It is somewhat of a privileged position to be able to say that the first time I ever had cause to fear my own safety was on a flight from Bangkok to Rome on December 26th last year.
Before this I had worried about the usual suspects; the things that only someone with no real problems would worry about: having more money, making career advancements, the possibility of future ailments, not having a house, not being engaged yet.
Perhaps it is the same for everyone: we seem designed to worry rather than to be grateful. Our happiness is on loan and sooner or later we must pay it back by spending countless hours burying ourselves in the worst possible what if scenarios. It is no way to live and yet I suspect that it a very common feature of most of our lives. Actually forget suspect, I know it is.
No flight turbulence has changed my life and this is not one of these stories in which I end up preaching the necessity of a change of ways. It is almost a whole year since that flight and yet as recently as last night I sat up worried about undergoing a medical test as part of the UAE visa process. This is entirely speculative as I haven’t been offered a job yet. That is the extent to which nothing has had the power to make me sit up and change the way I live.
Though not seeking a disaster, there is nothing which would more quickly bring the walls of my own false worry down around me, as it would do with anyone. And if anything has come close to representing such a dismantling of the life I once lamented as not enough it was that flight from Thailand.
I had expected it to be busy but once on board there were rows and rows of empty seats. I had several to myself and could spread out or turn around in my seat and struggle to see anyone else. It made for a rather informal atmosphere and considering how excellent the flight over had been, I was unbothered by thoughts of the next eleven hours. I was worried instead about what I would do once I arrived in Italy.
As we crossed over India the first uncomfortable bumps started. The flight was at night and so, as we rocked in the darkness, I could only see – when I dared look outside – the flashing red lights of the wing lights. They seemed a distance from my window and as the minutes passed, they appeared to bounce unnervingly out of line. With the announcement of turbulence I sat up straighter and felt very alone, wishing for someone to talk to through the next however long it would be.
Looking back it probably lasted a little over an hour. The gentle rocking turned into something that felt more violent; the plane bumped across the sky as if it were hitting into walls invisible to us all in the darkness. The up and down movement made me feel as if we were at sea and yet I was painfully aware that below me there was simply air – miles and miles of it and nothing but a system of aerodynamics that I couldn’t understand keeping our plane in the sky.
What interests me about it is not the experience of turbulence itself but what I did during it. When it became so bad that I felt I could have been sick, I lay on my side still strapped into the seat and took out my phone.
I knew I couldn’t contact anyone but what I did do was open the chat with one of my friends and read through every message, from beginning to just before I had boarded the flight. When I had finished, I moved to messages with my boyfriend. After that, another friend
What became clear to me once the flight was days behind me was that in those moments – which I believed might have really been my last – I craved nothing more than the company of those I felt dearly for. There was a lesson in that and one that I have not taken seriously.
When it comes to friendships I can fail miserably and repeatedly in attempts to maintain them. When I landed in Italy I told myself I would make it my business to see those people whose conversations and jokes and insights had comforted me at a time when nothing else was working. Yet a year later there are still those I have not visited nor contacted as often as they deserve.
While on that flight I told myself so many things that have simply fallen to one side and did so as soon as the turbulence subsided and we landed safely.
It frustrates me that the things I know are important are also the ones I fail to force myself to do. Learn French – it is almost five years since I met my boyfriend in Switzerland and still I run from group interactions; tell people honestly how I feel about them and yet the only place I am that honest with anyone is in my diary; meet friends at least once a year and still one of my closest who has recently become a father remains unvisited.
I tell you this without hesitation: I was a more clear-headed individual on that flight. In those two hours or so I knew what mattered to me and the promises I made to myself were ones that I should have continued once landed.
So why haven’t I?
*With the news of an unfortunate change in family circumstances I will be switching my postings days to Monday, Wednesday and Friday from now on. Hope nobody minds 🙂 *