“It’s so great to see you again,” I say as he wraps his arms around me; the span of his six foot four inch athletic build engulfing my petite frame. I can’t exactly remember the first time we met, but it has been at least a year since I’ve seen him. Maybe two, because I had a broken ankle on our first coffee date that took place in my Southern California beach town. A lot has happened between then and now. He has traveled non-stop. So have I. Thankfully, my ankle is no longer broken. It barely reminds me of its injury even when standing fourteen hours straight during those busy and long international private jet trips. Proof that you always heal after shattering.

An app introduced us the first time, and with the assistance of trusty relationship technology, we have once again swiped in the right direction. Quite honestly, I haven’t thought about him once until this ‘Second First Date.’ Work is so consuming that dating is only added if I have time or if I’m on layover. It’s all about the away game. I’m again, on a layover. Over a sparkling water and a beer, I listen to his tales of adventure in Antarctica, traveling through Thailand, and volleyball tournaments around the world. I ask about dating and ‘life on the road’ and how that goes. He answers seriously and returns the question. “Bumble abroad is great!” I say with a smirk of enthusiasm. “London. Japan. Bahamas. Now, Miami! I mean— It’s great!” I emphasize my conclusion with a shrug and overly exaggerated head-toss garnished in signature giggles. He joins in on my joke; laughing before taking another sip of his cold, amber-colored beer.

Although I laugh, dating as a flight attendant is no joke. I laugh because if I didn’t, I would (for sure) be crying. I do cry. Not so much because I’m single or because dating all over the world is terribly boring (it actually is a lot of fun and single has been pretty nice), but because I’m tired. Tired of the cycle of swiping, meeting, laughing, hoping, liking. And leaving. It always ends with leaving. I always have to leave— a situation that I sometimes use to escape vulnerability or my own insecurities, but more often, a scenario that leaves me with the sting of hopeless disappointment.

I question how to keep a connection to more than only my job. I’m overworked, overstressed, and over-traveled for so many months that my head and health spin. I have stopped hoping for a relationship with someone else because, for one, I don’t know if what I’m looking for exists, and for two, I don’t know where to add someone into my life. Will that be in LA or Europe or how about just throw them into my luggage? I’m away to a nauseating degree, but do I have any right to be sad over it? I’m paid a lot to do what I worked so hard to achieve. I designed my life this way, so when I wake up only to write the same Bible verse in my journal every single day; the one that tells me, “You’ll have the future you hope for…” and close out with the prayer, ‘Please. Please. Please. Just give me a few more days at home. I’m still so soul-tired. I need time to find me again,” I know (to my core) that things and careers and achievements and travel is NOT everything.

My health, my soul, and dating the same person suffers at the expense of my ‘dream job.’ I’m not thin because I’m extraordinarily healthy. I’m thin because I don’t eat when I’m working, and I work all the time. This is not ok. Emotional and physical nourishment is a non-negotiable. You will never be able to support a healthy relationship with someone until you can support a healthy relationship with yourself. Trust me, I’m sitting on the front row in this lesson. I’ve neglected much of what matters because my career has mattered more. Life is a ‘learn as you grow’ type deal. I’m learning to treat myself better.

Before dating apps existed, I would meet men while traveling. Bumble Abroad simply makes the process more streamlined and efficient for those who aren’t anywhere long. And before anyone claims it’s slutty or makes flight attendants live up to the stereotype of flings in every city, I would challenge you with this— “Technology simply magnifies who you already are.” So, if you are a flight attendant who chooses to hook up with multiple people during your three day trans-con pairing, you would probably be doing the same thing as a groundling. Just in the same city. I know the “Regular 9-to-5ers” always assume flight attendants and pilots are always hooking up, but it’s really not a person’s job that makes them dishonest, a playboy, or lack character. What ‘Bumbling Abroad’ does allow is the ability to skirt responsibility for the broken hearts you leave around the world. You get to blame distance, your crazy schedule, and “I don’t know when I’ll be back,” instead of acknowledging the fact that, “Well… maybe I just didn’t like you or wasn’t looking for anything.” You begin to use your job as an excuse to face everything you don’t want to acknowledge.

When I cry about that one guy who doesn’t text me or call me back, I think about the ones who I ghosted. We may be flight attendants, kiddos, but we all know that doesn’t make us angels. Just own your space, choices, and your involvement in your relationships. Be as honest as you can be and apologize when you fuck it up. Think about how your decisions may affect the other person and how you would feel on the receiving end. Relationships, first dates, and goodbyes have their give and take; even if you aren’t sleeping with, kissing, or cuddling every person who you meet. Be kind to the hearts in your path because there will be moments when you need someone to be kind to you. He isn’t required to fall in love with you just because you are so cute and so great and an adventurous flight attendant. You don’t have to be in the relationship because you have heard your entire life that that is just what you do in your 30s. You shouldn’t be forced to make the decision, “It’s me or the job.” You do you, but be aware and know that— casual or committed— our relationships will always influence in some way, shape, or form.

My dating experiences have been that of movies. Fairytale-esque and dreamy with the flip side of heart-aching. My friend Emma tells me I’m jaded. Maybe she’s right. I think I’m just better at managing my expectations. Adding years does that I suppose. I’ve met very interesting and sincere men, but rarely do I care to “keep in touch” anymore. This is dramatic switch to the way I once believed that love would conquer miles, mountains, and all the movement instilled by my career. I just don’t know anymore. A Danish pilot and former colleague of mine told me the other day, “Divorce rates are 50 percent in Denmark. They are 80 percent in aviation.” I don’t believe him, but I also don’t want to prove his aviation theory true. Love seems hard enough when in the same vicinity— but regardless of close proximity or endless oceans away— love is an adventure I would rather run to than from (no matter how walled up, untrusting, and unbelievable my head thinks it is). I think we will always believe in love. Love is part of being human.

My dating profile says I want “something casual,” which is so far from the truth. It’s just that the thought of putting ‘relationship’ or ‘marriage’ in the algorithm isn’t accurate either. I don’t hope to find a boyfriend to be a bandaid for loneliness or a marriage to shield me from both society and Christianity’s scrutiny or a fling to help me feel desired or sexy in the short term. If there was a choice that said, “I want something meaningful,” I would chose that. Every single day. Every single minute. For the rest of my life. I pray to always have the courage to choose meaning. Meaningful work. Meaningful conversations. Meaningful friendships. Meaningful love. I’ve found meaningful moments through “Bumble Abroad,” but they are only moments. Technology is amazing in that it can connect, but it won’t keep those who aren’t ready to be kept or change the reality of location and demanding work schedules. That’s all on you.

I know that a re-design of my very out-of-balanced schedule is in order. I feel like, just in the last week, I have found so much joy in stillness, in fitness, in food, in first dates, in friends in time appreciating today. In living in a way I never get to because I’m always “too fucking busy.” I don’t want to choose “Too fucking busy” anymore. The beautiful thing about being where you are is that you don’t stay there. If you don’t like what your life looks like or who you have become, you have the freedom to change your direction and readjust your priorities. They say when you meet the right person, you naturally decide you want to change your priorities, and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. I feel like I’m getting to know that “right person” better— ME (and I didn’t even need an app to meet her).

About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

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