Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Things that inspire: Teacher Movies

Mr. Holland's Opus. Akeelah and the Bee. Lean on Me. Remember The Titans. To Sir, With Love. These are some of my favorite movies because they always leave me feeling good at the end of them. Teachers standing up for their students. Teachers doing the right thing. Teachers going that extra mile because they care that much.

Every time I watch these I feel great on one had and crappy on the other. I had thought when I was younger that I wanted to be a teacher. There was something so admirable about the profession. Imparting knowledge to others? Noble, in my view.  The teachers I knew and admired made such a huge impact on my life.  They each instilled in me something different. A love of school, a love of books, a love of writing, a love of theater, and a love of music. Along with the love, they imparted upon me an appreciation of each of those things as well. How huge is that??? So the crappy part comes from me not following that instinct to become a teacher.

Who's to say that teaching isn't in my future still? Perhaps it can be my second-life career. I just know that watching those movies inspires me in a way nothing else does. To think of myself having that impact on others--the way teachers did for me--makes me want to do more in my life. I want to be a better person after watching those movies.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What scares me? Flying

I have never been what you could call a calm flyer.  I wouldn't ever freak out or have panic attacks, but I was always nervous during takeoffs and landings.  Then about 3 years ago I had a pretty traumatic (for me) experience landing in Denver.

I was coming back from Vegas in mid July. Our flight was scheduled to land at 6:30. Upon our descent, when we were fairly close to the ground, the plane was coming in more nose-down and moving in every single direction. Side to side, up and down (both wing to wing and nose to tail).  The best way for me to describe it would be to liken the plane's movements to a gyroscope.  The engines ramped up and we ascended. After about 5 minutes, the pilot came over the intercom and told us that we had too strong of a tail wind and were coming in too steep and too fast. He said he would make our next approach from the opposite direction, but we would have to wait our turn and would have to circle for about 20 minutes.  As a bit of a nervous flyer to begin with, this was one of the last things I wanted to hear. But I tried to calm myself and tell myself we'd be on the ground soon enough.

Second approach: the plane starts doing the exact same thing. Moving in a way I've never experienced a plane moving before, and once again coming in with the nose of the plane more at a downward angle.  We were getting lower and lower when I hear the engines ramp up once again and we ascend after our second aborted landing attempt.  This time the lights in the cabin get turned off and the pilot says nothing. There are no reassuring words of what happened and what we were doing.  We again circle the airport, and where there were noises of chatting and people talking after the first aborted landing, it was now dead quiet in the cabin.  I looked to the seats next to me and there are two women sitting in the middle and window seats gripping onto each other's hands, eyes closed, mouths moving in what I assumed was prayer.  I looked behind me across the aisle (this is a Southwest plane and the seat rows don't line up across the aisles) and there was a gentlemen there. I asked him how he's managing to stay so calm and he looked at me and said, "I just try not to think about it." He then lifted his hand to pat my shoulder and added, "It'll be okay."  That brought me a tiny bit of relief, but as we kept circling, I kept wondering why the lights were out and why the pilot wasn't letting us know what happened that second time. In my head I was sure that something really horrible was going on and the pilot didn't want to tell us.  I started talking to my deceased father in my head and told him, "Well, dad...I guess I'm coming to see you."  I had never been so terrified, convinced I was going to die alone.  Well, among strangers but without anyone I loved there to be with me.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably about 30 minutes or so, we started making our third descent of the evening. This one was picture perfect. The plane wasn't doing any weird gyrations, the nose was more up than down, and we landed fairly softly on the runway.  The whole plane erupted into applause and I burst into tears.  After taxiing and deplaning, I made my way to the baggage claim and tried to convince myself that I was being a big ol' baby about the whole thing. I was still a big wigged out, but kept telling myself that I was just overreacting.  I got on the shuttle bus to the parking lot where my car was and there was a couple on the shuttle that also happened to be on my flight.  I hear the guy telling his companion that he's flown hundreds of thousands of miles and has never had an experience like that with two aborted landings.

Ever since that day I have been a very scared flyer.  Seeing a plane in the sky, hearing a plane pass overhead, watching a movie with a flight scene all make my stomach clench up in knots.  I have flown on two trips since that very bad flight. Each one has been just about more than I can handle.  Drinking massive quantities of alcohol helped on one of the trips, but I know that's a very poor solution to my problem.  I have another flight coming up in 9 days and I am trying to be calm about it.  I have downloaded some relaxation exercises specifically designed for fearful flyers. I am hoping it helps.