The beginning of this year, I was hanging on for dear life. My corporate flight attendant contracting schedule had sped widely out of control— in the best way possible (yay for achieving goals). A week in the UK here. Another seven days in Japan there. Back-to-back trips to Italy filled with afternoons drinking Aperol Spritz and eating gelato every minute in between. I was working with the best companies, nice pilots, and gracious clients. I was living what everyone dreams about when becoming a corporate flight attendant. But, amidst the magic and madness, I questioned the sustainability of the career I had so tenaciously fought to design.

Not only was I working 17-25 days per month, making more money than I ever imagined that a flight attendant could make, I had a freelance marketing job. After long days of catering and crafting perfectly plated meals at 45,000ft, I would arrive to the hotel and catch up on the media tasks filling my to-do list. Sometimes, this was at 3am on the other side of the world, completed on three hours of sleep. My days were full, my existence stretched. Looking back, I don’t know how in any world I managed the amount of responsibilities I juggled. The schedule I lead was fucking insane. Insane. It’s amazing how much you are humanly capable of, it’s incredible how much better we need to be at setting boundaries. 

Fully buckled in and committed to the crazy ride, I did not have any idea how to get off the rollercoaster career or make it stop. Just do. Just do. Just push through to the next ‘thing.’ You will get a break, I would promise myself. Secretly, I began wishing that I would break my ankle again. Life moved dizzyingly fast. 

The streets were quiet outside my hotel room window, slightly beyond the noise of Prague’s city center. I loved this city and was grateful to be paid to go on a third adventure but felt a deep hollowness at my core. The darkness did little to hide a stream of tears and I did nothing to stop the salt water’s flow. The emotion spoke what I could not. “I give up. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to find the pause button. This was not the life that I intended to create and the purpose I planned to pursue.” In ten years of Flight Attendant Life, I had cried alone in many dark hotel rooms, but this time was different. This time, I was crying out to some big, unseen, caring universal energy that I hoped would listen to me; begging for a safety line, claiming a rescue. I felt engulfed in my humanity and prayed for the miraculous. The words of Jeremiah 29:11-14 floated through my consciousness. “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” My tears soaked into my pillow and I faded into sleep; dreamily grasping to the promise that I would be brought back home. That the future I hoped for would be given. Because this was not it. 

Two days later, I was home; the end of a twenty day trip complete. For the first time in my ten year travel career, I was in the same time zone, and slept in my own bed, for five consecutive weeks. As a contract flight attendant, this is not a win (usually) but I had signed a short-term agreement that allowed for a salary, whether home or away, in trade for being on-call 24/7. I never knew this agreement would be a favorable decision for my soul. When I had signed, I was filled with total dread. I envisioned being gone for the next eight months straight like I had been away for the previous eight, but this time, without the option to stay (as a contract corporate flight attendant you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any trip you are called to do. It’s your discretion). Salary brings with it a myriad of blessings and curses. I tried to prepare myself for what the future would hold, but never anticipated the particular challenges that would be faced. If I thought the first six months of 2019 was a rollercoaster, meet Part Deux.

Starkly contrasted to the crazy and chaotic schedule of January to June, the last few months have granted me time at home. So much time. To be honest, I crave more time and I would love it if I could have it. Being home has opened my eyes to the beauty of routine and friendships and working out at the same time every day. It’s also made me realize the amount of stress I was operating under. Quite honestly, being home has made ‘retirement’ look very appealing. When I do fly now, it’s also completely opposite to what I’ve known. In private aviation, I’m unaccustomed to the monotony of flying on one aircraft, to the “typical” destinations. I’m unaccustomed to having the time during a flight to sit down. I’m used to flying up to eight to fourteen passengers (300 when I was a commercial flight attendant)— not one or two. Never have I had it so easy, so it’s hard for me to comprehend why I just want this season to end. I don’t like the phase I’m in. Never have I wished to stay home as much as I do now. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve lost the joy I once found in my job. During the last few months, I almost lost a best friend because of work. I am so blessed for the opportunities that have presented themselves, but the secrets beneath the amazing place I find my life have included elements of darkness. These elements I can’t talk about or don’t know how to put into words without sounding like I’m complaining or trapped. Although I do not have control over a lot of things, I have control over my attitude and my choice to stay. I can own that. No opportunity or job will check all the boxes and the question comes down to, “What will you choose to sacrifice?” I go along because the choice of what I could sacrifice in place of what I spend now costs, too.

I’ve counted the days till I’m ‘free again,’ while equally dreading my unknown future. In some ways, it was almost easier to be so busy that I couldn’t even breathe. That way I didn’t have a minute to think about happiness or hell— I just needed to survive, while make it appear as if I was thriving. And then sleep. And then start it all over again. Now, I have time to question what matters to me and what I want for my future. I understand life is full of seasons and chapters; purposes and places, but I have no idea why this dropped into my world and what will be after. I accept this as a chapter in my story, a blessing, a gift but it’s been more challenging than what I can convey in words. I feel like a sell-out. Because all I really wanted to be when I became a corporate flight attendant was a writer. I haven’t written in months. 

I date at home now. I leave feeling disinterested and distracted. I want to care, to let myself fall, to invest in someone. Many times, I stop myself because I so often hope too much and fall too soon, and I’m quite honestly tired of allowing unrealized expectations to hurt me. I’m not sure I have the capacity for pilot’s license, my person, and potential job loss, but when I write that I know it’s that I’m just scared. Just a little scared to make myself move forward into a future that I am desperately dreaming for. The career adjustments that remain just on the horizon have my anxiety levels heightened. I sense I’ve stumbled past the point when I need a transition, but every opportunity I want to transition into— piloting, published book, possibility of love seem distant to impossible at best. I spend hours and hours learning to fly— wondering if I have what it takes to see this through, questioning if the time and money will be worth it. Instead of bringing my most serious self into the situations that tend to intimidate, I laugh my way through and use my bubbly personality as a decoy. I wish I had just become a pilot ten to fifteen years ago. I wish that I could really be vulnerable on that date or in that moment. I wish I could tell all of the assholes to shove it, but currently there are enough fires in California. I don’t need to add to the smoke. Lastly and most importantly, I wish that I would fight just as hard for a literary agent as I did to become a successful corporate flight attendant. This comes down to failure, acceptance, and belonging. I’m scared of facing one and all-too desperately neglecting myself for the others.

There are more questions, the crux of which lands abruptly upon the query— “Why am I here? Why am I fucking here?” It’s not easy being here. I want to learn whatever it is I’m supposed to learn so I can move on and get past the pieces of my life that I don’t like right now. I would like to think I’m not alone in this question; that we all ask in secret moments of success or perceived failure why we are alive. We ask when we miss our goals or experience rejection once again. We ask when our dream job finally becomes reality. We ask and then cover the questions and answers with smiles, perfectly plated food, and ideally pressed lipstick. We ask ‘Where do I really belong?’ when we see beyond any shadow of any doubt that— Dream jobs don’t last forever.

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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