If you’re like me, some days you feel like you’re making moves, meeting fascinating people who are wiser, more successful, more confident–all the things you want to be.
If you’re like me, some days you wake up and you feel bold, on a visceral level. Like you instinctively know what to do and how to do it if “someone” would give you a chance to be great. If you’re like me, you try to wake up, read affirmations, and seek to employ the wisdom of your Instagram life coach, a famous motivational speaker, to step into the unknown–to vibrate higher and attract abundance. You’re flying high, perhaps literally (thank you legal cannabis), and aiming to embody fearlessness.
And then, BAM! A “storm” appears out of nowhere, causing turbulence in your life. Sometimes it feels unrecoverable. Unfathomable.
A falling out with a close friend, an expensive car repair–adversity appears out of nowhere, putting you into a nosedive challenging your equipment. With the tragic death of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, and the other eight passengers on his helicopter, we are aware of how random and relentless the world can feel. If you’re like me, everything feels like it’s falling apart little by little. You lose lift, little by little. All the momentum you’ve gained feels like it’s fruitless.
In the early nineties, my late-father Bert would take me out to LAX airport. For what felt like hours, we would watch airplanes land and take off. I would cling to the fence with my Hi-C juice box and ham sandwich, with a perfect flat-top haircut, unconcerned with “responsibility” and “emotional intelligence,” overtaken by pure magic and wonder.
Where is that plane going?
Where did those people come from?
And who is the genius operating that huge thing? How do they do it?
It wasn’t until the loss of my dad under circumstances of elder abuse, fraud, and the subsequent existential breakdown that these questions of ‘Am I the captain or am I the passenger ‘ began to bubble to the surface as an adult. Although I was aware of the concept of life ownership, I was pushed into a state of contemplation about my life direction. I could not feel these questions physically.
I sense, many people look at their life—out the “view from their cockpit” and ask what the hell is this?! Why does my pain hurt so much more than that person over there? Why are those people so much happier, wealthier, more attractive, and more intelligent than me? Clearly, God has forgotten about me or has notably low regard for my Earthly experience.
When you start to ask these questions of “Captain vs. passenger,” you will soon realize, and hopefully understand physically, that no-one chooses their origin. We don’t get to choose who we get as parents, how much education, money, and personality they have or don’t have, nor their ability to prepare us for a world in disarray. We don’t get to choose the good or bad karma they’ve accumulated or if it will disperse in our generation. In times of trauma and adversity, like a pilot, all we can choose is our reaction and the direction we take to recover.
2019 was huge for my personal development. I decided to take a massive step by telling my story and releasing it to the world to be judged, overlooked, or cherished. I sought to start headway in establishing myself as the authority of my life/”the captain” of my life by putting the inner voice of that little boy with the perfect flat-top at the center of everything I did and freeing myself from external opinions and factors. But then, BAM!
At the end of 2019, just in time for Christmas, my (good paying) job of four years decided to eliminate my position due to budgetary concerns for 2020. When trauma strikes, it’s hard to be mindful of how far we’ve come, and I, too, forgot all the progress I had made with my past storms. I began to worry about my debts, medical coverage, or how I could exist in Downtown Los Angeles without a steady paycheck. I thought because I listened to the universe and chose vulnerability that, now, I could cruise.
Just because we take an act of courage, just because we face our demons, or we learn to assert ourselves and recover, does not mean another storm is not brewing on the horizon. The work is never complete. Celestial beauty, witnessing the curvature of the Earth above Nacreous clouds and infinite fire rainbows, comes at great expense–we must climb thousands and thousands of feet. Somehow we must exert strength and resilience while remembering our fragility. And maybe, just maybe, the turbulence we experience will actually propel us forward in a way we could never imagine.
In 2009, Captain Sully rose to prominence after making a forced water landing. A flock of geese disabled both engines of his flight. Turbulence is one thing, but not only did Captain Sully protect all 155 people on-board, but he saved himself.
So, there will inevitably be occurrences in our life that challenge our flight or go full throttle and knock us out of the sky. Every moment we remain airborne is practice for the next unknowable moment. My tests have come in the form of death within my first-degree circle and reconciling years of emotional neglect. For you, it may be coping with childhood abuse, an illness, divorce, or a significant geographical move.
If Captain Sully’s story has any takeaway, it’s that even when we are knocked out of the sky by something catastrophic, and our equipment has doubtlessly failed, and the ground is coming closer, we have still been gifted with a fail-safe.
We can act deliberately with a sense of responsibility. We can acknowledge that spending too much time judging occurrences can cause more disaster. We can choose to prioritize the lessons and preparation yielded from our unique origin and journey, and our trust in that preparation. While Captain Sully is an extreme example, it’s important to note that he spent more time in the “how do I…” than “why did this occur to me…” Maybe there is no why. There’s just sky and journeys.
So dear reader, if human life is anything like plane flight–magical, unusual, fast, remember above all else, you were born to fly. When turbulence strikes, turn on the fasten seat belt sign, remain calm and tap into the lessons of your origin, your journey, and where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
Previously Published on LinkedIn