Being a flight attendant became part of my identity almost instantly. I started flying with an international airline about a year ago. In that short amount of time, I climbed The Great Wall of China in Beijing, spent el dia de los muertos in Mexico City, sunbathed at the beach in Australia in the middle of December, got to drink an absurd amount of delicious coffee in San Francisco and had scones along with English Breakfast tea in London. I also had to visit the emergency room in South Korea and had to stay behind as I watched my crew fly back to our base. Between the lack of sleep, the foreign foods and the exhaustion of fitting in one more trip to make ends meet, my body had given up on me. I was not invincible, and this job was demanding.
But, I loved it.
I loved tying up my red scarf in a bow around my neck. I loved welcoming people to dozens of different cities on the PA. I loved discovering those cities. I loved having my mom iMessage me to inquire about my whereabouts. Was I home, in London or on my way to Los Angeles? She even started to refer to my destinations as airport codes. That made me smile. I would lie if I said I didn’t like having everybody I met ask me about my job and listen with wide eyes As I told them about yesterday’s hike in Sydney. More importantly, For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. I felt at ease and competent. I felt connected to my colleagues. That’s probably because nobody can understand the reality of cabin crew life until they’ve lived it. That ought to bring us together— we simply get each other. So, when I was unable to return to work, I felt like a part of me was taken away.
Since our position is considered to be safety sensitive, getting back to work after fainting twice in the span of a few months was a nightmare. I was asked to see multiple doctors, to go through all sorts of tests and to have my mental health assessed. Three times the company refused to send me away again. I was grounded. I wanted to take-off and land somewhere new again. So bad. A little ironic since just a few weeks prior to that, I felt drained and contemplated finding a new career; wondering how long I could keep up with this lifestyle.
As I finally got my “fit to fly” signed by the doctor and am packing my suitcase, making sure I have the list of everyone’s favourite British chocolates and fixing my wings on my heart, I am grateful. So, so, so grateful for this life of mine, and I promise to make a point to always remember this very moment when the job gets tougher. I also promise to remember that it’s perfectly ok not to work the extra hours.
Being a flight attendant is tough. It is wonderfully fulfilling at times and soul-crushing some days. It is lonely yet enables you to meet amazing people from all corners of the world. It is not for everybody and maybe not for always, but once you’ve taken flight, it is the hardest thing to live with both feet on the ground.