I used to be afraid of flying. I would white knuckle the seat and any little bump sent me into a tizzy. More than anything, I was claustrophobic in the cramped space—no escape, nowhere to move. Get. Me. Out.
And then I accepted a job that had me flying just about every week.
At first I wouldn’t get on a plane without Dramamine, a sleeping mask, fuzzy socks, Emergen-C—whatever I might have encountered mid air, I was prepared. I remember feeling so nervous every time the plane would rumble to take off and eventually land. The minutes ticked by. How much longer I would think to myself.
Those first few flights were difficult. Remind me why I would eat McDonalds breakfast when I was worried about getting airsick? Bad idea. But these fears never came to fruition. Somewhere along the way I learned to chill out—to relax. I’ll admit that I have a Type A personality that savors control. Being in an airplane allows you nothing of the sort. And that has been such a good thing for me.
Over time as that year of travel went on, I realized that I might actually like flying a little. Those Biscoff cookies soften anybody up. I started learning my way around the airport and understanding terminal lingo. The frighteningly unknown became the comfortably familiar.
I’ve made memories in the sky. I’ve sat next to a shark diver, an actor, a tennis player, and a music manager among other careers. I’ve sat next to laughers (is that movie on your screen really that funny?), criers (yep, been one of them—that’s what long distance love does to you). I’ve watched moms coo their babies and then beg them for five minutes of quiet. I’ve seen crooners and couples that clash from takeoff to touchdown. I’ve seen the Italian soccer team (now that was a great day) and doctors step out of their seats to help those in need. From all walks of life, people come together for a brief period of time.
You can learn a lot about a person in the hours that you spend with them. Do they smile to themselves as they’re reading their book? Do they sleep with their mouth half open or fully open? Do they cheer for OU or OSU? (Found that out flying to Oklahoma City). I can’t say that I’ve talked to every person that I’ve sat next to a flight but I can say that I’ve learned pockets of wisdom from each one.
This past year I’ve flown over 50 flights. Now it’s a time I cherish. In a world of texts, tweets, instas, and snapchats, it’s finally a moment where I can celebrate silence. A time when I can listen to music and be with my thoughts. It is when I’m flying that I can let my mind run free. As a former dancer, one of my favorite things is to choreograph dances in my mind as I listen to my favorite songs. If only I could actually dance them!
I’ve been able to catch up on cultural eras that eluded me (I’m looking at you, Tootsie) and I’ve been able to read the books that have sat on my shelf for too long. Ultimately, I’ve learned that people are nicer than we often think they are. We have learned to treat strangers like they are suspects rather than as fellow human beings trying to move along as best as they can. I have found that so long as I am friendly with my fellow fliers, they will be friendly back to me. Not many can meet a smile with a frown.
As a little parting, I thought I would include some of my favorite songs to listen to mid-flight. Maybe it will inspire you the next time you face the clouds.
- Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver: This song brings tears to my eyes. It reminds me of how sweet this life is and how lucky I am to get to see so much of America. I try to listen to this song when I’m flying home…”the place where I belong.” But maybe when I finally make it to West Virginia I’ll play it for good measure.
- 93 Million Miles by Jason Mraz: For when I’m feeling homesick. There were times with my traveling that I would be gone for almost a month at a time. This was hard for me since I’m such a nester. Granted, I’m very thankful that my job pushed me out of this nest but sometimes I still miss the comforts of home. This song reminds me that “wherever I go, I can always come home.”
- American Boy by Bonnie McKee: Not the classiest of songs, but this song just makes me feel like a go-getter. No time for timidity or fear. With my speaking, there are times when I’m scared to death to face the crowd. It’s me and 300 faces looking back. But how can I be afraid when I’m an “American Girl” and “ready to go?” Plus it just makes me want to get up and dance in the aisles. Haven’t actually done it yet.
- Miracle by KT Tunstall: Discovered this one mid-air watching “Winter’s Tale.” This song reminds me of the beauty of the journey. We cannot fear the unknown—we have to remember that even in times of pain and darkness, there is still light. I love listening to the song flying over city lights, especially over New York and my home city, Los Angeles. “A miracle—maybe when we leave it’s a rise and not a fall.”
- Come Back to Me by Janet Jackson: I’ll never forget listening to this song on repeat when I said goodbye to my boyfriend, Greg on a particularly rainy day in New York. The plane was stalled on the tarmac at JFK (as it often is) and I remember watching the droplets of rain roll down the window. It represented exactly how I was feeling saying goodbye for what felt like the hundredth time. That’s what three years of long distance will do to you. Now this song is nostalgic for me as Greg has moved back to Los Angeles. Goodbyes are never easy and while I know that someone is saying their happiest hello, someone else is saying their hardest goodbye.
- Lovely Day by Bill Withers: I love to play this song as I’m beginning the first leg of a trip. How can the day not be great with this starting me off? I feel bad for the person in the middle seat (I’m a window seater) because some dancing or a least head nodding may be in store when I hear this one.
- Forever and Ever by Randy Travis: Because I just love a good country song and this one brings out the romantic in me. I find this song completely endearing and lovable. It makes me think of Greg and how thankful I am for the love and life that we share together.
- Hold on We’re Going Home by Drake: Another great one when you’re on that home flight. Whether or not you’re off to see someone special, sometimes it’s a relief to get on that plane. This is also a good one when babies are crying, turbulence is high, or the man is snoring behind me…”just hold on—we’re going home.”
- White Dress by Ben Rector: This song just makes me want to run faster than the plane can fly. Why do we travel? To get to people or places that mean something to us. When I hear this song, I’m just ready for a new adventure to begin.
- Use Ta Be My Girl by the O’Jays: Another dance song. The beats in this era were just phenomenal if you ask me. I love a song with great rhythm and lyrics to match. The harmony is my favorite part. When I listen to a song like this, how can I not be happy with my cup of apple juice and peanuts? I’m good to go.
As you can tell, I listen to a little bit of everything when I’m flying. Variety makes the minutes pass by. Now I can say that I’m actually looking forward to my flight to North Carolina next month. Happy travels, friends!