When I was little this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. I kid you not. Most little kids imagine being a doctor or superhero or maybe even the person who flies the planes, but no…I wanted to be the person who directs the planes and tells them where to go.
For as long as I can remember I have loved airports and airplanes and all things that have to do with traveling. Before I was even able to read my parents would take me down to Ontario Airport where we would sit in the parking lot.
And just watch the planes.
Land and take off.
Land and take off.
What wonderfully, patient parents I had. For some reason I called planes be-bos and to this day I am not sure why. My parents helped foster my love (insert: obsession) of airplanes by reading me books from the local library about airports and airplanes. In fact they sent me on a plane by myself when I was just seven.
And remember how before the feds cracked down on airport security, it was common practice to actually go to the gate to meet someone? When my grandma would fly down from Seattle for her yearly visit the best part was waiting at the gate for her plane to arrive. With my hands glued to the metal gate I watched these airport workers with fluorescent vests and long flashlights “tell” the plane where to go. I decided that is what I wanted to do one day.
Fast-forward 20 years later
I am not in fact directing airplanes, (although I am sure this odd desire says something about my personality and my desire to be in charge, arranging and directing and telling students what to do) but I still do love airports.
I love airports because they remind me that traveling is about the process. I am convinced that if we could magically zap ourselves through some wrinkle in time to another city or country in an instant it would not hold the same appeal.
Traveling is about the process of packing and preparing. There is an anticipation and that looking forward to feeling. Traveling is contingent on lines and waiting and walking and then more lines, waiting and sitting. A process that sometimes feels inefficient and tiresome, but it reminds me that sometimes it’s not about me.
At any given time there are hundreds of passengers wandering around the airport, going a million different places, and you know what? We all want the same thing. We all want to make our flight and leave on time and get a good seat on a perfectly functioning plane that will arrive safely at our desired destination. So it’s not about really me and where I want to go per se. When I remember this I look around and notice what a fascinating place airports are- people of different cultures and countries and languages congregate in the same place for a few short hours: weary business men, adventurous backpackers and love struck honeymooners all wait for the same flight.
Contrary to how I usually do life, I actually enjoy this process.
And the watching.
And the sitting.
This is where surprising conversations happen with strangers and observant people watching skills come in handy. This also becomes my favorite book reading, magazine perusing and journal writing time. This process invites me to relax and let go. I cannot control the weather or make the line move any faster. I cannot hurry up the boarding process or change my seat. All I can do is enjoy the process and in that, there is a kind of freedom.
Tomorrow I get to embark on this process. I will greet my first of three airports before the sun rises. And then arrive in Boston sometime tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to a day of travel, but even more so I am looking forward to spending 4 days with my incredible sister, Steph.
(And yes, I am still holding out for my dream: maybe one day I’ll get to sport the florescent vest and over-sized flashlights so I can “tell” the planes where to go)