“I’m not going”
I posted a sign on my bedroom door a week before our family vacation to New England. I used red marker and underlined each word individually. I concluded the sentence with three exclamation points to convey the seriousness of my position.
In the summer of 1995, I had already survived two airplane flights. On flight number one bound for Honolulu, I unbuckled my seat belt and attempted to charge for the exit as we taxied away from the jetway. It took my mom thirty minutes to convince me that I’d missed my opportunity to get off the plane.
During our flight home, I tortured the middle aged woman next to me by crying uncontrollably and shifting anxiously back and forth in my seat for four consecutive hours. As soon as the plane landed, I decided I would never fly again.
I’m still not sure what combination of motherly voodoo and parental control of my free will got me to Boston, but it was the last trip my family took on an airplane. It was the last place I flew anywhere for vacation.
In the weeks leading up to my trip to Asia I made a mental “I’m not going” sign ten or twelve times. I imagined all of the terrible things that might happen to prevent me from making the trip. I’d calculate how much money I’d already spent and immediately decide that my emotional well being was worth at least that much. I’d sit wide awake in bed and count the hours before my first flight.
The morning of my departure, I indulged one more time in the contemplation of bailing on my trip.
“My friends will understand.” “I have the rest of my life to travel” “Maybe I’ll get therapy, or hypnosis.” “I’ll get on an airplane when I’ve recovered from the fear.”
I pictured my eleven year-old self in the Salem Witch Museum on that New England vacation. I remembered feeling completely transported and totally mesmerized. It was my favorite stop on our trip. My mind flashed on every memory of my childhood that required me to get on an airplane.
I counted seventeen years that I’d refused to fly.
I got out of bed and started moving.
At 10 a.m. my friends arrived at my apartment to pick me up.
At 11, I checked my bag to Bangkok.
I shoved my yoga mat through security, ate a yogurt parfait and texted my mom.
I kept moving.
I buckled myself into seat 16G. Before I could even think about escaping, we were up in the air.
“Shit,” I thought.
I guess I’m going.