I’ve never classified myself as “strong.” In fact, I’m probably the most nervous, easily-frightened person I know. I am afraid of the dark. I am afraid of the sun. I am afraid of unfamiliar people, surroundings and situations. I am the first person to say, “Guys, I don’t think this is a good idea” and the last person to jump the fence. But for some reason, I’m strangely calm in situations where I think I might die.
I have been faced with the fear of death only twice: the first time, I’m not comfortable explaining publicly as of yet, but the second time was when I got hit by a car at 19. In the latter situation, I spent about 30 seconds wondering if I was dead, if my neck was broken, if I was bleeding. And then I got up and walked home and called an ambulance for myself. Obviously, I wasn’t injured badly enough that I couldn’t walk, so that certainly came into play, but these situations did teach me something: I cry when I fall down the stairs, but not when I get hit by cars or punched in the face or when I think the plane might go down.
About three weeks ago, I moved to New York City from Portland. Growing up, my father was a soccer coach, so we traveled constantly; that combined with my decision to go to college 2,500 miles away from my hometown resulted in having a lot of experience with flying. I’ve stayed overnight more than once next to gates, I have the perfect carryon bag mapped out to a science and I know how to navigate Chicago’s airport down to structuring my layovers like bar crawls. I am never nervous when we take off, nor land, unless I’m anxious about seeing somebody in particular at the airport (good or not-as-good).
During my redeye from LAX (where I stopped for a visit during my move) to JFK in New York, we started experiencing a bit of turbulence. It was the middle of the night so many people were asleep; I myself had been gently dozing off with a complimentary vodka cranberry in hand due to my designated television monitor not working. All the babies — as per usual on a redeye, there were like 10 of them screaming during take-off — had fallen into adorable slumbers. The woman to my right was snoring.
The jolt woke up a few people, but they quickly fell back asleep after a few minutes. Then, another jolt. The seatbelt sign went on and those in the bathrooms moseyed on back to their seats. Suddenly, a heavy bout of turbulence caused the plane to start shaking. The captain came on the speakers and told everyone to sit down and buckle up. Babies started crying, Even the flight attendants looked a little nervous, gripping the seats around them as they made sure everyone was sitting with their belts secured. The plane continued to rock, so much so that for a moment, my drink literally flew out of its glass up into the air and splashed back down. Babies began wailing, people started getting visibly frightened and I could see two women crying and praying.
Maybe it was the continuous turbulence, or maybe it was the fact that two drinks holds a bit more punch when you’re up in the sky and haven’t eaten in hours, but for a few minutes, I started asking myself some questions. They were weird, sad and confused, but mostly, they were surprising. I consider myself generally aware of how I feel regarding my life, but some of these made me wonder if I was as enlightened on myself as I’d thought.