As a flight attendant, fatigue and I have danced intimately during many points in my career.  When I was international cabin crew, I took a three month leave due to the fatigue induced by chronic jet lag and constant red eye flights. As a corporate flight attendant, I watched my weight drop dangerously and my stress levels sky rocket, a side effect of the “dream job” I had so tenaciously fought to achieve. I learned, through experience, it wasn’t always a dream, and without implementing boundaries, I would suffer. I know fatigue. I’ve been through work fatigue many times, but my past moments of knowing poorly prepared for the exhaustion I feel now. 

This year has made me so tired. Like soul tired.

This fatigue bubbles up with my anger and overflows in my tears. I’m tired of hearing the word ‘COVID’ and reading about what travel restrictions may be in place and which ones won’t. I’m exhausted and yet, I’ve never flown so little, been home so much, and had so much actual rest. But, it doesn’t change the weight of where I’ve landed. Where do you escape when every where you go, or don’t go, is a reminder of what no longer exists?

My job as I knew it is not my job as I know it.

I’m sitting in a hotel, on a trip, crying.  My heart is far, far away from this place. I don’t want to be here. I dig deep within myself to find it in me to care about the food I serve on the private jets, to find joy in sourcing the correct newspapers, and fulfillment from the chase of perfection. Inside nothing feels perfect. I have a difficult time reconciling what is real from what is make believe. I feel messy and anxious. I dread trips but go through the motions because, God, I’m lucky to have work. I’m lucky to have an income whenever I can have it. A contract corporate flight attendant career has not been easy this year. So, I’m thankful but my gratitude holds hands with anger. I feel lost. 

Nothing about the layovers or flight attendant life is freeing anymore. My smile is trapped behind a mask. A sadness lingers as I sense an era of my life leaving, transforming into something else. I wasn’t ready to be done with the career in the way I knew it. I wasn’t ready for the world to close. I wasn’t ready for the way my job has changed and how I have changed. I look at what is and wonder, “How do I fit in? Where do I belong?” 

After ten months of the majority of news acknowledging division, pandemics, and politics, I want to hide. I feel numb and helpless. I find my escapes to be surfing and my parent’s farm. I run down the dirt road with my family’s German Shepherd mix, the dog with one floppy ear and a complete obsession over his toy. He’s free and happy; cuddly and always smiling. He brings me joy. Quiet moments away from who I pretend instill a sense of normalcy, freedom even. I’ve found social media to be dangerous for my mental health and happiness, a trap that I stumble into where comparisons and self-criticism loudly voice their nasty opinions. I’m not sure who to trust or what to believe anymore. The noise, the confusion, the divisions— they make me tired. More tired than jet lag.

I’m looking for an escape, but world travel can no longer be my comforter.

COVID has changed the dynamic of my career and the world. It’s accelerated and influenced my personal growth. I don’t want to be so attached to this job, to the schedules and demands of the wealthy’s whims. It’s just that work was there, and I was good at being a flight attendant. I also worked hard to create this career and don’t know what to replace it with. Sunk costs are a real, psychological struggle.

I think it’s interesting how the career that I choose and that chose me is one that emphasizes perfection and presentation; one that demands that you are not only “good enough” but exceptional. If anything, 2020 has made me feel mostly unexceptional and uncertain. When I think about this job, being a corporate flight attendant, I wonder if, more than loving it, I was simply addicted to it. I was addicted to the external validation. I became addicted to the destination-hopping rhythm. I began to equate my value and success in the dollars that I made and the amount of trips I booked. 2020 catalytically severed my connection to an identity, and what I’m left with is a hotel room. Alone. Sitting and wondering why I worked so hard for people I didn’t care about and who didn’t care about me. Wondering why I feel so fatigued when I got what I worked for and what I wanted. Wondering when and if I will feel carefree and hopeful again. Even wondering if what I’m wondering and feeling is actually real…

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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