place, even when you don’t want to deal with a grounded life. It’s only a matter of time. It’s only a matter of time till you and I can both say, “Yes— that was worth it.” In reality, we are probably even saying that right now.