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There were several times I felt I needed to leave my job.
My grandpa told me I really should be using all my talents, that my job was not a place where I was doing so. And he was right.
I got stuck in the day-to-day busyness of flying. I was so worn out too that I never wrote, never sang, and never went back to school like I planned. When I did go back to school, I was on a break from work due to an injury, and it didn’t last.
A relative once told me it was stupid for me to stay in the airlines. They have a black-and-white/mathematical mindset, never factoring in emotion. It was simple. We were losing money by me staying in the airline. According to them, I was taking away my husband’s ability to find full-time work, and I wasn’t making enough money as a regional flight attendant to support our family.
Because we have a two-year-old, my husband and I were alternating schedules. He would go to work as a ramp agent part-time on the days I had breaks. If we had any overlap, my mother-in-law would watch my daughter. Still, we couldn’t always pay the bills, so my husband would pick up temporary jobs in the oil rig and leave for a week at a time. Sometimes this happened when I was on a four-day work trip, and my mother-in-law would have my daughter all four days.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy on my daughter to be passed around with no sense of normalcy or stability. Now I look back and know it was time for me to leave. It wasn’t just others telling me that was an indicator. I felt it. I often thought about what else I would like to do, dreaming of becoming a therapist. I didn’t want to take out any student loans though, and there was no way this job would be funding a master’s degree.
When I felt like quitting, I would think about losing my seniority. This is how regional airlines get flight attendants to stay so long, despite the crappy pay (keep in mind, it looks like flight attendants make a lot of money per hour, but they’re only getting paid flight time, and as a regional flight attendant, this caps out at four to six hours during the day). I was worried about losing my good schedule when I left. After seven years in this airline, I had the ability to bid for almost all the days I wanted off to work out my husband’s schedule and could take quite a bit of time off to travel. I didn’t want to lose that either. Not many other jobs allow you to have a week off work every month to pick up and go where you please, not to mention the flight benefits of traveling for free (a small fee for international but completely free domestic flights for our whole family).
My daughter had already been on 40 flights, at just two years old, and I couldn’t want to take her everywhere! We had another little one on the way. Now he is two months old. I could picture all the trips I would take them on, flying wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted for nothing.
I was often asked by pilots why I didn’t take advantage of the airlines help to become a pilot and make better pay. First off, that wasn’t my dream. I loved being a flight attendant. I loved assisting frazzled customers during one of the most stressful times of their trip. I had a spiritual view of my place on the plane, and I saw it as my mission to help calm them and make their lives easier. Not to mention, serving drinks and helping customers held way less responsibility on a normal day than flying an aircraft. My small mistakes didn’t hold the same weight a pilot’s would. I also am diagnosed Bipolar Type II, so it was never a real option for me.
When I became a mom, my grandma asked me if I would quit. Obviously, it would be too hard to do both, she said. I felt like a challenge, and my stubborn Taurean-side kicked in. Watch me! I powered through, even when it was hard to prove her wrong. I could be a mom and have a career.
I ignored all the feelings that I needed to leave, pushing them down with fears of losing my seniority and dreams of flying the world with my kids, pushing them down with the voice I made up that told me I had to do it to prove the world wrong. Then, one day, I went to work and got a call that I’d been placed on administrative leave. I had violated a company travel policy and encouraged another flight attendant to do the same on social media.
Now how did we get here? After seven years of loyalty to the company, feeling like I knew all the rules and followed them to a tee, and volunteering with the company’s Critical Incident Response Program, I was suddenly facing termination at almost seven months pregnant. I called our flight attendant representative group, which is like our union, and cried about the unfairness of showing up for a trip, only to be told to go home (especially since I commute by flight, so I couldn’t just drive back to my house). I voiced all my worries to the rep, and she said she couldn’t see me being fired over the mistake, especially with nothing on my record. Needless to say, after this call, I was shocked when, two weeks later, I was let go.
I felt my heart break into pieces when I discovered that all those dreams I had were crumbling. I cried for several days and didn’t want to leave my room. Sure, I had felt like leaving the company before, but it felt like the choice had been taking away from me. I looked back on all the good at first, missing every little thing I loved, instead of recognizing how good this change actually was for me, how essential it would be to my happiness and pursuing my true dreams in the future.
After the initial shock left me, I felt relieved, like a huge weight had been lifted. I still hated that I was fired; that, of course, felt horrible. I also was angry, understandably, to be let go a few weeks before going on maternity leave, and will always wonder if that influenced their decision. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The Universe did what I couldn’t. I ignored my intuition to leave for years. So it found a way, and that way wasn’t easy to swallow.
As the weeks went on, I felt better and realized how much less stressed I was. I was able to finally be present. It was so hard to travel for work with a toddler. I would leave and miss her, feeling guilty for enjoyed myself while being away. Then I would come home and dread going back to work and stress while planning to return, packing again and meal prepping in just a few days then back to flying.
I didn’t realize my nervous system was on fire until I was no longer working. I was always trying to be a step ahead of any possible problems with my commute with a Plan A, B, and C, along with trying to make my work excuses last for anytime I couldn’t get on a flight to work because it was full.
Just getting to work was stressful and caused a lot of anxiety, not to mention getting home was the same. I flew standby to and from work, which meant I didn’t have a guaranteed seat. Sometimes that meant I had to wait all day before starting work and getting paid because the only open flight was at the beginning of the day, and that also often meant waiting several hours before going home or flying to another town and having my husband drive to pick me up, if he was available. I had to commute though because I couldn’t afford to live in my base unless I was working all the time.
I have always valued time home with my family. I view relationships as the most important aspect of our lives, not money. I felt this job afforded me the opportunity to enjoy my time at home more, since the schedule was flexible. But since my husband started to work full-time, I am able to spend all my time at home, enjoying every moment of our kids growing up, and when he’s off, we actually have the money to travel. The crazy part is, his schedule is more flexible than mine was, and he’s making more money on the days he does work.
With a new positive mindset and calmer nervous system, I am now writing again, which I haven’t done in years. I am learning Italian and still reading almost as much as I read while flying. More importantly, I’m excited about the future instead of dreading giving years of my life to a company where I was just another number. I am laying out small goals during this time I am able to have off with my kids to reach my big dreams.
This all to say that maybe the Universe is telling you to make a move (literally or metaphorically), and you can’t see past what you are trading in. I am an example of holding on tightly to what I thought was best while ignoring all the uncomfortable feelings I felt and all the messages I got that resonated with moving on. Taking the leap just felt too scary. I couldn’t calmly let the river of life take me where I was meant to go. I clung to the edge, hoping I didn’t really have to listen. I could maintain control and forge the path I wanted, how I wanted, but the Universe knows best, and it doesn’t always happen the way we picture it.
Maybe you can learn from me and let go the first time.