“I don’t want to reach the end of my life and realize I’ve lived it. I wanted to live the breadth, too.” ~Diane Ackerman
I’m in the business of watching people take risks. I observe them grappling with challenges, fears, discomforts, and sometimes “firsts” in life.
As a flight attendant, I observe a lot, and sometimes I wonder if my official title should be “human observer” or “social experimenter.” It feels more accurate, or at least the part I usually enjoy the most. I think it’s passionate.
I enjoy observing and helping people through not only their living process but also their dying process.This includes everything in between. Young people aren’t the only people I care about (unfortunately, the media says only young people are the “right people”).
A few weeks ago, as I was walking to the gate at the Salt Lake City airport at the beginning of a business trip, I experienced a rather mellow exchange. An elderly woman dropped all her luggage. Her belongings included a small rolled board and a large tote bag. Her bag had her seams ripped with items she was sure she had carefully selected beforehand.
My husband, who happens to be a “human observer” from the same human observation company, was walking with me. The timing was perfect. Several items spilled as a result of her dropping her bag.
It was exactly the interaction I needed at the time.
As with any job, position, or career, given the right circumstances, it’s easy to feel “burnt out,” withered, or simply uninspired. No matter how exciting your work and life may seem to others, that is your “normal,” but it is likewise your personal responsibility to keep that flame of inspiration burning.
Similar ideas apply to what appears to be a “boring” life or a “boring” job. It could be your ultimate passion and inspiration. Either way, life and circumstances ebb and flow. Sometimes you just need to get out of your head and stop thinking about the elementary topics of your daily life.
At the time, I was pretty insensitive. I’ve been working more than usual and have had little time for reflection and self-reflection (which I need on a regular basis), let alone time at home. This interaction changed things for me in that moment and has stuck with me ever since.
It was clear she was traveling alone. Her husband started helping her with her tote bag, so I helped her pick up a dropped rollerboard load. She noticed that some of the items that had fallen out of her bag were books about French and culture. Turns out I was using spaces.
‘I’m going to Paris for a month, but this is my first trip. I’ll never forget her look, with her wrinkled, rough, detached face, her disheveled short hair, and her haphazardly put together outfit. She looked ecstatic, as if she was waiting to tell someone what adventure she was about to embark on.
As my husband worked to put some items back together, I quietly said to myself (“If you don’t put them here, they’ll fall out again”). She’s doing this—going for it. Her excitement came through to me and I couldn’t help but feel the elation in her heart.
We exchanged some extra kindnesses and helped her find her departure gate.
I wanted to be a fly on the wall (airplane “wall” or whatever) throughout her journey. I’m thinking of her now. She is conscious of the fact that she is just on her journey.
This whole exchange made me wonder, “What was it in her life that prompted this decision?” The reason she decided was, “Yeah, now is the time. I’m going for it. What do I have to lose? She doesn’t look like the typical ‘adventurer’.” I did. She wasn’t trying to be someone else.
In a modern world of young, adventurous people using Tik Tok, YouTube, and Instagram, it was refreshing to see normal, mature people just go for it. I have seen and experienced it, but I hope that someone from the younger generation who is unsure about the direction of their lives can experience it with me.
I’ve seen people who are brave and start hobbies or do things that inspire them, but I’ve also seen people who are afraid of the opposite: new things. It’s like I’m settling into the way I do things and telling myself, “Well, this is it.” This is my life now. ”
But why would you do that? It seems counterintuitive to what life should be, full of exploration and wonder. I don’t think this is a particularly new or modern concept. I don’t think it’s social media’s fault that more mature people don’t take risks or start hobbies they genuinely enjoy.
This is not to say that everyone should get on a plane and go to Paris. Traveling is not exciting for everyone. For some people, fatigue and stress probably outweigh the benefits. each independently. Perhaps your version of exploring curiosity or wonder is gardening, deciding to read more, finally getting into stand-up comedy, going out more, or that sourdough bread kit. is to delve into
You don’t have to fit into a particular theme to decide to live a life of exploration and wonder. It’s about going out (or… staying in) and doing what inspires you. It’s doing it for you, not anyone else. Other times, you need a catalyst against your will to make something happen.
I doubt that the perceived ‘negative’ that happened to our Parisian friend drove her to travel the world for the first time in a month. But I think it’s fun to explore the possibilities.
Many people may be afraid of “failure”, but what is the definition of “failure”? Does “failure” exist even if you are actively enjoying yourself and not doing it for others? There is no such thing as too much. Our lives and deaths are a constant cycle. That cycle is always in motion. you have to keep moving.
I think Paris, whom I respect, knew that. I didn’t have to have this particular conversation to know it.