One of the things I find most beautiful about flying is its individual nature. It means many things to many different people and is a personal passion.
I learned to fly for myself. Not for anyone else. I was lucky enough to have people and organizations support my goals so that I could pursue my dream my way. I can look back on that decision and smile every time I think about it.
I cannot say that everything I do in life is so pure. Every other aspect of my life is tainted and tinged with the influence of others, for better or worse. From the way I dress to the way I act and speak around others, I am a composite personality, a mix of myself and those around me. It's certainly not a bad thing, but it is something I take with a grain of salt. I would not entirely undo the effects others have had on me, but I do occasionally look back on my life and wonder why, perhaps, I didn't stand up for what I really thought at the time.
Sometimes that balance of my personality and others is for the best. I'm not always right, I know, and the humility I have been taught by interacting with those more experienced or knowledgeable than I am is, without a doubt, priceless. I'm grateful for all of those who have shaped me, for better or worse, out of kindness or cruelty, because they have clarified for me who I am and what I want out of life.
Despite this, I often feel like I cannot fully be me in everyday life. I'm clearly not the first to experience this, but that doesn't make it feel any better. Some days I am fraught with insecurity and self-hatred because I do not seem to fit in exactly as society would wish that I did.
That's why I connect so much with flying. It's more than just a literal escape; it is, indeed, a psychological escape. I can be me as much as I want in the airplane, and most of the time the airplane is just fine with that. In fact, sometimes being me works out quite well (on a good day)!
Ever since my first solo, I've always appreciated alone time in the airplane a lot more. It's not that I don't like flying with others, since I love sharing aviation with those around me. It is simply that I feel at peace. Everything is well and good again, and if I had to hazard a guess as to why I feel that way, I'd have to say it's because I have to be self-sufficient in the air. I can blend the influences of others into my decisions, but, ultimately, I must be the one to decide what I'll do, from whether or not I should do another touch 'n' go to whether or not I should turn back due to weather.
For once in my life, I can make a decision that is wholly my own. It is a huge growing-up experience--no one is there to catch me if I screw up, and my life (and possibly those of others) is in my own hands. You become your own harshest critic. Instead of simply wanting to be like someone else because they're popular, you begin to look deeper. Is this someone I truly respect? Are they worth emulating?
There's an oft-repeated saying that goes like this: "To some, the sky is the limit. To others it's home." Presuming you can overlook the slight corniness, it is very true. I know that I can't explain the intangible sensation I experience when the Cub levitates off the lush grass into a brilliant blue sky. I can't explain the emotion that flows freely when I look out that giant picture-window opening and view a vibrant green tapestry framed by the friendly yellow airplane that taught me so much about life and passion. I can't explain the satisfaction that comes from one of those landings where the airplane shushes onto the runway without batting an eye. I can't tell you how inexplicably lucky I feel when I wing quietly over the countryside, feeling at once both one with the airplane and one with the world around me. I cannot express the peace there is when I gaze at the world below me, free of its limits and cynicism. For a moment, I'm an optimist, gleefully and almost stupidly so. I escape to my happy place, where all is well, even on a bounced landing.
I can't tack a value on that or try to quantify it for today's bean counters. I fly because I love it.
Since when did things have to make sense? This weekend I drove 6 hours, one way, to make a skiplane fly-in. By all accounts, it was mildly insane and definitely nonsensical. Yet, if you would have called me mad as I turned out on heading, happily surveying the world from my perch, I would've wondered how you could place a value on that experience.
Oddly enough, I found myself doing a bit of math later on. I compared the cost of gas from driving back home to the cost of renting an airplane for the same time and found myself to be quite fiscally responsible (the "rental cost" I incurred for this trip is roughly equivalent to the rental rates of at least 15 years ago). But again, would it really have made a difference? Would free gas or $4/gallon gas have made that moment any less beautiful? I really don't think so.
Life doesn't have to make sense. In fact, it rarely does, so why keep trying to make it make sense?
Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the little things in life that make you happy, whether it's a sunset on the porch or from the air.
And enjoy these skiplane fly-in pictures : ) Because anyone nuts enough to fly out in that cold weather surely understands that flying doesn't need to make sense!