I am terrified of flying. It’s been that way since 9-11. It’s ironic really, considering how often I fly for work.
Over the years, I’ve developed a ritual to calm my nerves and get me breathing again every time the plane bounces around in periods of turbulence. As soon as I settle into the seat, I pray (and pray), dab on Aveda Stress Fix essential oil and, most importantly, plug my pink earbuds into my iPhone for endless hours of soothing spa music. This is a tried-and-true system. It’s the only thing that gets me through the flight.
Last week –which happened to be the time of the Super Blue Blood Moon—gifted me with another flying day. (Insert deep breath here.) I was a bit excited because it was the first time to use my new iPhone 8 on the plane. I had upgraded from an iPhone 6 a few days before the trip. What started out as my normal routine soon turned into panic as I attempted to plug in my earbuds, only to discover that the iPhone 8 doesn’t have an earbud port. Right; no earbud port.
It only got worse when the sweet older woman sitting in the aisle seat turns to me and says, “I can’t believe this plane doesn’t have television or power outlets or even WiFi working.” I felt like I was suffocating and all I wanted to scream back to her was, “I can’t believe the iPhone 8 doesn’t have an earbud port! How did I miss that? I am going to lose my mind about 15 minutes after takeoff, so be prepared.” But, I just smiled at her and responded, “I’m sure it will be a nice, smooth flight.”
I won’t lie; I thought I was going to throw up twice. I knew I had to do something, so I took out a pen and paper and decided to make a list of things I love about my career and those things I find challenging (which usually translates into things I would rather hire someone else to do). I also made a list of things I thought I would have accomplished by age 40…and I stopped at the first line, “Write a book.” It’s my greatest goal and deepest regret at age 43.
I fell in love with words in seventh grade when my English teacher assigned O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf.” Never had I felt such a human connection with an author and characters. The story stirred emotions I didn’t know words could. I knew then I wanted to be a writer.
Write a book. Hundreds of new authors are published each year, so what happened to that dream of mine? Me; I happened. Every time I start my book, I mentally compare my writing to Charlotte Bronte or Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens, and then I stop. Seriously, can you believe I compare myself to some of the greatest authors in history? The script in my mind reads, “You are not one of the greats. If you finish the book, and it isn’t perfect, you will fail. If you don’t finish the book, you won’t have to fail.”
I started reading “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck as professional development. It’s fascinating. If you haven’t read it (you should!), it’s an in-depth examination of how fixed and growth mindsets shape our understanding of learning. Early into the book, it’s clear I cling to a fixed mindset in the most intimate, personal parts of my life…and it is exhausting. I want things to be perfect. I want to succeed on the first try. I want to do things that fit my strengths. I want to be loved and liked and applauded.
Having a growth mindset—which involves trying and failing, learning new approaches and accepting help—means I must be vulnerable. Failure is hard for me, being vulnerable even harder. It means people will realize I can’t do everything, I need help, and I am not as “ideal” as they thought.
Early in my career, I once stayed up all night learning how to do basic coding on a website so I wouldn’t let my boss down. I didn’t want to disappoint him by admitting I didn’t know how. I now realize it was me I didn’t want to disappoint. If I had told my manager I needed help, he would have gotten it for me, without judgement.
It’s taken many years and countless missed opportunities to accept that that I must change my mindset. I must accept my limitations, learn new ways to do old things and love myself enough to be okay with not being perfect.
I heard on the news that Buddhists believe that whatever a person is doing during the Super Blood Blue Moon will be amplified 10x in his life in the year ahead. I hope so; I hope my life is amplified with growth and change and acceptance, as I wrote this while soaring past the recent Super Blood Blue Moon flying home.
So, while it is not a book, welcome to my first published piece. It’s a bit awkward, funny and best of all, purely (vulnerably) me.