It was 6am, in whatever mid-western city I happened to wake up in that morning. My phone brightly blinked awake as an incoming text vibrated an announcement. “Do you have an India Visa?” The words strung together on the screen as the most exciting and unexpected interruption I could have NEVER imagined to happen that day. “No, but I can get one!” I quickly messaged back. “When do you need it by?” “11am. Today.”
Right. Sounds about like aviation.
I sighed; more amused than disappointed. You never really know when, where, and what you might wake up to as a commercial flight attendant— let alone when working as a corporate flight attendant.
My life has changed drastically since leaving the airlines as an International Long haul Cabin Crew member and jumping into private aviation as a contract corporate flight attendant. For one, I’m no longer commuting to Miami. That aspect of my lifestyle disappearing is probably, in and of itself, the best blessing of my life. To use very simple language, commuting sucks. Really, the worst self-torture imaginable. That torture has been replaced with different challenges. Broken ankles. A minimum wage job (that for the record MADE me make it in this DEMANDING career). Being SO NERVOUS for flights that I not only felt like throwing up, I actually did. Being almost so paralyzed by fear that I not only could not eat, but I simply forgot. Facing the uncertainty of NOTHING on my schedule for flights and wondering if my career would be over before it really ever began. These are the challenges I unknowingly stepped into when I tried something new and out of my comfort zone, but it’s the challenge that helps keep boredom at bay:)
There is another challenge I am learning to dance around, and that’s the flight attendant schedule. Flight attendants do this dance. I’ve been dancing, dropping, and swapping schedules in flight attendant life for almost a decade now. I know reserve. I know lines. I know rosters. I know control, and I also know having none. It’s not an easy thing to get used to— that flight attendant schedule. I’m not sure you ever truly get used to it, no matter how long you fly. You just learn how to be as sane as you can within the insanity. Hey. Welcome to living.
To find sanity in my careers as a digital marketing consultant and contract corporate flight attendant, I have learned that it is discipline that builds dreams. I have learned how we drive our own destiny. I have learned the art of “YES” and the necessity of “no.” I have a lot of control over my schedule now. In wondrous amazement, I find myself waking up, at the gym, tackling my writing client tasks, or flying to a beautiful, remote, and tropical destination on a private jet thinking, “This is exactly how I pictured my career to look. This is amazing.”
And all the amazing has not been without a lot of work. So much work. It would have been so much easier to continue to let someone else dictate my days and months. Then, when shit when wrong, I would have somewhere else to cast the blame. There is no facade hiding the fact that my life is one to design by me.
I wanted to fly a little. I wanted to write a little. I wanted to create my blog and my business and my things. I just never realized the amount of discipline and struggle and frustration and fear that would come along with the journey.
I never know how many days a month I will fly or if I will fly.
I never know who I might fly or where I might go.
I never know when. I never know when I will get back.
Even typing all of that gives me an insane amount of anxiety. I had to learn to manage the unmanageable — the insane and unpredictable life that I have chosen for myself. I created a strategy for myself and maybe it can help you. This is the number one tip on how I stay sane when the flight attendant schedule is literally always traveling to CRAZY TOWN. (It’s true. You don’t actually have to travel there too;)
The first thing you will need to do is create structure and routine. This will keep you mentally healthy and help you accomplish life instead of wasting reserve days away in your pajamas. Trust me. Not judging the pajama thing. I didn’t shower till 2pm and live in Lululemon leggings, BUT… I get things done. I have a structure and routine. It all starts with the letter ‘W…’
I’m surprisingly quite disciplined and insanely self-motivated. I have had to learn how to implement a routine in my life because otherwise, I would feel like a bum when I’m not on my trips. Even when I am on trips, I still have responsibilities with my writing and marketing clients. Due to this, I adhere to a daily design strategy I call— “The 4 W’s”—
Those four W’s include activities listed in the parentheses and create the structure and design to my very unpredictable schedule. I have to focus on the very small moments, otherwise, I get overwhelmed by the openness and uncertainty in my life. I’m so human in this. I’ve just attached to the routine that keeps me grounded.
Everything that I do in my day, unrelated to flying, falls into one of the categories mentioned. I always start my day the same way. I always know that, when I wake up— life begins with a foundation of peace, reading, coffee, and clarity. Then I jump into the next thing— exercise. I know I work and work out best in the mornings, so I consistently wake up early, even though I have no specific appointments to get to or things I need to attend. My lifestyle is unpredictable, but it’s my choice to discipline myself to create more than what may seem possible.
Of course I wanted to sleep in this morning.
Of course I wanted to just watch Netflix all day.
Of course I wanted to spend the afternoon kiting.
But if I don’t create and work at the little things today, developing habits of success for tomorrow, who am I to ask for BIG and IMPOSSIBLE dreams?! If you want a better life, what are you willing to give up to get there?
I said yes to some really cool trips in the next couple of weeks, so I have to adjust. I have to do more this week to make next week flow as smoothly as possible. You will always have to make sacrifices in your life. One of the sacrifices you make in your career— what is literally and probably the COOLEST JOB IN THE WORLD— is that you won’t really have a schedule. You may not get weekends off. You will probably miss holidays for quite a few years running. It’s not ever going to be ideal, but it might be your ideal. Just ask yourself, “What is this life worth trading?” Only you can know.
If you choose to embrace the insanity, CREATE ROUTINE within chaos. In whatever city I find myself, my days are basically the same. My 4 W’s. Simple. Easy to remember. Sometimes difficult to implement, but always worth it. Although my life and days are truly filled with the things that I enjoy most, working from home or on the road is one of the most interesting challenges I have faced recently. It feels like I’m always hustling and my to-do list is never done. I’m just doing the best I can. If I get to at least worship and workout in my W’s, I’ve done something. Some days, all you can do is one thing. So, do that one thing. If that one thing means chilling in your pajamas on reserve today, ok. That’s cool. Just start thinking of taking those pajama days to another altitude.
It’s a lot of work to build dreams. It’s a lot of work to create structure, but it’s more work NOT to design your days and your life. You may never have the luxury to say ‘no’ to trips like I can, but what do you have the luxury of doing? Maybe, you are tired of always grabbing a drink after a trip instead of working out. Well, it’s time to change. Discover what structure works for you. Experiment. I’m still getting the hang of how this all works for myself. I make mistakes. I’m learning to say no. To rest instead of do too much. To enjoy instead of rush through the days I’ve been gifted. Just be better than you were yesterday. Do one thing today that NO one else told you that you should do or need to do.
A lot of thriving amidst whatever schedule you are given comes down to knowing who you are. Clarity is probably one of your most powerful resources and it doesn’t cost you anything. Just a little intention and time. Flight Attendants may not have the best salaries, but you can find time and intention.
Sometimes you will have to face the days and trips that you don’t want to and the tasks you would rather avoid. Sometimes, you have to do all of your errands with a suitcase packed and uniform hanging in your car. Sometimes, you have to give up every weekend for work. Sometimes, this lifestyle is absolutely 100 percent NO fun and complete bullshit. But you do it because there is something you want in all of this. There is something you are working towards. And, you will know when it’s time to step out of the unscheduled insanity.
Just remember, the airline is not a unicorn dream maker.
And the private jet runs on someone else’s dreams.
So, don’t complain too much when it’s not the way you want, but instead, search out how you thrive in this life.
If you want more or less than your schedule is giving you—
Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.