November 20th, 2017. Salt Lake City, Utah.
My attention is being lured by a rowdy leaf blower outside my hotel window. You guys should know by now to expect nothing more than my distracted writing. I should close the window, but the cool air slipping through is the perfect contrast to the 90-degree heat suffocating the room. Plus, it’s just enough noise to make me feel preoccupied.
Today was early. Disrespectfully early. I was out of bed by 2:30 a.m. for a 4 a.m. showtime at Newark. I’m convinced that early mornings need to be illegal: they’re non-functional. Despite my unwillingness to participate, I put on my best fake smile (and a face full of makeup) and headed out. No matter how bad the day may seem, an opportunity to turn it around will always present itself. And to be honest, it hasn’t been a bad day, 4 a.m. is just 4 a.m.
I ended up running into two strangers who made my day worthwhile. There wasn’t anything particularly special about these individuals, I just liked them. One was a female pilot (which is always a treat), but get this: she was pregnant! I don’t know why, but I found it both, intriguing and supremely precious. She’d just entered her third trimester and was positively beaming. She made me proud for many reasons, some I think I’ve yet to understand. Her glow was contagious and being around her made me cheery.
On the same flight, I served a 93-year-old woman at 2B. I’m terrible at guessing peoples age, but for sure she looked to be in her late 70’s. She stood patiently in my galley waiting to use the lavatory. Something in her demeanor told me she had grown use to waiting a long time ago. I busied myself putting away dishes and tidying up from the breakfast service, but the stale, wordless air seemed a bit awkward. Maybe because I’m a talker who wasn’t in the mood to talk. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to appear rude or standoffish. “Are you from Utah?” I inquired in a friendly tone. Of course she was hard of hearing. I repeated myself three times before the conversation took off. Once it did, I was glad I had asked. She has six children, eight grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren. I stood in shock. How amazing it must be to stand before three generations of one’s lineage. Her wrinkles turned upward with pride. I caught a glimpse of her eyes and wondered what tales were locked away in their depth. She told me– wait, can I give her a name? She obviously has one, but I didn’t think to look. Let’s call her Rose. Rose told me that she was originally from Utah. Her husband had fought in WWII and she moved to Boston with him right before he left. There, Rose resided with her love for 73 years. She didn’t say so, but I’m assuming her husband has since passed. “My son has been begging me for years to come back to Utah to live with him.” So there she was, headed to Salt Lake City to start a new chapter of her life at the very place it had begun.
The variety of life I’m exposed to is what I love most about my job. A question I was asked during the interview process for this position comes to mind.
“Why do you want to be a Flight Attendant?”
I knew I couldn’t say for the travel benefits, so I made something up. Or so I thought. My response was that a job as a Flight Attendant would provide me the opportunity to step outside of my own world and see life through the eyes of others. I told them that I thought it would make me less selfish and more selfless. Little did I know, that’s exactly what would happen. I’m learning to let go of myself: my ideas of how life should be. Exposure to the countless ways of doing life has inspired me to give myself to God a little more each day. It has taught me that I won’t ever be in full control and that things will not go as planned. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.
I wonder how many disappointments Rose has endured during her 93 years of living. How many times has her heart been broken? How many times she felt like dying? I wonder if she was ever someone like me, looking into the eyes of someone like her. I wonder if Sara, the pilot, dreamed of flying planes when she was a little girl. Did she ever suspect that baby number two would be gently pressed against the steering wheel of a plane hidden and protected perfectly in her mommy’s tummy? I wonder if she planned to be pregnant at 35 years old, or if she saw herself pregnant at all.
So much of life involves the unexpected. People like Sara and Rose remind me that no matter how beautiful or tragic life may seem at times, it is possible. Moreover, that each of our journeys involves discovering just exactly what it is.