It’s strange to look over my cumulative time flying as a passenger and as a working cabin crew member. Sometimes the time really flies by, and other times it’s like a crawl. There’s many times I can’t even put into words how much I’ve actually flown over my lifetime. But! Data is beautiful, ne?
I can’t help but feel humbled by the opportunities my job has given me. Not only have I finally put faces and voices to friends I’ve only previously known through text, but I’ve also seen a ton. That being said, not too much since a lot of my work flying is concentrated pretty much in the United States, but there are a few outliers there. Oh, and there’s nothing like getting a surprise overnight or two in Japan, or a trip to Belgium with your best friend, or laughs in the United Kingdom over beer, or days in the Philippines to celebrate and mourn with loved ones. Oftentimes I get so gosh-darn tired of not being at home, but I’m hoping that I get to expand the list of places–and people–I meet as long as I continue to work.
Have I learned anything during my travels? Well…
You’re Ultimately Alone In The World
It’s about falling asleep in an undisclosed city, in an unnamed hotel, at an hour that you don’t know what, knowing that no one can keep up with you and you can’t even keep up with yourself. (Kara Mulder)
I found that blog entry a few months after I finished training. Though I was still all smiles and still loved people, more and more, with every new hotel and every flight under my belt, those words rang truer and truer. In a sense, there’s an addictive amount of freedom being a flight attendant–even one for a mainly-domestic operation. Who else, after all, can get off work, look at a departures board at an airport, and say, “Okay, I want to go there now,” and just go? Very few.
But it’s lonely. You smile like you’ll never see a passenger or even another crew member again because, in all honesty, you may never see them again. You try to make connections everywhere you go, but can never make promises that you’ll return in any reasonable amount of time. Past relationships become hard as people who don’t work and play the same way you do find it difficult to understand how and why you live.
But You Can Be Alone Together
As long as we’re apart together, we shall certainly be fine. (Winnie the Pooh)
Make connections anyway. Be social however you can or want. Talk to passengers. Talk to your co-workers. Skype, text, or call your loved ones whenever you can. Do it with the honesty and frankness that you would want, as comfortable as you choose. After all, this may be the last time you ever see someone; you never know, after all, when your own engine will explode mid-flight.
People may come and go, but special moments can be made no matter how much time you have and no matter where you are. You could have conversations with a passenger about their troubles as they go to and fro from Chicago to Phoenix and back to take care of their father in hospice. Maybe you’ll end up in Tokyo Narita, exploring Naritasan Shinshoji Temple with a laughable aptitude in Japanese. Perhaps you’ll make friends at a nearby bar, or pub, or aquarium, or running trail.
Some of them you may never see again, but at least you’ve made a moment with them. But, maybe, some of them will come back. The passenger you comforted may be flying with you on Christmas day and tell you that their father finally passed, but they loved the care that you and your crew members gave her during those hard days. A server may remember you when you walk back into a familiar restaurant and somehow remember your favorite beer and meal. A random message may come to you, showing the festival going on in the streets of Tokyo that you just walked through from the server who helped you be better at speaking in Japanese.
It’s small, but it’s special, and it’s those moments that help you get by. Learn to be alone together with people, and it gets easier.
Strip To The Bare Necessities
I have a place to call home, but sometimes it’s just a place where the few pieces of mail I need go. My life is essentially in my rollaboard, my duty tote, and, sometimes, my food cooler. Everything must have purpose to stay in my bags; everything must have purpose to stay in my life.
Will a computer help me be alone together with the rest of the world and the connections I have? Do I really need this many pairs of shirts? What do I need should I be stuck somewhere I’ve never been before?
All I carry with me nowadays is my smartphone, a portable keyboard and mouse, and clothing at minimum when I travel. Those same things are the same things I ‘carry’ when I’m at home. It may not seem much, but it’s simpler and less distracting. And that makes focusing on my connections significantly easier.
When you’re free, you’re free. Free to make your own decisions, and free to enjoy (or ‘enjoy’) the consequences of the choices you make. Everyone lives for their choices and with their choices, whether their choices are for their own lives and their own pursuits, or choosing to live as God intends, or whatever. Everything is about choices.
I want to live for the friendships I make along the ways, the laughs I echo and the tears I shed, and the beautiful things I see around me despite the horrors that may await. I want to be prepared to not only make myself happy, but make others happy, and–should I ever need to–protect and defend in order to keep happiness, however that looks. I hope I can continue doing that as the years pass on and more and more flights and places are plotted on my map.
I’m unsure if my answers are correct. I hope they are, and I’m open to other answers from others who are also living alone, but learning to live alone together.