Still on the ground, I am trying to maneuver the plane to the left, but I am failing miserably. I can’t even get it to go in a straight line. You see, when the plane is on the ground you don’t move it with the stirring wheel, but with pedals. The stirring wheel is for the wing flaps. It only does you any good when you’re in the air. In the ground, it’s all about your footwork. The pedals also happen to be the break and the accelerator so you have to be careful where you push, because if not, you will end up affecting the speed rather than the direction of the plane. My feet feel awkward and clumsy. I am like a teenage boy at a high school dance: I have no rhythm and no idea where to put my hands.
My instructor takes over with his pedals. Mine move when his move and I can feel the clean movement of the pedals under someone who knows what the hell he is doing. He takes care of the take off and before I know it we are off the ground.
In the air I get to play a little. The air is more forgiving than the ground, but I am still awkward and clumsy. I make the plane go around in circles, but the nose of the plane keeps pointing down so I have to keep pulling on the stirring wheel to try to level the plane. I pull too hard and the nose of the plane points up, so I have to push the stirring wheel in again. But I push it in too much… between the pulling and the pushing and the left and the right it starts to feel like I am in an amusement park ride–one of those nauseating worms children love to ride. I am dizzy and am sure I can’t be the only one, but no one lets on.
Even as I am trying my best to not throw up, I can’t help but be thrilled that I finally got myself to do this. I had been wanting to take flying lessons for such a long time, I was starting to believe it was never going to happen. When I was sixteen I was terrified of driving, but flying? Oh, I would have done that without giving it a second thought. If I hadn’t started this project, it would have been ages before I finally got myself to take the lessons. It could have easily never happened. Because it is not a priority. Because it is something that will probably be no more than an experience I once had. A picture in an album. Because there is no future in it for me and god knows it is all about the future. We delay the things that we find fun because they don’t have any forseeable value for our future. Why invest in something that will come to nothing?
When I was planning a trip to Africa people often asked why I was going. Simply traveling wasn’t a good enough answer. I needed to add volunteering or intership…anything as long as it could go on a resume. If there is nothing to show for it in the end, it might as well never have happened. In our minds, it was a waste of time. But was it really? Why do we feel guilty for doing something just for the hell of it?
I will never be a pilot. I know that. Getting a pilot’s license is really expensive and I have terrible vision. Yet, being up in the air made me realize that not everything needs to be part of an elaborate plan for the future. Not everything needs to be perfectly thought out and fit for a resume. Maybe I will never be a pilot or a gymnast or a professional writer, but if it fills the present I won’t worry about the future.
My instructor turns the engine off mid-air to show us how stable the plane is. We stay in the air, alive, simply floating in the air. After about a minute or so, he turns the engine back on and we make our way to a nearby airport so he can show us a landing.
I spend a lot of time thinking (panicking, really) about the future. What am I doing? What do I want to do? How do I get there? What if I don’t get there? I stress myself out thinking about how one thing is going to lead to another, not really realizing that I have little influence in that kind of thing. Life is going to work out that way it wants to at the pace it wants to go. I can do my small part, but everything else is up in the air.
When Steve Jobs dropped out of college, he started taking classes that interested him without worrying what would come of it. There were no prerequisites or set classes, simply a whim and an interest. Later in life he realized that a lot of the classes he took helped him in his inventions. It didn’t make sense at the time…nothing ever does. Somehow, though, everything worked out the way it was supposed to work.
So from now on I am taking a cue from Jobs. While everything is still up in the air, why not take a chance on a little bit of everything–especially the things I’ve always dreamed of?
Landing is the hardest part of flying. I don’t get to do it myself, but I learn that you have to fly six inches from the ground before touching down. It is a delicate balance and really exhilarating. After he shows us the landing we take off again to fly some more. I can’t take off or land yet, but I can still fly. Funny how that works.