I probably hear the statement, “I hate flying” as much as I hear “I hate the dentist.”
The latter, at least, makes a mouthful of sense.
You walk into the office for your annual check-up, thinking you’ve done an OK job of brushing and flossing, only to be told you have three cavities and gum disease. Not to mention, your teeth are getting crooked again.
If you hate the dentist, I feel you.
If you hate flying, I don’t get it.
The experience is truly amazing.
You are in the sky.
You are above the clouds.
You are basically a superhero.
Flying begins with a trip to the airport.
I am no stranger to a less than pleasant journey.
The last time I headed to JFK International Airport, my trusted A train stubbornly stopped at Euclid Avenue and refused to move.
I went outside to call a taxi, but my trusted iPhone had shut off due to March’s freezing temperatures.
I went back into the frigid station and used a pay phone to call home, since I didn’t know a cab number off-hand.
My mother stayed on the line while she repeatedly got multiple car services’ busy numbers and voicemails.
I told her I was going to find a place that was warmer to see if I could get my phone to turn back on.
I saw a deli and alas, there was a taxi parked right outside.
I finally got to the airport with just enough time to catch my plane.
Although this experience was annoying and uncomfortable, I still made my flight. This gave me a fresh appreciation for 20th-century technology.
It restored my faith in my ability to figure out what to do, even after multiple failed attempts.
A bad trip to the airport gives you confidence. When you're thrown a nasty curveball, you believe you'll manage to find a way around it.
You'll realize you are totally competent and self-sufficient, and you now have the wisdom to deal if a similar situation ever occurs.
The next part of flying is getting through the airport.
Yes, you are often (maybe always) over-charged for checking luggage.
Yes, security can take eons.
Yes, there are often only chain coffee shops and fast food joints around that sell items at inflated prices.
Yes, once you get to the gate, there’s a chance your flight will be delayed.
But all these things are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
What if there were no planes?
What if you could only take a bus, train or boat (which could all take days, depending on where you’re going)?
With that in mind, waiting in the airport security line for 45 minutes to get to your destination faster doesn’t seem too shabby after all.
If you can afford a roundtrip ticket, you can afford that baggage check and $7 donut. Just this one time.
It’s OK. Your bank account will forgive you eventually.
It can be incredibly inconvenient when fights are delayed, especially when you have to be at a certain place at a specific time. This situation is a true test of human resilience.
It yields newfound skills of patience and definite strength that you just don’t develop anywhere else. If you can survive a major flight delay, you can survive anything.
Once you’ve made it through the airport, it’s time to board and depart. After the plane has taken off and you are magically lifted into the heavens, the best part of flying begins.
For the first time in ages, you don’t have to answer group texts or call your parents.
You are free from anxiety-causing social media and the ever-depressing news. You are now allowed -- if not encouraged -- to sit back and do nothing.
How wonderful is that?
The higher and higher the plane climbs, the smaller and smaller all your problems at home and work get.
You don’t have to deal with them, think about them or solve them. You can just sleep or watch a comically terrible movie like "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2." (Or don’t.)
You can read a novel, listen to music or draw.
You can stare out the window the whole time because wow. That view never gets old.
On a plane, you can relax and just be.
You can get really deep and real with yourself. You can meditate.
If you allow yourself, you can discover novel things about who you are.
The last time I flew, I realized I don’t live in the moment enough.
I also decided I was going to take a dance class and speak up more when things bother me.
Arguably, the most meaningful part of flying is the fact that it gives you a rare chance to have epiphanies to better yourself. We are usually just too busy in our day-to-day, grounded routines to achieve this.
Screaming children can be irritating, turbulence can be scary and a middle seat can feel claustrophobic.
But there are many, many other things that are also irritating and scary.
Life is unfair. Being able to get from one country to another on the other side of the globe in a matter of a few hours is a marvel in and of itself.
Being able to sleep for the duration of the entire journey is a gift, and having air traffic controllers, pilots, flight attendants and so many other people to make sure we are transported safely is very reassuring.
At its worst, flying builds strength, endurance and self-awareness.
You develop a tougher skin and discover a lifetime of coping methods.
At its best, flying provides a unique space for eye-opening reflections, necessary relief from your daily stressors and more time to just be totally in touch with your thoughts.
If you want, you can also just calm your brain waves and observe the eye candy outside the window: the luminescent shapes of clouds, the peaks of snowy mountains and the sunlight dancing on the ocean ripples below.
Either way, something valuable can always come from flying.
It’s a luxury we should all appreciate and get on board with more often.
As Louis CK says,
You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. You’re like a Greek myth right now.