Growing up, I was always the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kind of kid. I was obsessed with cars and airplanes and still am to this day, but just to a lesser, more age-appropriate extent. I’m amazed by the physics of it all, but up until recently I still didn’t get it.
What I came to understand is that, life is no different from flying. We start off on the ground, checking our systems. And in an ideal world, we have people on our side fueling us, supporting us, and guiding us until we are prepared enough to get off the ground by ourselves. However, while we’re still grounded, we have a lot more contact with our support team (i.e. air traffic controllers). They are the bigger eye watching over us, much like our parents. They tell us where we need to go and when they think we’re ready for take off. They know when we need to pushback and when we need to move down the runway. They know when there is something coming toward us that we need to bypass. They are our eyes and ears growing up. A lot of times, we’re not fortunate enough to have the same air traffic controllers as others and may not have the same guidance systems or the same level of fuel. However, we end up having to go on that same journey regardless. Even though we may not have had the same wind under our wings, it doesn’t mean that we can’t sore to the same heights.
Eventually, the airplane is cleared for take off and to go out on its own. And if you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know how much energy it takes to get that plane off. There is a lot of noise and movement and struggle to beat past the resistance. However, the key is not in fighting the resistance and the headwind, but the key is using the resistance to create lift for your own benefit. Many airplanes even have little winglets at the tip (see picture). Those winglets are used to create lift because otherwise the wind creates a vortex around the wing handicapping the plane’s ability to get off the ground. You see, sometimes you have to bend at the tips to be able to get off the ground. You don’t have to change who you are; you can still be centered in yourself, but sometimes when you want to create the change you want, you have to bend a little and do something different.
Once the plane is off, it hits some turbulence trying to get off the ground and throughout the flight. But you can’t do anything about it. Isn’t that much like life? How often do we hit bumpy patches in our life that were out of our control in a lot of ways. We just have to play damage control and get through it. All you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride as best as you can. It may not make it any less scary and it may not change anything, but if you can at least come to terms with it being the way it is, at least you can enjoy the journey a little bit more.
Throughout the flight, you’ll constantly be challenged with turbulence. Things are going to come your way. You may encounter head wind that will slow down your life plans. But there may also be tailwind that can speed things up in ways you never saw coming. The truth is that you can’t always predict what’s next. All you can do is be prepared. What helps is staying in constant communication with those around you, including other pilots and air traffic controllers, because they can see things that you can’t. There may be someone else just ahead of you that is able to tell what is coming or someone right above you that says it’s safer at that altitude. Sometimes you just have to rise above your current situations and go above the storm. Other times, the best course of action is to stay where you are.
All of life then becomes about handling these storms and accepting them for what they are. If the storm gets too difficult, don’t forget that you can always come back down to refuel and reenergize. There are times when things just seem to take the life out of you and you have to come back down to regroup. And that’s ok.
No flight doesn’t have a little bit of turbulence and just because you may be hitting some storms doesn’t mean that others aren’t in their own storms. You can’t always tell what other people’s flight path looks like because they’re going in their own direction. You’ll never be in the exact same spot as another plane, so you just have to stay in touch with those who came before you and those who are coming after you to let them know what to expect. And when you really need help, you can always talk to air traffic control to get a bigger perspective on what is going on.
So tell me, what part of the journey are you on? Are you ready for take off? Are you prepared to handle the resistance? Can you withstand the takeoff to get you to cruising?
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Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.
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