Ready to fly, waiting on gate agents to check in. Another whirlwind trip, spur of the moment, but I think I’m properly prepared. This feels normal to me anymore, comfortable. After growing up on two coast more or less simultaneously, tripping across the expanse of the country several times each year, this kind of mobility, this ease I feel for the act of jumping on a jet and being whisked off to a distant locale is now just a part of me, second nature almost. The fluidity with which I navigate security checkpoints, gate assignments, new airport layouts, and all the hassles of rapid transportation is ingrained in me.
Thinking realistically, I’ve gotten on a plane at least four times every year since I was three years old. I’m not going to do the math because I hate math and, at this point, I really kind of hate flying. These days I much prefer to drive myself, or failing that, to take a train. Unfortunately, this time around I don’t have the time. It is roughly 6 p.m. on a Sunday and I have to be back tomorrow by midnight.
When I was a kid, though, I loved to fly, and my favorite parts were the take-off and landing. The rushing feel of G force exerted on the body, the feel of my body moving at speeds for which it was never intended to handle, when I was young, was exhilarating. Now, I find myself cringing, clenching my muscles, as if I could somehow control the action of the plane through my own physicality. Maybe that’s just one of the effects of aging.
In my 34th year, I’m finding myself wondering if each of us individually has some kind of limit, a lifetime aggregate for this kind of experience, a number beyond which we are only pressing our luck. Reason tells me this is ridiculous, and that’s when I begin to wonder if this just the beginning of that fear which persists and turns idealists into conformists, a malady particularly notable in aging hippies-turned-yuppies and, in general, the boomer generation.
The way I grew up left me, I think, with a unique perspective on life in general and ideas of permanence and community in specific. Army brats have a similar experience. But the fundamental difference is in the return. I never stayed in one place or the other for more than two years, but whereas army families might move to a new place with similar frequency, I returned every few years to a place I had left behind, picking up lapsed relationships, attempting to fill the gaps time had pried between. Whereas your typical army brat will constantly have to form new relationships, I had to attempt to resume relationships that had changed, sometimes fundamentally. I was never the same on my returns and neither were my friends, and the only commonality we had was what we had shared in the past. This left rifts which, while not entirely detrimental and very rarely addressed, were palpable and fundamental.
Now, waiting in this deli storefront for boarding to begin, to get on two planes to go through three states to see my daughter for her 7th birthday, I am keenly aware of the perpetuation of a cycle. My parents split when I was 3 years old, moving to opposite sides of the country to live very different lives. My daughter’s mother and I split up shortly after my daughter’s third birthday and have moved in very different directions, both in life and in locality.
We go with what we know, usually. That much seems obvious. Ideally, though, we learn from the mistakes of the past, and yet, resonance always seems to inform our decisions in the present. Maybe it’s not fair to say that we are thralls of the past, but can I claim that observation to be entirely inaccurate? (1/10/16, 5:30 PM, PST)