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When I was in college, I read an assigned book in my women’s psychology class, written by Erica Jong, called Fear of Flying.
She used flying as a metaphor for the limitations we put on ourselves. I’m not saying I don’t do that anymore but I do it a lot less than I used to at the age when I read it.
I’m not sure if I can alter the metaphor and proclaim that I love to fly but why not? It’s my essay. I do love to fly, literally, and sometimes, during those journeys, from that experience, and the ones that follow, I get to fly metaphorically too.
The best thing about flying is that I get to see new places, that I get to meet new people, that I get to see them living in a way that’s different from what I’m used to. I get to explore parts of the world that are completely unfamiliar, yet, I find, are still connected to me, the very existence of our lives miraculous and finite and a complete mystery, even though we think we know.
Leading up to that moment is exciting too. I don’t love to pack because the mood I’m in when I fill my bag won’t be the mood or circumstances I will find when I arrive at my destination. I do the best I can between the fighting kids and my domestic obligations and know if I forget something, I can always buy it wherever I am.
As long as I’m sticking to a nice pace time wise, even the drive to the airport is a treat because it brings me that much closer to the excitement already building in my middle.
The airport, usually hectic, maybe a little confusing, between all the lines and which is the shortest or moving the fastest and will get me through security that much quicker and will they be in a good mood and let me keep moving or will they detain me and make themselves feel powerful for that moment. And yet, you hear about the threats they’ve actually stopped and you feel grateful, even though you know you’re not one of them.
The world inside an airport is it’s own little world, not quite here but not there either. Calories obviously don’t count because you’re flowing in the land in between and calories can’t find you. Or so you tell yourself as you munch your extra crispy French fries followed later by a visit to the Coffee Bean for foamed sugar to top the gluten-full hot sugar before you get on your plane.
Walking down the hallway onto the ramp that extends to the fuselage of the plane, you know you’re almost there: the vessel that is your conduit to lands beyond. You arrive to the seat meant just for you, to take you on your adventure and you try to cram all the things you brought to distract yourself from the long flight into an area meant for a toddler but you make do and clean around your new home and rearrange a bit of the furniture as you settle in and hope that your new neighbor won’t be an actual toddler.
Finally, the push-off. This is the last time you’ll see your city and that’s ok. You know it’ll be there when you’re ready to return. If you decide to return.
The wheels slowly turn down the runway jockeying for position in the line-up. Finally, the ding overhead sounds and flight attendants are warned to strap in and the plane starts hurtling forward, but you don’t see where it’s going, only the things that are passing by and that’s ok as the force of gravity pushes your lower back into your chair and the ground beneath gets bumpier and the roar of the engine pushes every other sound out of the cabin and suddenly the ride is smooth and now it’s your butt that is being cradled as the metal transport tube pulls your body away from the ground and into the air, into the unknown, into the awe and wonder of discovery where there is no fear.