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Flying into the future

I no longer have to breath deeply and grip the arm rests when the airplane takes off. I do not focus on the flight attendants as if they are explaining the meaning of life when they demonstrate how to put on the oxygen mask. I’ve traveled several times over the past two years and each trip has made me a little more confident and a little less uneasy to take to the skies.

However, I was a bit worried about that middle section of the flight path illustrated above on my most recent flight that crossed the vast Atlantic Ocean. When we took off from Paris, I could gaze out the window below to see ships skating across the water like toys in the bathtub. Then we coasted above the clouds and I was glad because I did not want to see the vast emptiness that would await us if something went wrong, knowing no one would be there to help us but ourselves.

So when Air France flight 447 disappeared and eventually the wreckage was found, I felt so sorry for the passengers and their families because I had feared the same might happen to me only two weeks earlier. I didn’t fear it enough to cancel my trip or take a long sea voyage instead, but I knew it was a remote possibility, just as I know I could die every time I buckle my seatbelt and drive to work. It makes me wonder, which picture of me would they have shown on TV? What would Brian Williams or Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric say about me in my brief two sentence obituary as my face flashed on the screen? Would they dig up archival video footage of me appearing on their morning shows? Would my book sales suddenly sky rocket? And even so, is having a best-selling book really worth dying for?

More importantly, what would I want them to say about me? I’m not sure, but it reminds me that you should not wait to start living the life you want to live. I don’t know how many tomorrows are in my future, but I hope they are all good ones.

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13 Comments

jane Schmitt • June 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

“don’t wait to start living the life you want to live”

profound yet simple.

i am making this my mantra starting this moment.

thanks.

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DanaDanger • June 4, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I have a similar photo taken over the Bering Strait. (Though admittedly the size of the Strait doesn’t really compare to the enormous expanse of ocean between Newfoundland and Europe.)

I’ve become somewhat desensitized to the endless stream of awfulness that is the news, but the Air France crash is just heartbreaking. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying that must have been in the moments (or minutes) before impact. And since it’s unlikely that the voice and data recorders will be recovered, the survivors will probably have to move on without a concrete explanation for what happened. It’s just awful.

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nazilam • June 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I fly 100-150K miles a year and if I worried every time I got on a plane, I would never go anywhere.. I pray that their descent was swift and painless, unlike some other air tragedies where passengers had 20 or 30 minutes of engine failure, emergency landing options and still perished.

You can’t stop living and you can’t stop exploring the world because of the 1:100000 chance you will experience a weather phenomena so unusual it will cause electrical failure in your aircraft.

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Katy • June 4, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Your right! We do need to live our life to the fullest! I had one of those moments last summer when a ridiculously healthy high school friend died from Non Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 28. You’ve already taken a huge step to do that though by losing all your weight! I’ve got to do the same and stop living life in my marshmallow man fat suit!

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Quix • June 4, 2009 at 2:00 pm

What a great thought for today. I just blogged about feeling the fear and doing it anyway (reminiscing about my 2 year anniverary of uprooting my life coming up) and I think you summed up my post in 5 words. :)

And yeah, I get a little nervous during takeoffs and landings, but somehow once we’re in the air I feel safe. Go figure.

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K • June 5, 2009 at 5:22 am

I never worry about flying. Maybe I don’t have a good enough imagination.

The one time I’ve been a bit anxious was when the pilot announced, shortly before we took off, that there was one more passenger on board than they were expecting, and if anyone didn’t want to go to Birmingham, they should get off now. I spent the rest of the flight wondering whether the extra person was a hijacker.

Of course, nothing happened.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how people would remember me and whether I would make my mark in the world. Now it seems inevitable that whatever I do, I’ll be more or less forgotten, so I might as well do what makes me happy today.

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Lirpa • June 5, 2009 at 6:49 am

Amen sister! We gotta make each day count. I recently read an inspirational message that basically said “live on purpose”. I really like that idea.

Good blog. My heart goes out to those families. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. Especially since they haven’t found the bodies. Not having that closure must be devastating… as if their deaths weren’t devastating enough. What a horrible tragedy.

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Small Steps to Health • June 5, 2009 at 9:48 am

I wish the airlines would switch from a radar tracking system to GPS. That would provide a higher level of tracking of their planes. I am not sure why they are still using such old technology.

Whenever I hear about stories like this, it makes me nervous to fly for a while. I feel so sad for the families.

— asithi

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bobbie • June 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Well said. Glad you got home safely. My heart goes out to those on that Air France flight.

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Emily • June 5, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Actually, I don’t think they found the wreckage yet- not that that was the main point of your post! I always have terrible pre-flight anxiety, and when you’re on a plane it’s not like you can just think “I’m so relaxed, in this metal tube breathing recycled air speeding over the ocean at 30,000 feet.” Yikes!

I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and I literally just started my own tonight. If you ever have time (you might want to wait a few days because there’s only one entry so far) I’d love it if you stopped by!

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Robin • June 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm

What a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to all those people and their families. It’s funny how we need to hear of some kind of tragedy to make us appreciate our own lives. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

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gfe--gluten free easily • June 6, 2009 at 11:55 pm

I’m perfectly fine about flying until there is some issue like turbulence, then my mind goes berserk with scenarios. I read that worry is the worst use of one’s imagination. I agree, but still. I feel terribly for the families who lost their loved ones. And, I totally agree with living one’s life now. I’ve been trying to say YES more and more for years now to live life to its fullest.

Great post. Thanks, Jennette,

Shirley

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Crabby McSlacker • June 8, 2009 at 7:36 am

I am a huge worrywart when it comes to flying. And none of the statistics are reassuring when I’m actually in that plane. The fact that I’m even more likely to get killed in my car does not help, it just makes me not want to leave the house except on foot. (I probably should NOT look up pedestrian fatality rates either).

For a while there was a good long stretch of no airline crashes and I was getting more relaxed about it… but yikes, I hate when my worst fears about what could happen are confirmed. I know it’s very unlikely, but what makes me immune if those other random passengers met such a sad fate?

I think you took the right message from the whole thing: don’t wait to live the life you want!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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