What Drew Me to Flying
42 years ago I was sitting on my bedroom floor playing the game Careers with my girlfriends. This was a game where we spun the wheel to land on the career of our choice. Yes… we could become a stewardess, librarian, teacher, nurse, or model! A stewardess was the career of the times.
And as luck would have it, all my friends landed on the magic spot securing the job of their dreams. Not me. As hard as I spun that wheel I could not fall on the Stewardess spot.
I proclaimed, “I don’t care if I can’t land on that spot. I don’t want to be a Stewardess anyway. I’m going to be the pilot!”
My friend said, “You can’t be a pilot.”
“You’re a girl. My Dad’s a pilot, and girls can’t be pilots.”
“Yes they can!”
“No they can’t.”
“No you can’t. You’re a girl.”
I kicked everyone out of the house, and once they were gone I ran to the kitchen and asked my mom, “Can I be a pilot?”
She said, “I don’t care what you do. Get out of the kitchen.” She may have said that I could be anything I want to be, as that was the message she had given me and my sisters throughout our lives. But she was making dinner, and a kid under foot was never a good thing. So I ran off and held fast to the mantra, “I am going to be a pilot.”
I told everyone I was going to be a pilot. My four sisters (I was the middle child) all teased me and said I couldn’t do it. But I held fast to the statement that I could be a pilot. The challenge was on.
When I was 13-years-old, I went on my first flight in a Boeing 727. My dad was taking my sisters and I to Disneyland. So I went to the cockpit to tell the pilots I was going to be a pilot. It was at that moment, when I poked my head inside and opened my mouth, that my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.
I can’t be a pilot! There are far too many instruments … buttons … knobs.
How would I learn what all those switches and knobs did? There was no way I could learn how to fly. I returned to my seat and pouted on the flight to Disneyland. I had spent my entire life telling everyone I was going to be a pilot, and there was no way I could learn how to fly.
As I stood in line for the Dumbo ride a thought crossed my mind. If an elephant could fly with a feather, certainly a girl could fly a plane. Why couldn’t I learn to fly? I would take it one day at a time. I returned home with my original intent … I would become a pilot.
I babysat, mowed lawns, weeded, did odd jobs, and saved birthday and Christmas money. Anything I could do to get money for flight lessons. When I turned 16-years-old I went for an introductory flight and the instructor gave me the plane on the runway, and talked me through a takeoff. As we rotated, and became airborne, I thought… “And they’re going to pay me to do this?” I was hooked.
The next stop… Guidance counselor’s office. I said, “I’m going to be a pilot. What do I need to do?” She said, “I don’t think girls can be pilots. I know they can’t fly in the military, so I’m not sure what to tell you.”
Ugh. So I did the next best thing I could do. I winged it, and each day I did something to continue the pursuit of getting my ratings and one day getting that dream job.
I have now had “8” dream jobs. Yes, I have loved each and every one of them. It’s been all about the journey. And honestly, that’s what I value in life~ Experiences.
What drew me to flying? Being told that I couldn’t. What made me stick to that goal despite my fear? I told everyone I was going to do it and would not eat crow. What kept me flying? Falling in love with the sky, the plane, the freedom and the responsibility on that very first flight.
One of my greatest regrets is not having photos of my early days of flying. My money was spent on flying lessons, and the thought of buying a camera had never occurred to me. But the camera has been clicking ever since. And all the photos on this post are planes that I have flown since my career has started.
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