I always say the same standard introduction when calling scheduling. “Hi…This is [Full Name],” quickly followed by a five digit number that is my identity as an airline employee. It’s funny how flight attendants and inmates both have numbers. Funny and currently fitting considered how this existence feels like my prison. Tears stream down my face in angry frustration as I sit cornered between the Monday crowds at Los Angeles International Airport. I hate them, I think to myself. I hate them.

You call scheduling, begging for anything but the four day trip you were assigned. You know you were on reserve, but you’re now going to miss your daughter’s dance recital. You promised her you would do everything you could to be there. And you are doing everything that you can, but really, that means you can do nothing. You are on reserve. It’s a holiday, and you only have five years seniority. You work for an airline that simply assigns you whatever they feel like, which results in you living a life of constantly waiting for a “good enough” schedule so you can live your life.

You wonder if the tears and anger and lack of sleep is all worth it. For what? For the shitty pay, mildewed hotel rooms, or travel? That’s why you did this to travel, right? But you never travel anymore. You don’t have the money or the energy to force yourself back on an aircraft and through a packed airport. You did this because it was supposed to be fun. And last week, it was fun; your version of heaven. This week? It’s a complete hell.

I didn’t choose this airline because I could travel more. I chose it for the blog and because I was too curious not to go. If I was a cat, I think this is what being killed feels like. My curiosity followed this path that now feels impossible to escape from. I said that I was leaving, but those hopes seem distant in the face of my financial state. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but throughout history it has and can buy freedom. A 6-month money supply could buy me time to find a new airline job with the company I really want to work for, freedom to explore the world without the boundaries encroached by the aviation industry, or peace to slow down the pace of my existence. I need time. I need a minute. I need someone to acknowledge I’m more than a robot; more than a number. I feel too human for this job right now. 

The bipolar emotions in regards to employment status are wearing at your psyche more than scheduling, jet lag, and terrible pay ever will— never knowing if it’s best to stay or go. The work lifestyle feels like a manipulative lover; one who pushes you so close to leaving, but then loves you so desperately that you say, “Just one more chance…” Maybe it’s like skydiving or freezing cold water; you can’t play on the edge forever. It’s worse to teeter. It’s better to just jump; so much better to jump out, jump in, and jump over the fear, uncertainty, and anticipation of what could be.

Writing is also no longer my catharsis; not here on this site. I fear that someone is reading this who will fire me. I worry that someone else may read this and not hire me. It’s too big. I’m too vulnerable. I have too much to lose. I’m not sure if I have even gained anything through it. I know I recently feared losing my job over this place, space, and feelings. I want to separate from all of it and toss myself into anonymity, but that’s not my destiny. I know this. I also know I have too much good in my life to cry over the moments that go less than ideal. I choose to fly. To work for this company. To be a flight attendant. 

It’s not good anymore like it once was. I want to be 23 again. 23 was when I didn’t know the risk of falling in love, the way that time changes relationships, and how difficult letting go can be. I’m not talking about a person love. I’m talking about an airline love. This one love that has been my everything and my all for years. This airline life that has gifted me some of the most beautiful, transformative, and terrible moments of my 20s. I just want to be 23 when all I wanted was flight attendant life.

I hate them… I think as one more lone tear slides down my face.

sad angry flight attendant

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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