five stages of flying

For being a child born during George H. W. Bush’s presidency, I began the plane-taking journey rather late in life. I flew for the first time when I was fourteen and didn’t go again until I was over twenty. This caused some personal misconceptions that I have slowly unraveled over time, revealing the truth about flying, the ugly, disgusting, beautiful truth. Using the Kübler-Ross model, I give you the five stages of flying:

1. Denial

I’m not really flying, no. Those aren’t actually homes. That’s the Peter Pan set from Disney World.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

This lasts until that woozy feeling you get when the plane dips a little, making it seem like you’re on a roller coaster for about 0.4 seconds. Then you realize you are on a plane that’s up in the air, and you didn’t really listen to the flight attendants’ instructions, did you?

2. Anger

So anger didn’t really come until I was twenty.  (This is a surprise when we consider that I was stuck in an airport for three days during my first plane trip. However, when you’re fourteen and going on your first plane trip, you’re never really stuck anywhere.)

At twenty, I had a glamorous view of life in the air.  Last time I flew, I had matching capris and tennies. This time though. This time I would fly in style. I’d probably be asked to model the plane, I’d be so beautiful. (I don’t think I understood that planes are different than designer clothes.) I dressed up, complete with heeled shoes that were difficult to get on and off in security (and therefore made everyone hate me).

I boarded the plane, and no one else dressed up. No one would ever be dressed up. In fact, the lady walking through the airport in heels is a beacon of inexperience blinking at anyone who looks at her feet.

Why aren’t people dressed up?  Why isn’t flying this glamorous thing?  Anger.  So much anger.

3. Bargaining

Okay, okay. So the dressing up thing didn’t work out.

How about I just meet someone really great on the plane, huh? Like, obviously he’ll be my soulmate and we’ll live happily ever after, and I’ll never mention the dressing up thing again.

Be careful with this stage. This is how you end up making a birthday card out of a barf bag for a semi-cute, semi-smart, full-on-socially-awkward young man that you will (hopefully) never meet again in your life. True story.

(I should mention that some people really do fall in love on planes. Jill says so, and I believe her wholeheartedly. Yet, I have to let this stage go. I just have to, or I will know too much about the correct way to fold a barf bag.)

4. Depression

This happens when you’ve full-on given up on flying.

For the longest time I had the incredible ability to wait just long enough for everyone in my row to be seated for takeoff before I fell asleep for the ENTIRE flight.  It was a thing to behold.

I wore sweatpants and mismatched socks (if any socks), and I didn’t shower beforehand. Sometimes I’d bring massive amounts of smelly food to eat (because the whole cabin was going to smell terrible soon enough), and I didn’t even bother trying to say “hello” to the people next to me.

It was kind of a sad stage, really.

5. Acceptance

This is the healthy stage of flying (I think). This is where I’m finally at.

In this stage, you make chit-chat with the individuals around you, but you aren’t offended when they don’t want to talk (and you don’t go overboard and make them a barf bag card when they do).

In this stage you do a lot of reading on planes. You do a lot of laughing and crying on planes. I read Hoosier John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars on a plane. Yikes. Talk about giggling hysterically and then sobbing hysterically as I was literally 🙂 wedged between two strangers. But that’s okay because that’s flying.

That putrid smell wafting through? That’s flying, too. So are the delays. So are the missing bags. So are the incredibly intimate moments of falling in love with a book while strangers surround you. That’s flying. Heck, that’s life. And in three hours, you’ll be home, and that’s magical.

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