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  • Writer's picturebethestanton

What a Difference a Decade Makes

The plan was to keep the date of my practical pilot test a secret. If I bombed, I wouldn’t have to disclose that fact to the world. When I passed, it would be a happy surprise.

July 9, 2011 - the day I earned my wings, was the proudest moment of my life.

After the adrenaline and sweat of the checkride dried, I was left in a stunned, surreal state. I had actually achieved this goal, a goal that had seemed so elusive just months ago. I felt simultaneously elated, exhausted, and a little bit lost.

Two days post-checkride, I penned the following essay after floating around feeling like the world had shifted on its axis.

“My footfall rang in a universe that was not theirs.”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

Everything is changed now, somehow different. Pinpointing the exact quality and quantity of this shift proves elusive.

Is it the small grief of achieving a long-sought goal? The inevitable “Now what?” that closely follows? When sights are pegged so long to a particular star, choosing the next navigation point can bewilder.

I do not rush to fill the void. I revel in the in-between times. Times when you have left one place, but have not yet arrived at another. A state of suspended animation, set apart from the mundane, filled with pure potentiality. The future hours and days are hidden, bursting to reveal their novelty.

This time-out-of-time can happen during metamorphosis, immersion in the sublime, or being transported in any way: by actual travel, by being stunned by beauty, art, or the natural world.

So here I exist. I have achieved a near-impossible goal and feel rather numb with semi-disbelief. I am a pilot, vetted and certified. Now begins the process of owning it. To fly on my own, make my own decisions, feel the weight of the awesome responsibility that has been entrusted to me. No longer a student, but a card-carrying member of the tribe of aviators.

This is an in-between time. I feel not quite who I was, but not yet whom I will be. For now, I will be content to simply marvel at it all.

Ten years ago, as I stared at the instrument panel after my checkride, I never could have imagined the experiences, people, and opportunities aviation had in store for me.

I can’t wait to see what the next ten bring.

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