Airplane GEEK

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Long Distance Relationships are an experience. Then, add a Global Pandemic.

The jet stairs unfold into the darkness of early morning. The guests are asleep, the pilots swapping out for a new set of aviators. I stay onboard through four legs, over 36 hours on the aircraft, and more than 6,000 nautical miles. There are no rest rules for corporate flight attendants but more than the exhaustion I feel, I am annoyed. The pilots acted as if I had never worked an international red-eye, adding reminders like, “The head of the bed goes towards the front of the aircraft,” and “Remember to take out the trash when we land for the crew swap.” I politely nodded and smiled, all the while biting my tongue and keeping my eye rolls to myself. When wheels touched down at the intermediate stop, around 3 am local in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the last thing I wanted was to have any interaction with pilots. 

For over ten years I had worked as a flight attendant in both commercial and corporate aviation. It was a job that allowed me to see the world and travel extensively. As many of my college friends were adding Baby #3 to their families, I was checking off Country #53. It wasn’t that I planned my life this way. I genuinely searched for a stable career and the love of my life, my everlasting soulmate, but both he and a normal job were evasive. If Mr. Prince Charming, didn’t evade, he ghosted. There were many second or third dates that seemed incredibly promising, dinners or drinks that left me feeling hopeful, giddy almost. Maybe this will work out. He seems cool. But then silence or my schedule roared again erasing the fairytale I had written in my head. I couldn’t create space for a man and my jet lag. I was uncertain if a relationship was possible with my ‘up in the air’ and ‘all over the place’ life.

Truthfully, I had stopped worrying about my single status and embraced the fun of flying solo. I dated abroad more than at home, remaining uninterested in being serious with someone who was far away from where I called home. I was in the best shape of my life, earning more money than I ever had, and going to the coolest places imaginable. I could date abroad and do what I wanted when I wanted, without asking someone how it would impact their world. Single is a joyously selfish way to be— an actual gift we often don’t appreciate enough when we have it. It’s not always the best, but really, it’s not so bad either. I wasn’t hoping to meet anyone when I met him. I was completely happy with life as I knew it, but we can’t know what we don’t know 

“Can I help you with that?” he says, his blue eyes piercing the darkness. Damn, I think. The FBO boy is cuuuuuute. Even at this hour on little sleep, I’m awake enough to appreciate an attractive man. I don’t realize how tall he is until I extend the industrial-sized garbage bag, which is over half my size, in his direction. He reaches out and with ease, assists my flight attendant struggle. I roll my eyes again internally and this time to myself. I can’t believe I just told him, ‘Be careful, it’s heavy,’ I think. Obviously, he’s strong and tall. Smiling, I say ‘Thanks,’ and pivot towards the safety of the jet’s immaculate galley, a flight attendant’s safe haven. Glancing over my shoulder, I see long legs take the jet stairs, two at a time, a lanky figure ducking his way into the flight deck. Only then do I realize my mistake. This tall, blue-eyed Dream at the bottom of the stairs, kindly accepting my garbage, does not work at the FBO as a Line Service Attendant. He is not the one fueling planes or bringing newspapers to flight attendants. He’s a pilot. He’s the pilot. He’s going to be flying this plane. He’s coming with us. Never had it crossed my mind that an attractive pilot would exist here. 

Fast forward a year later. I’m in a long-distance relationship with a pilot, a double ‘no-no’ in flight attendant world. (haha. Just kidding, Pilots. Love you guys and gals;) A long-distance relationship is a challenge in itself, but add the travel restrictions implemented due to a global pandemic, and it equals a unique adventure. I find it ironic that I, the one who had stopped believing that long-distance relationships can work is in a long-distance relationship. I was wrong about what I thought would make me happy. I am blessed to have collided with him a year ago. It’s not what I dreamed of for an ideal partnership. It’s better. It’s better in that it’s more real and genuine and comforting and close than some of the relationships I’ve had in my home city. It’s not the distance that makes you close or far to someone. It’s both more simple and more complex than that. Closeness and connection are not lessened by less miles or broken by more, but created through a mix of intention and decision. And complete magic. Because love is magic, honest. 

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I marvel at the way he remembers and makes me feel adored and special, even when across oceans and missing each other after weeks or months apart. The distance is hard. It won’t always be like this, I remind myself. I wish for us to be together more. I wish for the world to open again and the constant fear to go away. I wish that travel was free and easy again. I wish that I could take off my mask at work and that work was actually consistent. That work was as fun as it used to be. I wish for a lot. A lot of the time I feel lost, confused. Between. Somehow, I always come back to, “This makes sense. He makes sense. It’s worth it.” 

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As grateful as I feel, I’m (in moments) equally angry over the way this year has gone. How COVID has both impacted my career and made it so that I don’t have the freedom to just jump on a plane and go is crushing. I can’t go see him. With first-class tickets running upwards of $15,000 one-way and economy not even sold, the impossibility of long-distance has overwhelmed me more than once. Yet, he solidly and assuredly reminds me, ‘This too shall pass.’ He’s made this year for us possible, he never stopped believing in our potential. “I’m not looking for easy,” he said on one of our first dates. I have not met a more intentional, kind, and patient man. Long-term vision carries us through short-term difficulty. 

Recently, I’ve worked hard to embrace what is in my life instead of missing what is not. It’s a daily battle, and I’ve fought to keep a positive mindset, often losing only to wake the following day to fight again. I’ve thrown myself into flight training instead of continuous flight attendant trips. I’ve enjoyed time with my Dad and dog, Mac, instead of a different assortment of passengers and pilots every other day. I’ve settled into peaceful and quiet days, instead of a mad rush of stress and days on end without sleep. There’s a beauty to this time, even as it brings its occasional shocks of pain, sadness, and uncertainty. Right now, I hold dearly to what is surrounding me, for it’s as precious and loved as what is far away. One day, I may have the other close and miss this. This year is a lesson in perspective. 

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I don’t know what to make of most of this, the way my life is, and where it might be going. My heart goes out to the other couples navigating long-distance relationships in a locked-down world. My heart goes out to those who have been single, attempting to navigate a social life when we are told to keep our distance. Dating is more unique than ever, but I promise you, it’s not too complicated to unexpectedly meet someone. Magic does not understand impossible, and Love is really some sort of magic force. It’s searching for you. It’s not too hopeless to cross paths with a person who will change your mind about how you “thought it would be.” It’s not impossible to find kindness, care, and love when you don’t know you need it most. Most surprisingly of all, you may discover the joy of adventuring through this world with someone. Flying solo is actually not everything I’ve come to learn. 

Although we are apart for the holidays, our schedules and lifestyles have worked harmoniously is a strange way. Regardless, the distance is difficult. I don’t know how much longer it will be, us and this kind of distance. I feel like quite a bit of a mess as far as, “What should I do with my life? Where am I supposed to be?” I want and hope that my purpose can continue to align with his purpose, and we can keep walking together towards a place that works for both of us. I’ve held so tightly to my cute apartment and my single life, but as the days apart stretch on and my home feels lonely without him, I sense a shift in what I value and what I know is most important. I’ll do what it takes to be together. We will do what it takes. It always takes two, working together to create the best outcome. 

In all the places I’ve traveled and all the ways these places made me feel, I’ve only rarely felt a certain feeling, almost unexplainable. Maybe Copenhagen made me feel so or Maui or a perfect coffee somewhere far away. It was that feeling when I sensed my heart found its home. That I was coming home. He’s my coming homeHe feels more like home than any person I’ve ever met or loved. 

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I’m stumbling into the truths of what real love looks like. In a very short time, he has taught me that there is room for my dreams and my person and my person’s dreams at the same time. That someone worth it will want to share in my successes and not hinder them. That I am not too much or too little in a relationship that fits. That I am loved on good days and bad, and that just because there are bad days, no one need disappear. He’s proved that it was never my job that made those other relationships not work. His presence has proved how silly I was to be so head-over-heels for assholes. God, I love that he put the assholes in their place simply by who he is. I have to thank the dates who didn’t work for if it wasn’t for the undeniable contrast, I would have never appreciated or recognized that thousands and thousands of miles away, oceans apart, and closed borders to quarantine past, there is someone who is worth it all and who will welcome you home. 

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