Anyone who has known me for a long time knows I used to be afraid of flying. It was something that terrified me when I was younger. I remember winning a trip to Spain when I was 10 from Radio Disney and when they called me to tell me I won, my first question was “How long is that flight?” I was 10!
As I got older, my fear got larger until I really just couldn’t fly anywhere. I would have panic attacks on planes that were absolutely debilitating, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Just thinking about being in the air made me uneasy. I realized this fear was misplaced, I realized air travel is the safest thing in the world, but I’d be paralyzed for an entire flight. I once took a bus from Tampa, Florida back to university in Oklahoma because I couldn’t get on a plane! That’s 3 days of driving!
When I was in University, I had free counseling services available and I went to cognitive behavioral therapy once a week to try to change my mindset and my path of thinking, because NOT being able to travel was unacceptable for my chosen career. To be honest, nothing worked. I’m southern, I’m stubborn as hell, I just kind of gave up trying.
After I graduated University, I just accepted that I would never be able to fly. I started turning down job offers that would take me to other countries and my career really suffered, as did my personal happiness and well-being.
When I moved to NYC, I had my first full-time professional vocalist job offer in one week. I accepted a lead vocalist position for Carnival Cruise lines, and that meant flying. Flying ALL OVER the world. I got through a few short flights ( I couldn’t take anything over 2 hours EVER) and just dealt with the panic, but it was exhausting and hard to handle emotionally alongside rehearsals and performances. Then, my company asked to send me to Australia with the current band I was leading.
Australia was a bucket list place, somewhere I’d NEVER thought Id EVER go, especially with my fear. The flight was Dallas to Sydney. 17 hours.
I really wanted to go.
I said no, I’m sorry, I can’t. And I moved on.
But I LOVED my band. And I LOVED that job. And I’d always fancied myself as an adventurer and world traveller. I like being fearless. I needed to do this job.
After conversations with my band members, I finally typed a second email up, apologizing and accepting the position if it was still available, it was, I confirmed, and then I panicked. I did a ton of research and planned out how I was going to get through this.
The ONLY thing that I had heard worked for some people that I HADN’T tried yet, was a big commitment and kind of expensive, but I had to do something. So I learned how to fly a plane. I can fly single and double engine planes now! I don’t have a license, because that’s INSANELY expensive, but I can do it! Here’s a picture of me and my instructor:
I had such a good time with my teacher too, he was so calming, he knew my reasoning for the lessons was fear-based but he wasn’t gentle about it. He made pretty dark plane crash jokes in the air. (i.e, sucks people died, people die a lot, but what happened to the luggage though, lots of liquor in there) The way he talked about turbulence was a little rough (ha ha) but very realistic and I loved it. I’m a pretty dark-humor kind of gal, so I was automatically at ease.
One thing he said poignantly stuck with me, the first time I was supposed to land the plane without his assistance I said “This is really scary” and he said “Oh yeah. Of course it is. But scary isn’t the same as dangerous”
“Scary isn’t the same as dangerous” has become my mantra for flying and really for a lot of other things since then. It helped me get on the plane to Sydney. And god, I had a wonderful contract. I’m so glad I went. Since then, I’ve visited over 40 countries and I’ve flown to most of them (some by sea though, obviously) and I regularly fly without a problem, but I always think about it. Every single time I’m on a plane and I’m breathing calmly, regularly, just straight chillin, I feel a sense of pride and power in defeating my life-long fear. So far the plan is to be in California, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Dublin, Edinburgh, and more in 2018, so I’ll be in the sky A TON and I couldn’t be happier since I took that leap!