It feels trendy— flight attendants becoming pilots. It is also an intelligent decision at the moment as private jet companies and airlines struggle to find experienced professionals to match the growing demand and pending retirement parties. So, do I want to become a pilot?” Hmmphhhh…

I don’t even know.

I’m currently taking flight lessons. “How many hours do you have? How close are you to soloing? Have you taken your written yet?” my professional pilot friends ask. Don’t hold you breath. I don’t even know how to read sectional charts or can completely remember what parts of the airspace are included in that upside-down cake analogy. Can I just eat some cake instead? Becoming a pilot sounds sweet upon initial bite, but you don’t even know how much these men and women sacrifice to make a jet-setting metal tube their office.

Becoming a pilot is time. Becoming a pilot is money. Becoming a pilot is sacrifice. Becoming a pilot means you should love flying with every fiber of your being. Honestly, I don’t know if I want to become a pilot. I don’t know if I have what it takes. I love aviation, but do I love it enough?

Being a pilot is not about the money. It’s not about the destinations. It’s not about looking hot in your uniform (Side note: Are pilot uniforms even hot, tho?). It’s not about just doing the next thing after living ‘Flight Attendant Life.’ It’s about loving something so much that you can’t see yourself doing anything else.

I wrestle with why I didn’t figure out what to do with my life when I was fourteen like my brother. He always wanted to be a pilot. His surety pushed me in another direction. I wanted to be different. I could never compete with how skilled and dedicated he would be as an aviator, so I wouldn’t even try. I got a degree in marketing and the only reason I ever went into aviation was because no one else would hire me. I could not do anything else than aviation! Ha. And somehow the biggest surprise of my life happened and I landed the best job I could have never imagined. Welcome to ‘Flight Attendant,’— an existence that came, not out of love, but desperation. An existence that my love for continues to inspire and capture me, even on the worst of day. I said at eighteen I would hate being a flight attendant, and here I am, ten years in with such varied experiences and insight. I know the good. I know the bad. I know the lonely and the lovely.

Do I know too much about aviation to become a pilot?

Weirdly, I cry as I write this because I don’t know if I can make it or if I can keep making it in a job that takes me away all of the time. I don’t know if I can handle the long-road to professional aviator. Go through the grind another time? But, with more skin in the game? I think about how much I’m away now. How I long for a family someday and being home. I’m thirty-three, and so that home and family and settled existence seems at odds with any major travel-career aspirations. It’s not like we really have all the time in the world. Babies and airplanes and suitcases? Sigh. No one should really do something like ‘piloting’— in your mid-thirties— on a whim…right?

I make six-figures as a contract corporate flight attendant and busted my ass to reach this point. But, it’s not secure. It’s not safe. It’s a fucking hustle and it always feels as if on the brink of collapse. Transitioning my flight duties to forward seems like a logical career move. Besides, if I love the cabin so much, the cockpit can’t be that much different? At least I get the crazy lifestyle already.

In the moments I feel like I’m succeeding at my flight lessons— landings are looking better or I’m retaining the concepts that I’m reading about— I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness. The thought that keeps me trying and keeps piloting on my radar is the simple statement: “That was actually really fun.” I enjoy learning. It’s only that I struggle hard to balance getting my private pilot’s license and training with my corporate flight attendant career, marketing job, writing, friends, dating, kitesurfing, sleeping, eating, working out…living. There is just so much happening. I continue to try to do everything all at once and all that really happens is me feeling like I’m constantly failing.

I’m not the type that takes one thing at a time. I get overwhelmed looking at the scope and enormity of all of my goals. I have valid reasons for pursuing aviation ratings. First of all, I basically have the red carpet rolled out in front of me to make professional piloting a career attainment. Dad has his CFI. Dad bought an airplane. Dad spends his time teaching me. Really, all I need to do is show up and pay for gas. I would be stupid to not take advantage of the opportunities presented. Second, I can’t stand the volatility in my current career field. It infuriates me the lack of rights and respect corporate flight attendant receive at times. Third, I think it would be really fun someday to just fly King Air’s or baby planes around as a part-time gig in conjunction with writing.

I want to be a pilot, but I don’t know if I want to be a pilot enough. Is it enough to want to use a piloting career to support my writing career? Is it enough to be curious at how different a pilot’s job is from a flight attendant’s job. Is it enough to simply want the experience and to see this aviation world in one more way? Commercial flight attendant, corporate flight attendant, and then pilot. This will give me insight that I don’t understand yet and I want to understand. Who better to tell the story than me?

Judge me for it, but I care more about the story. I care more about learning. I care more about growth. So, if that means “pilot,” “producer,” “author,” “mom,” — ok… let’s just make it a great adventure.

Most of the time, you hear from career pilots that flying is all that they have ever wanted to do. That was my brother. That was my dad. That is probably the majority of my pilot friends who have made flying a career. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. What if some people are just different and we don’t discover at two years old our purpose? Instead, the epiphany of direction arrives in seasons of soul-searching, lasts for a few years, and then morphs into another opportunity. We are the souls that have a hodge-hodge of titles and meandering stages that doesn’t seem to matter, but truly, it does. Everything is a building block and stepping stone. Everything can teach you if you choose to let it. It also might not make sense right now.

Mark Manson, who is neither a pilot, flight attendant, or remotely connected to the aviation industry has a theory when it comes to life, love, and relationships. It’s that any decision you face— if it’s not a ‘Fuck yes’ then it’s a no. If you aren’t resoundingly engaged and excited about being in that relationship, doing that job, or taking your life in a certain direction, you have your answer. We waffle often in indecision, but really, we know what we want.

In this situation, I want to disagree with Mark. I’m not sure what I’m saying ‘Fuck yes’ to in my life. I love my life. It’s so great and wonderful, but the truth is, I’m fucking exhausted. I can’t really say ‘Fuck yes’ when I don’t have the energy for that.

I want to be a pilot, but the realism of this path is foreboding. I already know that piloting is not an ultimate goal or the endgame. It just seems like a much better option and way to support the other dreams I have. I feel guilty for this. I feel guilty that I’m not a diehard pilot geek, want to stay in one of the most competitive and lucrative jobs, that of “corporate flight attendant, or tell people all the time that, “I can’t wait to travel.”

No. No. I just don’t want one thing for my life and simply want a good life. A meaningful life. A life that makes others dream and believe and see that there is beauty. I also want to be really good at what I do. My lack of time and the way the last four months have had me on overdrive have me feeling like I’m not good at much (and yet, “I’m killing it.” That’s what most would tell you). “Pick one thing,” I think to myself. “Just one.”

And I can’t pick just one. Because ‘flight attendant life,’ without writing, without kiting, without love, without piloting, without all the things that make me, “me,” are pointless. We never exist in just one world or live only in one box. Boxes don’t fit my dreams or my personality. Maybe they don’t fit your style either. You are multi-dimensional and multi-amazing. You don’t have to do one thing, be one way, or work in one field your entire life.

My brother and dad tell me that I just need to be confident with my flying. That I’m doing really well. I know that they have a valid point. I just want to give this goal more than I have right now, because so many aviators have given their life to become pilots. Becoming a pilot is something to respect and admire. I just want you to know that I do admire you, Pilots. Thank you for working hard to do what you do.

Ten years from now, I don’t want to look back at this tear strewn blog and think, “I should have just kept working towards that goal.” No matter how faraway, impossible, or unattainable it seemed in the moment. So, I’m not making super huge strides toward piloting, but I see progress. Maybe the first thing I can do is be a little more kind to myself. Accept the fact that it’s all part of the adventure and the learning. It’s all part of growing up— even at thirty-three.

For all of those who have lived and breathed and dreamed over ‘A Pilot Life,’ I respect and admire and appreciate you beyond what you will ever know. You encourage, support, and inspire so many. I don’t know if I have that. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but for now, I’ll keep learning.

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.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}