Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seven year Flying Magee

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “How did you end up in Denver as a flight attendant?” I get it. It’s kind of a mysterious job. At least I always thought it was. There’s not exactly a manager on duty that you can talk to at the airport and drop your resume off with. Most people don’t even fly often enough to even think about talking to the flight attendants to find out how they got to where they are. About this time seven years ago I was preparing to fly out to Salt Lake City for my flight attendant training. How I came to be a flight attendant was a matter of chance. A chance firing at one job. A chance reading of the Sunday newspaper classifieds. A chance open call interview. Life is all about a small series of chances that add up over time and lead you down the path you were meant to follow whether you realize it or not.

When I first became a flight attendant I said I would stay in the job at least 5 years before quitting. Five years seemed a reasonable amount of time to travel the world and see the things I’d always wanted to see. Paris was checked off the list, as was Costa Rica. Suddenly the world seemed a lot smaller. If a friend moved away, I could fly to visit them. If someone got married and had their bachelorette party half way across the country I could go. My family was able to see the sunset on the beach in Hawaii because of my job. My mom ate chocolate croissants for breakfast from her first class seat on the way to Paris for mother’s day. My friends rode ATV’s through the dusty jungle roads of Costa Rica and jumped off the top of waterfalls. My brother took his wife to Hawaii for a vacation. All because of my job as a flight attendant. As a journalism major I was never seen as the one who could provide for the family or be someone they could particularly need and now here I was the travel agent. The link between home and the rest of the world. It didn’t matter that I didn’t make a lot of money because I, you, we could travel. And as anyone knows, it doesn’t matter how many things you own, it’s the experiences you have in life and traveling opens that door.

The problem with being a flight attendant however, is that when you are at work, doing the job you are getting paid to do, you don’t really matter much to anyone. Pilots don’t really care about you – the majority think you are uneducated and can’t do anything better with your life. (I had one pilot, upon finding out I was from Alabama ask me if this was the first job I’d ever had to wear shoes for) Passengers think you are stupid and constantly challenge you. Even other flight attendants treat you poorly. Some will boss you around, some will tell on you for chewing gum. Some just don’t work at all so you have to do your work and theirs. Of course anyone in customer service has to deal with this drama on a daily basis – the only thing that makes this job slightly worse is the fact you don’t get to go home to your own bed every night.

As many of you who read my blog know, about 3 years ago I found yoga as a means to de-stress and get in shape. Then about a year ago I took it to another level and started to teach yoga at the studio I so loved as a way to give back. Recently I became certified to teach spin and this has opened yet another door for me. A chance finding of a studio on yelp which has taken my life in a direction that was probably always meant for me. Recently my boss, mentor and friend at the studio I teach at proposed I quit my flying job and teach full time. To be yogi magee over flying magee.

The thought made me smile.

You see teaching yoga and spin is not a thankless job. When people come in to the yoga studio I have 75 minutes to make a difference in their lives. To turn their day around. To teach them something. To challenge them. They come to me, not because they bought a ticket and had too, but because they wanted too. People don’t come to yoga because someone died and they have to be there or because work made them go. People don’t just come to yoga over Christmas or spring break. There is no Have too only Want too. And that makes all the difference. It is my responsibility to make them glad they came and when they leave they smile and they thank me. Something that rarely happens on the airplane. If they are stressed when they come in, they leave de-stressed whereas sometimes when flying after they leave my airplane they are worse for the wear. To teach spin is to push people to push themselves. To make them sweat and to cheer them on. To be the voice outside their heads that tells them they can. It’s to be part coach, part cheerleader and part drill sergeant. To let them leave and tell their friends what an awesome addition to the day it was for them. To see them come back time and time again.

It’s not that I don’t get a chance to make a difference in someone’s life when I’m flying. It’s not that I don’t meet interesting people or hear fantastic stories. It’s just that these encounters are like fireworks – they happen once and then it’s over. I will probably never see those people again which at times is wonderful and others sad. I do not get a second chance to make someone’s day better or to let them fall in love with me. And as someone who’s had many in their life – I love second chances.

So where does this leave me now. Seven years – it’s gone by in a blink. There are times when I’ve locked myself in the bathroom on the plane and wondered how I would ever find the strength to come back out. There are moments in my hotel room in a city thousands of miles away from home where I catch myself in the mirror and wonder what it is I’m doing here. Moments, chances, memories. Seven years.

I caught up with an old friend the other day. I mentioned I was still a flight attendant but that I was getting into teaching yoga and how much I enjoyed it. My friend suggested that maybe becoming a flight attendant was supposed to bring me to Denver so that in the end I could find the life and the job I was meant to have all along. After all, I could have been based in over 25 different cities but chance led me to Denver. I still have a big list of places to travel too and see and I’m not ready to leave the sky forever but something tells me that in the end, my life is following whatever direction is meant to be.

All I can do is have gratitude along the way for everything that’s brought me to where I am so far.