For the first time in as long as I remember, I boarded the plane with something to lose. This time, my fear of planes was magnified by real consequences. This time, I wasn’t undecided about whether it would be bad if my fear came true.
I did have something to lose. It was that someone would cry if I died, not because death is sad but because they would miss me. She would miss what I used to say and what I used to do. That was the treasure that I didn’t want to lose.
I looked at children and the elderly, and I felt relieved. I don’t know why it’s always easier for me to expect God’s mercy on others, but not on myself. Ascending to the plane alone would be like descending into a tomb. And I feel safer if the plane is full with more reasons for God to guard the plane.
My growth is always more noticeable when I fly. Every time I rise above the clouds I see my life as a distant neutral observer who’s aggregating evaluations of my life. I feel empty, and sad just by noticing the empty feeling.
I am fully convinced that traveling the world is not one of my goals in life. I want my life to be one, not the aggregation of many smaller lives. I want to stay home, especially now that home is pleasant.
I have something to lose, and it’s my life at home.
To you, my treasure.
To you, although you don’t read this: I love you.
I have a developed a technique for overcoming my fear of airplanes. I look at the laughing children. I look the elderly. I look at the lovers and the loved ones. I conclude that no good force would allow this plane to fall, not even as a punishment for my inherent evilness.
I conclude that even if the plane did fall, I would grieve the people who had more to lose than myself.
Maybe what I fear isn’t the physical part of flying, but the memories I have in airplanes. It seems every crucial moment in my life involved leaving someone or something.
I remember the tears that forced themselves out of the face I held calm, as I left home back to college. I pretended to be sick and asked my older brother to stop at a clinic on our way to the airport. I wished they would say I had cancer, so that I could quit school and stay home without feeling like a failure.
I remember the interview with the big company. I remember saying to myself as they showed us around their building: “If everything I’ve been through was the price to get here, then I’ll gladly accept it.” The captain flew over the city and away, and my final share of that place was seeing it from afar. Nothing professional about a man with a crumbled suit and crushed pride.
But, for what it’s worth, I’ve never cried over the same cause twice. Leaving familiar places get less upsetting after a while. This is what the optimistic would call grit and perseverance. I think that’s exactly what I fear; not death, but the loss of life. With every flight I take, part of me is lost. The unfortunate way to become strong is to leave the weaker parts behind forever.
I return to you guilty and degraded, and I feel like an apology is due.
I have left you by choice, with a sense of superiority, and I return with my head hiding between my shoulders in an aura of shame.
My excuses are weak, and I ask humbly; I do not demand.
I beg you not to turn away your ungrateful child, even though you have the power and every right to do so.
You have accepted me when I wanted nothing but to leave you, please accept me when I want nothing but to pay you back.
Let this stranded soul find its place again.
I was once a nurtured tree, my top reaching the clouds, and my roots grounded firmly, and I have fallen trying to find a better place. I became an example of greed to you, and of wretchedness to the other gardens.
What have I learned in my little journey?
That the enormous universe feels so lonely without a place that accepts you unconditionally, where you belong as a fact.
The options are infinite, and I choose the sun that has always felt so hot, the air that has always felt so dry, and my little place there where my dry burnt skin belongs.