I am at the airport terminal, watching all of the passengers, a woman with a young child who is exploring what is on the ground, the college student going home for the first time, and the elderly couple, who move together in unison, slow and deliberate, while the wheelchair tries to summon them along, maybe faster than they really want to go.
Everyone has somewhere to go – a final destination. The line begins to form at the gate, the security scanner checking each boarding pass, while the driver’s licenses and identification cards are going from wallet to hand and back again. I wait in line, amongst the chatter, husband and daughter by my side, walking to board the plane. As we find our seats, I watch as other people grab their seats and wonder why they are going to my destination. People prop up their luggage in the overhead compartments, trying to stuff their whole lives into their suitcase, sit down, and fasten their seat belts. There are a few stragglers, who even though the plane is full, will not take the first seat that is available to them.
This makes me nervous, but I am always anxious when flying. At this point, I’ve checked the turbulence report, the weather in every city that we are flying through, and any other flying related news that might be relevant to my trip. I’ve been a road trip gal all my life, the wheels of the car firmly secure on the ground. My husband doesn’t understand my fear and he recites the familiar statistics of more chances of accidents happening in a car than on the plane. I know this intellectually, but it can’t reason with my fear. I suspect that this fear is because of two things, I am a constant worrier and the more major thing, I am not in control. I’m leaving my destiny to a machine and a pilot. I would like to meet the pilot, just to make sure he isn’t still sleepy on my early morning flight and to ensure that I don’t smell alcohol on his breath. The plane hasn’t taken off and I am imagining all of the worst-case scenarios in my mind, trying to forget the first episode of Lost, where the back of the plane detaches itself in the sky, in mid-air.
We have a smooth takeoff and I sit in silence. My husband checks to see if I am breathing because he hasn’t heard my silence in a long time. I fumble through the pages of the Sky Mall, keeping my mind on the crossword puzzle and it happens. I feel the first bolt of turbulence. It is the same feeling that you get, that empty pit in the bottom of your stomach like on the first day of school, the start of a new job or any other scenario that requires plunging into the unknown. I focus on my daughter, her welcome chatter, to forget the sudden shakes that move me from one to side to the other. I breathe, reminding myself, the not drunk pilot told us it would be windy, so we should expect some turbulence. This doesn’t comfort me, but in a few minutes, the roller coaster feeling is gone, we are descending, the wheels making a churning sound as they hit the ground.
I am relieved and glad to be back on the ground again. I say a little prayer to myself, patting myself on the back, complimenting myself on the poker face I kept during the flight. For me, flying is a metaphor of our existence. We experience anxiety, fear, worry, and then things are good again. We have all felt the euphoric feeling when we heave a deep sigh after a troublesome time, embracing that it was just temporary. It is easy to forget. Every time I board a plane, I tell myself I will be better, I won’t be a wreck, but maybe that is part of the experience. We all need to be scared sometime.