Planespotting

I talk all the time about how much studying abroad in England changed my life, and here’s how it started:

I spent the day packing and repacking. Probably watched some TV, or went on a walk. I went up to my room, which still felt like mostly my room, and wrote a note to my brother in the next day of the Far Side desk calendar we shared. Then I rode with my parents to MSP, found the rest of the group, shared a tearful goodbye, and got on a big plane. That was my first flight.

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I knew nothing about planes, and my first flight was about 8 hours long, in the middle seat of the middle section of the middle of the plane. What a way to start. Next to me was a girl on the same program who told me she was also from the Rochester area, which was pretty cool.

As we took off, I craned my head to look out the window at the falling lights of Minneapolis. There was no fear then; only curiosity and wonder (and maybe some light nerves, I guess.)

My second ever flight, to Barcelona, was the most relaxing flight I’ve ever had: window seat, sunny day, smooth flight. I even managed to nap! But every subsequent flight raised my fear bar ever higher; on our trip to Madrid in 2016, I managed to make Miranda very worried about the emotional, nervous wreck I became in an airplane.

That was impetus for visiting a doctor, who prescribed some very effective medication, and was also the very beginning of my journey that led to a psychologist’s couch. But, now that I have the right help, I actually enjoy flying again! True, the magic of that first flight is gone – but I will take feeling like a normal person at 30,000 feet over “magic” any day. And what’s more, I’ve discovered that I think planes are actually very interesting.

Did you know that the Boeing-717 actually started its life as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 before Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas? I learned that in my pre-flight research before my last trip and found to it be a very comforting story; I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a morbid fascination with airplane safety, an attempt to placate my fear-mongering mind. But honestly, I would probably watch a documentary about it at this point.

I haven’t gotten to the point where I go to the airport just to watch planes take off and land, but if I told you I hadn’t watched those videos on YouTube, I’d be lying. I’m reminded of my grandpa, who was fascinated by weather, and made sure to show us a giant book he had with lots of pictures, explaining the weather. I enjoy reading the news, a habit I no doubt picked up from my own dad after a childhood of breakfast comics pages torn from the newspaper he would read. I even spent time purchasing a couch with Miranda when we moved to New York, and furniture store was the last place I’d want to be in my youth.

So, I feel old. I’m not, I’m only 24, but I definitely am not a child any more. I’m like that stage in the Sims where you’re not a Teen or an Adult, but you’re a Young Adult, which is functionally identical to an Adult, but you still have a youthful glow.

Throughout my life I’ve often been surprised by cosmic coincidences, and how it seems like life always seems to give you something you need to hear at the right moment. For me right now, that is a book called Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. I had no idea before reading this book that The Boss suffered from his own anxieties and depression as he aged; his trouble with interpersonal relationships I find especially interesting. But at the end of it all he has managed to find a sort of peace – not without mistakes along the way, but a peace nonetheless.

So it comes back to planes. When I am in the gutter of my mind, I think of my life like a plane: the sinking feeling I get when I feel the initial lurch of turbulence, and the fear that follows for the next minutes or hours, waiting for another jolt. Even when all seems safe, I am always waiting and hoping that I felt the last bump. It’s not a fun way to fly, but little by little I am learning to cope, and so too with my life. Thankfully, at the end of every flight is a landing, and even in the middle of most flights there is a drinks service and snack cart, so it’s not all bad, right? And I don’t have any intention of landing soon.

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