Tuesday, January 12, 2010

32,000 feet over Lake Michigan

It’s an odd thing when flying becomes so routine that the fact that you are hovering 32,000 feet over Lake Michigan isn’t the slightest bit daunting. It seems perfectly natural to be suspended in space, eating complementary Bits and Bites and watching your vessel’s progress via an airplane shapes icon in front of you on a 5 inch by 5 inch screen.

Until I graduated from high school, I had only taken a single round trip on an airplane at the age of 6. At 17, I took my second such trip, and spent the entire voyage in awe, nose pressed against the glass, marveling at the consistency of the clouds and speed at which the building became full-sized again. In the just over 10 years since high school, my number of flights have skyrocketed. I have four such round trips in this month period. I sit in my compact grey seat, not skipping a beat on my keyboard as the world flies past me at 500 mph.

How on earth did this life ever become so normal to me?

I remember at 19, two weeks before I was set to leave my hometown for a big city university, my then boyfriend and I took a road trip to find an apartment. I had never been to this sprawled out on the prairies city before. We had left after work, and, as such, were driving under the big night sky. Each time we came upon a new smattering of lights, I would look at him expectantly.

“No, that’s not it,” he’d say. “You’ll know when it is.”

And I did. The sky exploded in scattered orange lights, covering the horizon. I couldn’t believe that one of those lights would somehow become my light.

Sometimes I can’t believe that this girl who learned to rollerblade in the yellow church’s parking lot and thought that excitement was going to the nearby town with a McDonald’s is the same one negotiating trains in cities of millions and flying across the country by herself to go to interviews.

It’s hard to map out exactly how these changes happen. They just do. And it is often only by virtue of being able to compare yourself to your memories that you realize how much you’ve changed. The Duke recently told me I was one of the most independent people he knew. This set off a feeling of minor triumph in my head, for I never used to be independent. I used to be downright gloomy about the idea of doing things alone, maybe even clingy, certainly naïve. And now I'm not. I don't quite know how.

I just know that 32,000 feet above Lake Michigan on my way to a hotel in a city I've never been to but might move to anyhow isn't nearly as scary as my 19 year old self would have thought.

(Oddly enough, as I type this, the playlist he made me for my travels sings into my ears, the one he forbade me to look at before hitting play. Song four is Wild World by Cat Stevens.)


Mandy said...

This is such a great post. Isn't it sort of amazing to look back and see how far you've come. I never know when or how he changes occur either, somehow they just do. (I would probably cry if I had to fly as much as you do.)

P said...

Great post!

While i'm not whizzing about the country like a jetset traveller for interviews or jobs, in terms of seeing how far I've came since I was a teenager, I can certainly identify.

I'm with Mandy on the crying if I had to fly as much as you thing...

Doniree said...

That's funny - I have been flying consistently my whole life (airline-employed parents and a cross-country move at age 13), and I still am not used to flying.

The rest of this is absolutely beautiful. I can relate to the independence thing - I feel independent to the point that it makes me stubborn now, whereas I used to be the complete opposite.

Ant said...

I never tire of the whole travelling scene. Physically it can be exhausting but I hope I never lose the whole "wonder of different places" thing going on.

And The Duke = proper romantic from a forgotten age. Kudos for the mix-tape. :-)

choochoo said...

Hehe. I don't yet have my drivers licence, and the idea of driving a car creeps me out. It just seems like a scary concept. I would love to get a pilot's licence, though. The idea of landing a tin can from 2000 feet up in the air at...what...200 km pr hour doesn't scare me at all. I'm an oddball.

Katelin said...

aw i love this post. and isn't being independent great? especially when you're doing things you never saw yourself doing. i have experienced that before as well and it's awesome.

gemmy from the block said...

that is so cute...i can picture you looking at him expectantly as each new town and lights appeared!

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I still enjoy looking out of the window on flights. That wonder never seems to pass

P.T said...

I like flying too. Dreamt of becoming an air hostess when I was a kid. If I wasn't married may be I would've looked into a career in the aviation industry.

Beautiful post by the way...:)