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.)