I’m retiring from my career as a flight attendant. Well, not exactly retiring. I’m being bought out by my company, in a very fair offer, in order for them to be able to hire flight attendants who will cost less, in a sort of ”buy one, get two free” offer. I’m now waiting for the word from them that I’m good to go. I have had a great ride and I am ready. It’s ok. It’s business.
Yes, indeed, it’s time for me to be kicked out of the flight attendant nest. It’s truly time for me to take off—on my own. Of course, I wonder how much of my identity is defined by being a flight attendant and how much is defined by the things I’ve yet to do and the adventures I’m yet to have?
Although I had a month to decide, when I first learned about the buy-out offer, I instinctively knew I would take it. Still, I was afraid. Fear, the Great Immobilizer. Worried, I said to my son, “I don’t know what the next adventure will be”. Without missing a beat, he replied, “That’s what’s so cool about it”. A healthy shot of youthful wisdom.
In the most recent Night at the Museum movie, the main character (Ben Stiller) realizes his job at the museum is coming to an end. He will be leaving his friends and a job he has loved. He says, rather sadly, “I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow”, to which Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) replies, “How exciting!”
I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China. I’ve searched for the Tree of Life in the desert of Bahrain – and found it. I’ve had adventures – some joyful, some thrilling, some scary. I’ve met the famous, the infamous, and the simply interesting. I have flown with some of the most wonderful people I could have ever had the privilege to know, and occasionally some of the most difficult. Flight attendants are absolutely the funniest people you will ever meet. I have never laughed so hard as in the company of flight attendants (you know who you are). They are also innovative, kind and resilient. Additionally, I have been blessed to fly with the most competent, most experienced pilots in the sky. But, with all of that said, it’s time to go.
Before I ultimately decided to accept the offer, I talked to my colleagues, my family, my financial planner, my friends, my students, my banker, my doctor, my realtor, my dog, my medium, perfect strangers and most importantly, to myself, (which I do all the time anyway and please don’t interrupt). The answer was unequivocally, “Do it”. Take the money and run. Run where? I wasn’t sure. The same question kept popping up for me: “What will I do?” The answer eventually came to me very clearly: “You may not know what you will do, but if you stay, you’ll never find out.” It’s a leap of faith into the unknown, but I am confident that I’ll be there to catch me. The road will form under my feet. The next adventure will manifest. I will be fine. Side note: If you do happen to find me stuck in the mud, in my PJs, aimlessly spinning my wheels, I trust that you will pull me out, slap me, and set me back on my way.
People often ask me what I’m going to do after I leave the airline. I don’t exactly know. It’s not really a traditional, planned retirement. It’s more of a transition. I’ll continue to write, teach yoga, be an artist, finish my book (the one that y’all have been nagging me about for years), and beyond that, I’m not sure. I’m open to anything. Whatever it is I hope it will be crazy fun and really different. It may be in the company of others. It may be alone. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s memorable. That’s what’s so cool about it. I’m on the road not taken…yet. How exciting!
(Epilogue: Six months after this was written, they finally let me leave. It’s been about 4 months. So far, so good. I am going to India in September, and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain next spring.)