Facing a Fear of Flying

I used to be scared of flying on an airplane. For both reasonable and entirely illogical grounds.

It started after September 11, 2001 – after the horrific terrorist attack on 9/11. I grew up in the Bronx in NYC and we could see the Twin Towers burning from our middle school’s hallway window. I remember our class had just come back up from the gym and we took turns peering out the tiny window at the smoke billowing out of our city’s skyline.

We filed into the classroom and our teacher had us pull our chairs semi-circle around a radio. It was a surreal break in our middle school routine as we sat huddled listening to the horrific news – planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. The school PA system kept coming on every 5 minutes calling students to come down to the office as parents came to rescue their kids from a horrifying new reality in droves.

For obvious reasons, what happened on 9/11 terrified me and I fundamentally didn’t trust air travel from that point on. While that early collective trauma we all went through was the start of that fear for me, here are some of other (somewhat illogical) reasons flying makes me nervous:

  1. We need to trust a complete stranger to get us through the sky to our destination safely. THANK YOU PILOTS, YOU ROCK. I find it hard to acknowledge that I’m in fact not in control – and I’m truly truly not in control on a plane – nor would I want to be in control of flying a plane, EVER.
  2. An accident in a plane while WAY less likely than in a car is 100% going to be a more deadly affair. I realize that the stats are against me on this one happening. THANK GOD. Still freaks me out.

Up until quite recently I just dealt with that fear and took flights when I needed to.

Here’s the thing, I used to maybe fly once or twice a year MAX, but I’ve recently started traveling a lot more than I used to. In the last 3 months, I’ve flown 7 round-trip flights! The increased travel is for a combination of reasons – both personal and professional and it’s been a whirlwind. Initially, this increased travel also caused me increased stress. It’s historically been one of the scarier things for me to do, and gradually gradually I can feel this shifting.

Tonight I’m flying back from visiting my boyfriend in Montana and I’m literally writing this blog entry in an airport as I wait for a connecting flight to NYC. And later this month I’m flying out to Oregon to attend a film festival where my film is screening and won an award! So much plane travel.

Here’s the REAL KICKER – I’m starting to actually ENJOY it – WHAT?!?!?!?!

The sheer frequency of travel has lowered my fear of flying. To the point where I’m writing about my plane fear rather than just sitting in it. In the past, I would have probably just been praying right about now as I waited to board my plane. Meh who am I kidding, I’m probably gonna pray soon as I finish writing this but my fear has truly lessened. Mostly because I’m realizing it doesn’t do anything. When something becomes more routine it feels like you don’t have the patience to indulge fear… feel it sure, but not indulge it.

On the way out here to my connecting airport layover – my initial flight had a freaky moment. The plane was rocking – no other way to describe it – back and forth. And we even had a moment where the plane kind of tilted a bit. Freaky shit! And then the pilot didn’t even hop on the intercom to give us a little ‘well, that was a little bit of turbulence, folks and we’re cruising’ note nada. Which was even more freaky. I was spooked but happy to report that the rest of the flight went super smooth.

. . .

Okay – I just boarded my second flight, and I’m typing in my seat as I wait for takeoff. There’s a kind of excitement that comes along with this part of the journey. The bustle of the plane getting ready. It’s amusing to observe people finding their seats and settling in. As we get closer to it tonight, I’m realizing I even sometimes get a bit of a thrill when we take off. Which used to be the most terrifying part of the whole journey for me.

Now it feels more like an epic start to an adventure. We are literally launching into a higher altitude – elevating our existence with our heads amongst the clouds for a while. I’m realizing it can provide an epic reset on overall life perspective too.

And as our pilot just announced on this flight I’m on right now, it’s a clear night and the view as we land in NYC should be beautiful. And that doesn’t hurt.
. . .

Time for take-off.