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March 7, 2022

Save your energy on what you can control

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.

Back in January 2019, I was traveling back to Scotland from Sri Lanka, via Dubai. After 3 weeks of adventure, I was ready for my own bed and all the home comforts you seem to miss when you are on the other side of the world. With a one-hour transfer time in Dubai, I knew it would be tight. That turned out to be the least of my worries.

During the flight, it was announced Dubai wouldn’t let the plane land. We had to circle, for hours. As we know I didn’t have hours between flights. As the inflight drama continued, I sat staring at that screen where you can watch the flight path, the plane simply circling. At one point the captain explained we might need to divert to Abu Dhabi. “What!?!”, I mumbled.

By this point, I am on the edge of my seat. Sweaty palms. Not how I imagined the flight to be.

I had a job to get back to in the morning. Can you imagine, “Sorry everyone, after three weeks, I found myself in Abu Dhabi”!

We finally landed in Dubai, and I became that girl who scurries off the plane in an internal panic – trying to find her missed flight. I was told I had to switch terminals, that feeling in my tummy tightened. As the airline rep looked at my ticket and aggressively typed into the system, she told me to run. I asked if my flight was still there, and all she said was “Just run to the gate”. What!? Did this mean the plane was still there, I had no idea? I felt a small glimmer of hope, but then my internal narrative changed to “did she not want me to be her problem and was sending me along to the next person in the chain”. I still had no idea.

On the slow-moving bus to the next terminal, I saw what caused the delay. Dubai had experienced a freak hailstorm, flooding the tarmac. Flights were grounded all over the place. How a man-made city in the desert could not handle some UK standard hailstorms seemed confusing.

The short bus journey allowed me to gather my thoughts and calm my breathing, it was also where I was befriended by Ken. Ken was a young guy returning to Newcastle, England following a trip to visit family in Hong Kong. He had this electric energy, I felt drawn to him. He was super chilled, which confused me as he too was late for his connection. Then it all made sense. He had received a text message from his airline to say, “Don’t worry, we will wait for you”. Talk about the best airline.

Ken decided his text message also meant everyone else should also not worry. Whenever I tried to express my ‘worse case’ fears, Ken would shrug and tell me not to worry and confirm my plane would be there. “Who was this guy?”, I thought. He was super chatty but calm. I explained the minute the bus stopped I was leaping out to chase down my gate. He shrugged and smiled like he got it but thought it was unnecessary. I am giggling now as I think how tense I must have been, next to super cool Ken.

As the bus pulled up, I waved goodbye to Ken and sprinted into the terminal like a girl who has practiced for this moment her whole adult running life. The sweat dripped down my back as I eagerly searched for my departure gate. It was tucked out of sight. As I approached, I couldn’t work out if my plane was still there. I could see an eerily empty boarding area, not a promising sign, but there was also some check-in staff.

As I caught their eyes, they said “Glasgow?”, I nodded, and they ushered towards a waiting plane. That feeling when you have been running on adrenaline and want to cry a little, but you also want to keep it together and scurry quickly onto the plane, just in case the plane suddenly takes off as you are walking down the corridor.

So, there I am finally fully boarded, on my mega delayed plane, beads of sweat dripping off me. I could start to unwind, but as I look around I see lots of annoyed people. I tried to keep a low profile as I boarded, carrying a wave of guilt that I had caused the delay – even when I knew I hadn’t. That wave soon passed as more and more latecomers arrived. So many showing no guilt. By now I was over this. I got myself comfy and popped on an interesting documentary. The last few hours soon a distant memory as I fell asleep and woke back in Glasgow.

What did I learn:

  • Save your energy on what you can control – I will never get back the hours I sat stressed staring down the flight route trying to wish the plane to land. If only I could have switched off and watched a movie.
  • Life is way too unpredictable to get yourself stuck on a never-ending “what if this happens, then that happens” thought loop. So don’t.
  • Traveling has taught me that the ‘worse case’ is never as bad as you’ve imagined…as you’ve probably not imagined it. I definitely didn’t imagine that I would be circling for hours in the air above Dubai.
  • It’s now in my memory bank for when the next curveball happens and I mutter to myself “everything is figureoutable”.
  • And if in doubt, always run to your departure gate as if there is the slimmest chance you could make your flight, then it is worth the sweat and struggle

Life has a funny way of working out just when you start to believe it never will

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