His frosted hair, styled like Einstein, fell sideways, and he looked at me with squinted eyes as if trying to understand how a bubbly and quick-talking American girl landed at his shop. He resembled a scientist, creative and eccentric, when he explained how colors mixed to create the shades splashed across his surfboards. He shaped boards for over forty years from this studio, from a corner of Sydney where I lived (as of approximately three weeks before). I hadn’t moved for a surfboard. I came for a job.
Well, that’s not precisely true. The truth was— a couple of years before stumbling into a surfboard shop in Sydney, I fell in love.
Less than twenty-four hours shy of my 34th birthday, tall blue eyes stared at me from the bottom of the jet stairs. I didn’t realize until later that it was the moment when my well-thought-out plans and future of what I would ‘do and be’ next went ‘unda’— completely submerged in the unexpected meeting of an Australian pilot and an American flight attendant. In Hawaii, both halfway between homes.
For years I fantasized about meeting ‘my person,’ praying he was in the world somewhere. I flitted from date to date and hopeful love interest to heartbreak. My love life resembled my flight schedule. Quick, intense, with incredible highs which landed in reality again, quickly. Although I wanted love, I didn’t devote the energy needed to create a meaningful and sustainable relationship. My career was on fire, I justified.
There were benefits to being single. The most magical years of flying were when travel was my focus and climbing the ladder my desire. When I could throw my entire self into the job and the destination, free to experience each day, fully. In that place and that place only. Nothing pulled me home except the surf, and surf I could find in many places. Nothing but travel held my heart.
Yet, that would change, and it shouldn’t have surprised me how naturally he and love transformed my priorities.
“Yeah, I used to be a flight attendant on private jets, but I don’t do that now. I work in another career.” My hand trailed along the railing of a six-foot surfboard as my words floated through the woodshed. Einstein, whose name was Paterson, stared at me. Deliberate and unhurried, he responded in a comforting Australian drawl, his r’s soft. His e’s long and open.
“Private jets, heeeey? That sounds interesting.”
A smile teased my face. No one ever stops anyone to say, “Oh heeeey. Your desk job sounds cool.”
“Yeah. Private jets can be pretty good,” I acknowledged. It was always easier to play along with what people were interested in than to give the full grit of it.
I sensed a whimsy in my voice. I sounded like I was speaking about an old boyfriend when I spoke of private jets. A love I knew I once held dear but no longer connected as deeply to. A tone thankful, full of reminiscing, lacking the interest to rekindle any romance.
I can still take flights. It would be easy to go back. But why? What else do I need to prove there? What do I have to give there anymore? Just because its gone now, doesn’t mean that won’t change in the future. Just because I’m struggling with a new type of work environment, doesn’t mean it’s bad or I’ve failed or I made a wrong. I’m learning. That’s not always pretty. With that Paterson and I turned our attention back to dusty aqua and fiberglass.
I have a big thank you to the Tall-Blue Eyed Australian. If it wasn’t for him, I would still be at 45,000ft. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be testing who I am beyond an airplane career or questioning what matters most. I am not embarrassed to say that I could not have done this on my own. Rather, I am blessed because I don’t have to do this anymore on my own.
I wanted to step away from the skies but could not find the momentum or courage until I found love and a new job in a location where aviation jobs are not readily available. The new job may be a wash, but I am so lucky he chose me. I didn’t get here because I was smart or deserve to have a love story like this. I think I’m here because Someone, God, is really looking out for me (and you). I believe the Universe, the Creator, wants us to have a life beyond our wildest dreams— especially in moments when all seems lost.
Today, I walked down the street in my neighborhood. The birds sang, and the winter sun brightened a chilly day, “I love this area,” I thought to myself. I didn’t know I could love a place as much as I loved Redondo Beach. Tonight, I cried big alligator tears because I’m not sure I’m a fit for the job. Alone in a big house, my tears translated into a sad, pathetic text to him. He called and didn’t tell me that I would be just fine or that I was overreacting (which honestly was probably true to either one). He never says those types of things, though. Instead, he reiterates statements like, “It’s a big thing what you did, moving here.” He whispers in unexpected minutes, “I’m proud of you.”
And for those of you who brush it off that you’ll always be single, let this story be a lighthouse of hope in a very cutthroat career and dating world.
For a very long time, I wanted someone to really care about what was going on in my life— whether together or apart. And I tear up as I write this not because I miss the skies but because love has asked more of me than I believe I have within. More strength, more kindness, more resilience, more forgiveness, more understanding, more patience, more compromise.
I don’t know if I have enough in me to give 3000% to my job, 3000% to relaunching this website, 3000% to my partner who deserves the best I can give, and 3000% to writing a book. I am small and I am human, and I really just want to be the best version of myself I can be. Somedays, that version is a little glitchy and not that great. But so we keep choosing to be and get better.
Love has asked that I choose, freely, what matters. It’s questioned, ”What investment will you make into the life that you say you want?” There are no fairytale love stories or fairytale careers. Only real human beings doing the very best they can with what they know and sometimes, what they know is not very much at all.
Saying yes to love required choices that I’m glad I didn’t need to face until I was in my 30s. I find myself filled with uncertainty, not for my relationship but for what I should do next with my life. I am absolutely free to choose— but how do I know what to choose if I have only seen one perspective. If I only know the view from 45,000ft?
So, is it worth it dropping a six-figure career, dreams of becoming a professional pilot, your favorite pink surfboard and cutest apartment and family dog for a man you adore and for job you don’t much care for (yet)? A job that makes you moderately annoyed with Monday to Fridays? I don’t know. I would probably advise most not to do what I’ve done. But, I would do it again. 1000 times I would fall in love with him all over again.
I gambled on the best person in the world. It’s possible that I got the new job wrong, but I’m ok with that. I feel luckier than most to have had a global career of adventure AND a love like this in the same lifetime. I never thought God and I would come so far.
I am grateful for the chance to work from home, but I’ve found it (so far) to be about as fun as the 405 at 5 pm (or anytime of day for that matter) or as enjoyable as gas prices. On the flip side, a girl like me can happily learn to brave the 405 and gas prices for kitesurfing in Malibu. Hell yes to lights at the end of the tunnel:)
So maybe, the moral of the story is you don’t really need to LOVE your job. You can simply love the lifestyle that it allows you to lead…
Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.