With each revolution, my legs marched to the rhythm of a pumping beat. Left, right, left, right. Push, pull, push, pull. I closed my eyes to drown out the darkness and the angry burn of tired legs. “The mountain does NOT meet you half way. You rise!!!” The spin instructor’s voice preaches over the deafening music. This was Sunday and in the dimly lit room, I was somewhere between dying and rebirth. A familiar purgatory found when one worships at ‘The Church of SoulCycle.The cult workout that fascinates for it’s flawless marketing genius and flexes physicality’s into defined abs and toned legs is not for everyone, but for those who want to exist at the crux of heaven and hell, it’s an unsurpassable experience.

…Kinda like being a flight attendant. You love it. You hate it. You think the job might kill you sometimes, and yet, you always come back for more. It’s that endorphin high that finds you somewhere above the clouds. 

Bora Bora

Aviation is a cult-like experience. More than a job, more than a career, it is a lifestyle that demands all of you. Rewarding due to its addicting qualities that include travel, interesting people and freedom, it also breaks you down and pushes you past your own perceived limitations. When you exist on three hours of sleep, deal with irate humans who blame you for what you have absolutely no control over, and are required to spend more time in hotel rooms than home with those you care about, you question why you continue to show up. But you do— almost methodically on certain days, with glee on others. You follow your heart and over and over and over again it lands you at an airport. 

You never thought it was possible that someone would pay you to travel the world but what most don’t know is that it isn’t ‘all dream and no job.’ They say do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I call bullshit. Work is work is work. Every amazing achievement requires an equally amazing sacrifice. Becoming a flight attendant was (and is) no different. You don’t get fit by sitting on your ass (unless you put your peach on a SoulCycle bike). You don’t become a flight attendant just because you have a pretty face. You choose to earn less money than you would at an office job to work at the airlines. You trade a stress-free life (and a life in general) as a corporate flight attendant for an unbelievable adventure. Across the board, we stay for the upsides. We stay because we don’t want to feel the pain of leaving, and let’s be real: I don’t know anything else, besides becoming a pilot, that would allow for the life I’ve lived and the one I currently have. 

Best job ever

I’ve had a solid ten year run around the world and experienced many facets of cabin life— from domestic to international; budget airlines to billionaire’s jets. The surprising thing is that there are still days that surprise me. The unexpected still happens and the job can still make me smile. I continue to learn, even if it means I learn more about myself because of my profession and not about the profession itself as much. Job wise, flight attendants have figured out a phenomenal way to earn a living. It makes sense for the crazy kids in the world who can’t think of living a conventional existence. I get you and I get this life. What I don’t get is how to walk away. Maybe I’ll never figure out how to do that.

I find it a huge challenge to not let my lifestyle define me— especially when I write a blog about being a flight attendant. Especially when I project a very bubbly and carefree persona. Especially when I am so blessed to be where I am at in life. It’s become a dangerous game I play when I define myself by how much I earn. Build my identity on if I’m liked enough to get a call back from the private jet company or if the client likes me. I’m in a people-pleasing profession, with a personality that takes much too much personally. I often struggle due to this. I’ve also grown. You can’t make it in private aviation unless you care WAY too much about your job. Your soul will shrivel and die if you don’t start wearing a thick, I-don’t-give-a-fuck, skin.

I think often that, “I don’t want to be just a flight attendant,’ while telling everyone else that it is an eye-opening, lucrative (in corporate aviation), and respected path to pursue. Because it is— truly. I don’t think people become flight attendants because they can’t do anything else. People become flight attendants or pilots because there are five million other things that they would rather be doing, and they crave the time a freedom to do those things. These people I mention also really enjoy flying. They also really love people. Oddly, they even like hotel rooms sometimes. The crazy just fits.

I think one does have to be secretly crazy to work in a metal tube of recycled air with strangers and face overcrowded, germ infested airports when there are other alternatives to earn more money or have more structure. You must be a bit nuts to fall asleep alone and jet lagged— scheduled every weekend for work — and barely earn above the poverty line (been there). You might be slightly insane to step on a billionaires jet and have him lose his shit for no reason at all except to test you.

I think I must be crazy to take the career path that I have. To work so hard for pipe dreams and wildly ambitious goals. To put myself out of my comfort zone over and over and over again, many times looking foolish and making mistakes. There have been moments in my career when I was so nervous that I would be on the precipice of throwing up. I’ve faced more than I believed I could and ultimately, I learned I can handle it. That I won’t lose my shit. I look back at my career and find myself telling the part of me that’s brave and confident and sure and believes, 1000 percent, that the world is magic— “Thank you so much for facing what was scary. THANK YOU so much for chasing experiences like you need air to breathe. Thank you for believing I was capable of more than I thought I was.” When you give yourself no other option but to ‘make it,’ you will. Even when you are spent, done, so exhausted and you don’t know how to continue. There’s a part of you that believes in magic and believes you will make it. Be best friends with that part of you. That part of you continues.

Believe in magic

Over the past three years, I’ve learned a very important lesson: I can survive. I can survive the worst work weeks of my entire life. I can survive the shattering truth that he doesn’t actually love me and probably never will. I can survive losing my job, losing my income, losing love, losing my sense of passion and purpose. I can survive if I choose to never give up. I can survive if I choose to not let every down define my identity. 

Even with your ‘Dream Job,’ you will NOT face only good days. Just because Flight Attendant Life can feel like fantasy land, the reality is that you cannot experience heaven without also going through hell. When you are challenged, tested, broken down— and choose to keep pushing through— you come back stronger, more confident, and a better version of yourself. I’m thankful that I stumbled into being a commercial flight attendant and hustled my way into corporate aviation. I’ve loved the ways that I’ve changed and who it’s made me want to become. I love how I’m still surprised by the realizations and lessons that come my way. Leave or stay; love or hate— this profession will never be boring.

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.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}