There are some car rides that hold a special significance—the ride after a long day at work, or maybe the drive back to your house after a flight. The longer you’ve been away, the more tantalizing the drive itself is. But before you travel along those familiar bends and past the childhood landmarks, you have to get yourself through the flight. For many people, this probably isn’t a problem. Maybe a flight is even enjoyable—but not for me.
You see, it’s been quite a while since I last enjoyed getting on a plane. Every once in awhile, that old wonder that originally accompanied even the mention of the word ‘airplane’ will come back in a flash—usually when flying through a particularly fluffy cloud, or at night when the lights of the city that you’re flying over look like pulsing veins filled with gold—but for the most part, that sense of wonder is harder to grasp. Instead of leaning toward the window, I lean into the aisle and avert my eyes from the sickening distance that grows between the plane and solid ground as the flight takes off. My knuckles are likely to turn white if they stay tightly clenched in my lap, and I have to actively distract myself from the thoughts of everything that could go wrong. Even touchdown doesn’t fully calm my nerves, because there’s still the chance that the plane could tip over as it deaccelerates, cartwheeling across the blacktop of the runway. It is only when the gigantic contraption has come to a full stop that I can feel the tension loosen in my back, and usually realize that I have been clenching my jaw for the past couple of hours.
In some ways, this stress has eased slightly since starting school. It isn’t that the frequent flights have dulled my sense of paranoia (if anything, flying more actually increases the chances of a fiery death plummeting from the sky, right?), it’s more that when I fly to and from school, I tend to fly alone. Flying alone means that my family and my friends are safely where I left them, and that is what sets my mind at ease.
And although this vein of thinking is by no means uncommon—I have heard of many families who take separate flights for family vacations just to prevent the unthinkable—it almost seems like a strange form of selfishness. While you are resigned to your fate, what about the people that you leave behind? But who knows, the question is kind of pointless because in the end you just need to get from point A to point B, and if you’re taking a plane that’s that. Whatever you tell yourself to get through the flight doesn’t really matter.
Comforting yourself with the potential of your own isolated death gets a bit morbid after a while. The repetition of resigning yourself to whatever horrible fate could occur (or could just as easily never take place) starts taking its mental toll. I needed something new to get me through those flights, especially when I was heading back to school—a direction that, despite the amazing friends it contained, inevitably led to the particular stresses and anxieties that face students. Not that student stress is even worth complaining about in the scheme of life problems, but any stress is stress. It’s an evolutionary technique abused by our modern psyche, because we can physiologically place the grade of a paper on same disaster level as death by hyena.
Anyway, I began focusing on the ride after the flight. After getting through baggage claim, you can hop into a cab and get a completely unique view of the city that you whiz through. You see it like a tourist might for the first time, and sometimes, it isn’t the prettiest view. On the way back from Logan, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of brutalist concrete overpasses that you drive under, but maybe you’ll also notice the colorful graffiti emblazoned on the walls.
If you can get out of your own head, that ride home from the airport is always beautiful in a way. It’s definitely something worth looking forward to.
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor