The Wrong Side of the Clouds
I’ve been on the ground for a few months. I don’t bemoan that fact as it is by choice, yet every time I look at the wrong side of a passing cloud or gaze upon the radiance of a dusty sunset, I long to be up there where I belong. My choice is one that many of our younger pilots don’t have the luxury of making for themselves…I’ve been in that position before. Many junior pilots, men, women, fathers, mothers, daughters, or sons, all of them someone’s friend, are preparing to leave the airlines as part of involuntary furloughs. That sounds benign enough, their jobs will be there for them when the economy demands more of us on the job, but nothing about it is easy. We are in one of those rare career fields where our identities are intertwined with the job we do. That makes it harder when no one needs us to do that job. It’s not like taking a leave of absence in which we know when we will return to the air. Instead, it is fraught with the ambiguity of waiting for the phone to ring or a letter for HR to arrive welcoming the pilots back. When on furlough, a piece of ourselves is left behind. When I went through that experience, I was fortunate to have good supportive friends that helped me focus on the positive as I looked at all the other pieces. It took a lot of soul searching to unwrap my identity from my job, to look for other innate skills and passions, to determine other ways to find purpose in my everyday life. We are so much more than pilots, we are blessed with a career that allows us to spend our days on top of the world, we undramatically face critical situations when all the world around us seems ablaze, we see the beauty in a singular ray of light reflecting its way through the atmosphere, we know what it feels like to surf on clouds, and we know what it’s like to fly straight into the teeth of a storm. If you’re someone facing furlough or unwanted time on the ground, I can offer you this, you are so much more than a job…you can do anything you set your mind to doing…and I guarantee you have people in your corner who can help you focus your energy on understanding all the positive and powerful things of which you are capable. If you feel alone in this, reach out to others who have been there. You can reach out to me. The sky will not change while you are away, so all your good dreams of flying will continue to be real, and we will await your return.