Life Lessons of Aviation Part 4

Ah, all the late nights and schedule challenges, unexpected cash outflow, thick manuals scattered throughout the house, a suitcase never completely unpacked, plans changing at a moment’s notice, an atmosphere of uncertainty and lingering questions…what I had thought would be compartmentalized into a few years of airline training and initial job transitioning for James as an airline pilot has become a regular daily reality we’re living within instead.

I can see where this constant state of fluctuation would be very hard for individuals and their immediate families who were not already familiar to the nature inherent within the career of an airline pilot, especially in the situation of these days and times similar to what so many military families are experiencing as well. James and I were fortunate though, to have many friends and even family members in the airline industry who gave us much good advice and perspective as we went into this second career and radical midlife lifestyle change. One of the best pieces of advice we received from almost everyone we chatted with was, “Choose where to live and realize that James’ll be constantly commuting from there.”

With several domiciles now under his belt including Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte and New York/JFK, we’re so glad that we took this piece of advice to heart. Yes, it’s been very tempting at times for sheer convenience sake, to move to wherever he’s flying out of but we’re thankful that instead we’ve put down some deep roots here on this sleepy little lowcountry island instead. Some commuting has indeed been difficult, especially the two-leg flights to get to work and when his domicile shifted from being in the south to being up north, entailing a crash pad but we chose to look at this current JFK domicile as an opportunity to really enjoy being around the greater Manhattan area and it’s actually turned out quite pleasurable. Our last recent time there together, where I met up with James in JFK, we decided not to go into the city but rather to spend more time around the Kew Gardens area where his crash pad is---enjoying the European bakeries and tiny boutique shops where almost all of the merchandise had labels in foreign languages I couldn’t understand, enjoying lunch in an Italian café watching international soccer on television with a bunch of Russians cheering on their favorite team, walking around looking at all the Olde’ English style Tudor houses, Cambridge-styled towering brick apartment buildings, pretty gardens tucked in here n’ there along the side walked streets and stepping into a small stone Episcopal church that looked like it was taken right out of some tiny Cotswold village of England. What a wonderful time that was and how surprising to me to find through James’ most recent domicile change that in the middle of Queens, New York there’s this place with a very European flavor both literally and figuratively! All our previous traveling to NYC, the furthest afield we had gotten was into Brooklyn near Prospect Park where my brother had moved out into a brownstone from his former Greenwich Village digs. We would have never known about this neat area of Queens if not for James’ crash pad.

Throughout the years and various domiciles, we’ve made it a point for me to fly in a few times and experience the airport and city environs James has been working within both, as our family’s actively accepting that these places are indeed part of our life experience and also to have James and I feel that I know now what and where he is talking about, having shared familiar landmarks, corner cafés and neighborhood walks together---making these places less a temporary strangeness for one person to encounter as they work through their career and more of something along the way of living out our lives that we’ve shared together. Nicely enough, this particular challenging part of his airline career has turned out to be personally rewarding for us both and our conversations are frequently peppered with, “remember when we went there …” and “what fun we had catching the subway to go to…”.

On the flip-side of domicile lifestyling, having chosen to be out here on this island for two reasons with the most important one being my ability to caregive for my father but also because James and I do love this particular spot as well, we’re establishing for ourselves a place and space to thrive in that balances out his constant commuting, schedule change-ups and rushing around noisy, ever-lively major metropolitan area airports and neighborhoods. When James returns “home” he can truly rest and relax. Being tucked back along the water surrounded by woods, our place is very quiet and frankly almost too quiet for folks more used to the sounds of city and suburban life; remote island living isn’t for everyone but for us, it’s been great. Deer hang out in the yard at dusk and there’s always an egret or two perched out nearby in the marsh. We kayak right off the lawn at high tide, walk along the island’s wood paths and couple of roads, sit out in the hammock by the fire pit looking at a bonfire or a starry night and enjoy our kitchen garden and yard work with being outside within bright skies and salt water breezes. James isn’t home often but when he is, the pressures of busyness and city hustle n’ bustle just seem to roll right off his shoulders and he returns back to work with a bit more sun on his face and a rested smile which makes it more than worth the tiring commute caused from our decision to stay put where we have chosen to live.

What a career-life within aviation has taught us is to not only be flexible with where one or the both of us are living, but also to actively find the beauty and joy within each unique situation and place. Eventually one day we might not be able to continue to live out here on the island if James’ career takes us away from the East Coast but for now, it’s a truly wonderful balance for us in experiencing our current days between city life and rustic island life.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” said Theodore Roosevelt some years ago and I’d add, “…and enjoy it as much as you can while you are within it.” The ole’ Carpe Diem, seize the day sentiment is especially poignant because as another great quote asks of us all in the final lines of a poem by Mary Oliver titled The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ With your one wild and precious life?” We plan to make the most of wherever James’ career takes us.

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