“Awwww— I don’t like seeing you like this,” he said with concern in his voice. I pursed my lips and sighed.

Just be happy.

Find what you can be thankful for in this situation.

Practice patience.

I repeat this to myself daily. I chastise myself for complaining about my first world problems. I wonder whether this is the time buckle up and put my head down or take a leap and make some waves. Because, right now, I’m just going through the motions

You know that feeling when you are “over” something? You know that feeling of “being here,” but in fact, you are already gone? It’s that sense you get when a relationship has transitioned from vibrant and beneficial to taxing and uncertain. It’s that sense of ‘knowing’ that time (and a certain experience) has changed everything. You can’t walk into the same world— in the same way— because, you are not the same. It’s not that you are too good for this place or for your relationship, it’s that you have evolved; while the relationship or place has not. You proved something to yourself and that changed everything. What you needed to do is done, and although you have a lot more to learn, you have a sense that your best learning is elsewhere. You have a sense, and yet, you wonder— “Is this the time to commit more deeply, invest more fully, and find your way through; or is this the moment to exit what has ‘run its course?’”

SkyAngels Kara Mulder

I have my eyes lasered on the nearest exit, but really, is this just “mile 17;” a period of time that every marathon runner must face to reach mile 26.2? Is this just ‘mile 17’ in my life where pressing on— whether that be gracefully, frantically, or barely— is actually ‘enough.’ That no matter how prepared you were for mile 17, it’s just hell. Always. No matter how many mile 17’s you have faced in your running career, that mile doesn’t get any easier. It may not get easier, but something about it becomes easier with every decision you have made to face it. The most difficult miles of life become easier, not because they are, but because we know the feeling of elation that crossing the finish line brings with it. We know that we were ‘strong enough’ once, so we will be ‘strong enough’ again. 

I don’t run marathons, but Alex does. He’s the one who told me that he didn’t like seeing my discouraged state of being. It’s not how he usually sees me, or who I usually am, but I am in this “Mile 17 thing.” I am hating most seconds of it. I recently developed a new habit where I cry on my way to work. I really, really don’t know how and when this mile of my life will pass. I extremely despise this grounded 9-to-5 life of minimum wage and boring everyday days. Granted, that doesn’t mean I am not grateful. It means I am frustrated.

I realize that my tears may be dramatic, but the benefit is that, (hopefully) by the time my hour-and-a-half commute is over, I leave my tears in the car. I step into work with as much devotion as I can muster. To be honest, it hasn’t been that much recently. I’m over my relationship. I do everything I can to work hard and be grateful and see the benefit of all of it, but I am beyond ready to fly. I am annoyed by the slow pace, but what I need to remember about this “mile 17 thing”— who really cares if the pace is slow as long as it’s going? At least this place allows me to kind of keep ‘going.’

Mile 17 means you are closer to the end than the beginning. Mile 17 means you just made it through hours and hours of training and hours of hours of running. Mile 17 means you would be an idiot to quit running now. It means you are close. It means you are in progress and not perfection. It means— ugly or pretty— if you keep running, you’ll hit mile 18, mile 19; 20, 21, and eventually, that heavenly Mile 26.2.

It’s not that you are required to like mile 17, but you will always be required to face it. 

Griffin Bruehl

I may hate mile 17. I may not look good running through this part of my life. To me, it feels like I’m barely walking at this point. I’m putting one foot in front of the other, and sometimes, the smile I play is more closely representative of a grimace. Sometimes, I hate myself for the marathon goal of a career change. Sometimes, I question if I trained all wrong, left too soon, and am too fucking impatient and too damn sensitive. Sometimes, all of that is true, but I’m showing up. I’m trying to show up. I’m trying to keep stepping forward. I’m trying. I’m sorry that my trying isn’t as energetic as miles 1-7.

To get through mile 17, you need people in your life who believe in you and see the finish line when you don’t. At least, I know I need that. I talk to Griffin, Cliff, Alana, or Nicole. They tell me, “You are doing everything right. Just keep doing it.” They remind me of who I am when I show up as ‘my best self.’ And then, there are all of you who I don’t know personally, but who continue to shower me with encouragement. You are always on the sidelines cheering me on. Thank you. Really, truly— THANK YOU!

So, put your head down, find that smile (or the grimace), and dig deeper than you ever have before. Not even mile 17 can hold you back if you continue to look forward. You will win. Mile 17 is just a moment; never a lifetime. 

Wish Tattoo Airline Tattoo

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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