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Up in the Air

Flying is one of those things where people either like it or hate it, and for me - I love it... a lot. Actually, before graduating high school I tossed around the idea of becoming a flight attendant to see the world, and bringing my camera along for the journey! But that's a different story from the one I want to share with you now :)

The Summer of 2011, a lot of changes were happening. My parent's relationship went through a little rocky patch, I was dating someone who had their focus elsewhere and didn't care to have me around his friends, I ruined a great friendship in Grand Rapids, I was going into my junior year of college, my ex who also was my best friend had committed suicide a few months before, I gained a lot of weight, and I felt like I was losing it. Needless to say- my mind was everywhere. I definitely hit a low, was really depressed, and coming back to Algonac- the heart of it all- seemed scary.

Driving back from Grand Rapids was about a 3- 3.5 hour journey, and I remember when I was on 26 mile rd, the fear started to set in that everything was going to hit me at once.

Then- I saw a sign. Not a metaphorical sign, but a real one. "Follow your heart. Learn to Fly!"

Suddenly, all those anxieties disappeared momentarily. I thought to myself- that's my focus for the summer, I am taking flight lessons. I can look forward to that while in the chaos.

The next few days I kept thinking about that sign and pondering if I really should do it. I kept going back and forth, but ultimately made the call. The sweetest older man had answered- "Flight lessons? Okay, yeah- we can do that. They're an hour long... are you able to take the lesson tomorrow around 9AM?"

I jumped on it. I felt excited, nervous, unsure, and but most importantly, happy. I felt happy- for the first time in a while.

I was greeted by my teacher that next day, and he was so nice. (I can't for the life of me remember his name, so we will call him Mike.) He let me know to gain a private pilot's license, I would need to log 44 hours of flight, 30 hours in the classroom, and complete a final test that was both in air and on paper. Per hour would run $100. I wasn't making too much money- I was serving tables at McRays, but what I made in tips I put right into flight.

So the first day, I rode as a co-pilot and heard all about my teacher's explorations with his license. It was incredible- Mike told me about his brother in law from Chicago calling him and asking when him and his family planned to be in Chicago. Mike said- oh about 3 or so.. and his brother in law said "oh you're already on the road? You only have about an hour left of the trip?" He said nope- haven't left yet. We're taking the plane to you." That made me laugh- it just so cool!

We scheduled the next lesson for a few days after, and it would be 2 hours long. I picked up an extra shift between the dates so I would have enough for it. Mike greeted me, we went over everything to check on a plane before a trip- including missing screws and bolts along the entire plane, the steering, fuel, and first aid kit. Then he showed me how to check the weather with the wind speeds and directions, and how to read a radar. That was hard- I couldn't really wrap my mind around it, and honestly I didn't give myself a chance to learn it the way I wanted to.

We took flight, and Mike talked more about controlling and how to do a touch down and take off. I could feel my adrenaline pumping! When we landed for the day, he asked if I wanted to try and fly the next time we met. I eagerly said YES!

A few more days, and a couple of shifts later, I was going to be the pilot (well, assisted pilot). I remember checking the plane for any missing screws, making sure the wings and steering were aligned, and checking to see the fuel level. Then, I remember getting into the plane- on the left. So I could fly.

It was a clear day! It was hot, and it was early- like 8:30AM. I was wearing a faded "The Used" black t-shirt and soffee shorts. My hair was a mess, but I didn't care. I just wanted to get up in the air. We started up the plane and headed down the landing pulling the wheel down, we caught the wind, and made it up! I was literally shaking with excitement. We flew around for a bit, and I was weightless at that point, looking over Macomb and St Clair County from above is an experience, especially when you're the one in flight.

Touch-down seemed daunting, but I did it, and I did it to tell the story! I was on cloud 9. Mike applaud me, said I did good! There's literally nothing that beats that feeling of take-off. We scheduled another lesson for a week or so out- and I think that was my last one I was able to afford.

To this day I have yet to complete my training- the hours I did end up logging are probably expired now, but the memories I made were priceless. I will pick it up again one day- it was seriously incredible. Since then, flying on a commercial plane is my favorite. I've also gone skydiving, and have been itching to go for a hot air balloon ride.

But- yes, when it comes to flying, it reminds me of a summer that being in the air was my happy place. I love being on a plane. I love watching out the window and seeing the world get small, and feeling the force and elevation. it's the absolute best.

When we moved to RI, I knew that flying back to Michigan once a month would be no big deal- but rather a treat.

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