Letter from the Airplane

I write this currently 7 miles in the sky, traveling at 550 mph towards Madrid.

I’ve never been good at flying, because when I’m a passenger there is nothing I can do to help the productivity and effectiveness of the operation. Similar to my German Shepherd, Scout, I always need a task. I also need to always be in control, which is something I am hoping to work on this semester. I said that last semester. See, even if the pilot did hand over controls to me, I have no idea how to fly a plane! But whenever I get on a plane, I tell myself that I cannot sleep because somebody might need me. So what is someone who chronically needs a task supposed to do sitting in this airplane seat for eight hours?

It’s nighttime now and a lot of people are asleep but the interior of the plane isn’t that dark and my eyes have adjusted so I can see the people who sit around me. I have a problem with feeling all too alone in this world, so looking around at the dozens of people on this international flight makes me realize that there are a lot more people on my path than I realize. All of these people are flying to Madrid from Atlanta for one reason or another. We all didn’t come from the same starting place and we’re not all going to Madrid for the same reason, but right now we’re all on the same plane headed for the same destination, and we all look pretty bad, because we’ve been on this plane for four hours. But it doesn’t really matter, because everyone’s asleep. Which is also a pretty astonishing and peaceful thing to think about when you’re sleep deprived and breathing in recycled air.

I always cry when planes take off. I didn’t do it when I was a kid, but there was a time in my life that I thought I would never be able to fly again. I get anxious in situations that don’t have a clear escape plan to get help, which was brought on by medical problems in high school. Being in a metal tube flying 7 miles in the air is probably the hardest escape one can find. But then one summer I told my dad I would fly with him to Sacramento to visit my grandma and I couldn’t eat for a week leading up to the flight. On the takeoff I cried while looking out the window, I started crying. I couldn’t believe I was flying and all of my dreams about traveling the world came back to me. Now on every flight I’ve been on since, I’ve cried. Obviously this takeoff, just like that first flight to Sacramento, represented a lot. The takeoff meant that I was officially headed for another country where I know nobody and will be the farthest I’ve ever been away from home. I listened to “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks which is a song my mom sent to me a few years ago because she said it reminded her of me. I am moving fast towards Madrid, which means this young girl’s dreams will soon no longer be hollow.

I watched The Parent Trap and I feel like a child! I cannot believe that I am old enough to be flying to a different country by myself and trusted to restart my life again. I remember being six years old and putting the VHS tape while Caden prepared popcorn and Milk Duds for us. Sometimes we would grab the remote and fast forward through the previews, but sometimes we would ask Father Huntley for our pedometers and we would run around the house, seeing who could get the most steps in before the previews started. Our dog, Muffin, always liked the latter option because it gave her the opportunity to chase us around and get out some of her never-ending energy. She also liked it because oftentimes we would forget to pick up the popcorn from the floor and she would get a nice little snack before we realized what we had done. Sitting in this small airplane seat confined by a sleeping man on one side and the side of the airplane on another, I feel the need to get up and do some laps down the aisle. I doubt I got an adequate number of steps today.

The man next to me has an iron stomach. First he ate every last bite of his dinner, and has now done the same with his breakfast. I can see him giving me a curious side eye, trying to ensure I don’t see him looking over at me. I ate a few bites from the chicken for dinner, and none of the egg omelet filled with cheese they gave us for breakfast. My mother advised me that I needed to either bring protein filled snacks with me on the plane or wrap my head around going seven hours without eating. She’s not an almond mom of course, but we’ve both become comfortable at not eating for periods of time because of our sensitive stomachs. I would rather eat a measly container of cashews and let my stomach growl for a few hours than be sick in an airplane bathroom. As soon as I get past customs and drop off my luggage, I intend to feast. For now, I’ll just close my eyes and rest my head on the side of the plane.

When I look out the window as the flight attendants start to come through the aisles again, there is land below. I sit in the airplane seat and I look down and I can see Spain! This means there is only a short amount of time until we start our descent and enter into Madrid. These are the last few moments in which my time in Europe will be idle. Although we are moving at tremendous speeds, it feels as though the airplane is just drifting above Spain, like it wants me to realize the gravity of what I am doing before it officially touches the ground. In about an hour I will no longer be thinking of Spain in the to-do lists and packing lists and travel lists, but I will be sneakers on the ground, thrust into a completely different life and culture. I feel my stomach churn, and although this has happened many times out of anxiousness about the unprecedented semester before more, now it is instead churning with unbridled exhilaration. Let the games begin.

Yours truly,



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