Flight 2020: The Window Seat

a long read

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

The last time I was on a plane was around 4 years ago, back in 2016. My younger self was visibly eager over the fact that I was flying abroad without my family, though a nervous undertone existed for the same reason. For the curious, I was headed to Paraguay with a team set out to do mission work, an experience full of stories for another day.

When the day for departure finally arrived, everything turned into a blur as I rushed to double and triple check everything. This day was so emotionally charged that I can still recall the memories with an odd clarity to this very day. Recently, this days events crossed my mind and led to a reflection of sorts as I drew a parallel to the reality I have experienced in 2020 that I felt worth sharing. Now follow along as I do my best to recreate my recollections of July 14th 2016.

Departure

It starts with me stepping into a dimly lit boarding tunnel. Face flustered, my small frame struggled to drag my carry-on as it kept running into the heels of my favorite converse shoes. My irritation only grew as I fumbled to return the boarding pass I just removed from its secure hard-to-reach pouch beneath my white shirt. Though right before keeping away my boarding pass I made sure to memorize the seat number by mentally repeating it over and over and over again. Without any attention left to spare on my surroundings I kept moving down the tunnel, letting each stride be guided by the white point lights lining the tunnel floor.

Head down, I rounded the last bend almost running into a slim human figure, startled I snapped out of it in time to thank the soft voice that welcomed me aboard. Ushered to the right aisle into the cabin, I witnessed one of the most chaotic scenes ever, my eyes widened. The thin aisles were packed with people. Some were stretching over others to cram large bags into overly small cubbies, while the noise level complimented the chaos as everyone’s conversations competed in the arena of volume, and of course there was that one person going the opposite direction up the aisle. Taking it all in I didn’t let it bother me as I focused on mentally repeating my seat number while patiently waiting for the line to progress.

After ignoring all the forward-facing eyes on my journey down the crowded aisle, it was my turn to hold up the line. Having rehearsed it in my head, I swung my bag to the space right in front of my feet and hoisted it clear above my head into the already open overhead compartment. Accomplished with this clean maneuver and relieved of repeating my seat number I finally sat down, exhaling deeply I sank into the very definition of comfort.

Seated right next to the window I could see the airport busy at work, looking a little further down I was fascinated watching our luggage being loaded into the plane. Just as that scene was getting stale, my focus was pulled to the front of the plane by the same flight attendant that ushered me in as she began the standard safety presentation. Although I quickly lost focus and went back to my window view. Then I noticed a subtle rumble, too quiet to hear but loud enough to feel. As the whine of the engines grew into a steady whir, my fixed window view began shifting forwards as I moved backwards. At its own careful pace, the plane taxied to the top of the runway.

Once perfectly lined up, the twin engines ramped up yet again to a thunderous roar that shook the whole cabin under its sheer power. Then suddenly, as if freed from some mighty leash, we throttled down the runway at a frightening speed. Thrusting ahead I was squashed into my seat, what initially was a gentle hand coaxing me to sit back grew into a steel grip that I could not escape. Held hostage in my seat I could only turn my head to look out the window at the developing blur. Then I felt the front of the plane beginning to lift, causing me to sink further into my seat as gravity joined the efforts to keep me down. These sensations continued as the plane climbed and accelerated until we leveled off. It was a successful takeoff. Looking out the window I could see the city, sitting there stripped of its grandeur and pomp by a sizeable vertical shift of perspective. Still gaining elevation we broke through the clouds and at that moment a quiet calm filled the entire hollow metal bird. Looking out the window I was in awe, to think I am so high up that the clouds could be the carpet under my feet! This was truly a moment of clarity, a moment I longed to sustain and hoped to experience again.

Reflection

Pulling the common strand between these two experiences, this year (2020) has been a lot like that departure day. The year started with a lot of promise, I was working towards goals I set for myself and was privileged to have some remarkable people in my life. Although, this excitement carried a nervous undertone call Covid-19. From being just news of some flu in China, it quickly grew into a household term and earned the reputation of being a worldwide pandemic only 3 months into the year.

Mandates in the name of public health compounded with the widespread unrest from racial and political tensions created a chaotic environment certain to earn a spot in the history books. Division among groups thought to be homogenous was increasingly common and the articulation of thought and reason at an all time low, with no clear path ahead in sight. Watching all this unfold I felt detached, like I was zoning out the longer I looked through my window into the world, clearly distracted from the important things playing out in my life. As the year continued, time flew by as I found myself constantly falling behind. Caught up in mounds of work and spontaneous bouts of procrastination, I was living a reactionary life as I became increasingly near-sighted to the future.

Then came the quiet and clarity. Recently, a change of scenery has given me time to reflection and invest in activities that are engaging and rewarding. Armed with a fresh perspective and my feet in the clouds, I put my glasses on and regained the vision to write again and offer encouragement to those in a similar position.

The bad in life comes in seasons, and it is through the realization that your bad days are temporary are we able to so elegantly find a way to live and smile despite it all.

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