This morning I found myself down a social media rabbit-hole that led me to revisiting a chapter of Life Diverted which, to this day always brings a tear to my eye, even though I wrote it!
I think it's because so much of what I had seen happening to my beloved world of aviation was poured into it, along with so many thoughts and feelings that had felt like too much to burden my loved ones with at the time, that writing this chapter was cathartic to say the least. It feels right to share it here now, because even if you never read the whole book, it will give you such an insight to what we went through, are still going through... because it is far from over, but at least it is getting slowly better.
This is about as close to reality as fiction gets...
Chapter 38, Life, Diverted
4th January 2021
Who am I?
I have considered, a few times, finishing this blog… how can I write about cabin crew when I am no longer one myself, when I no longer have wings? Surely, I thought, no one wants to read about my dull but somehow rewarding life as a PA? You want to hear about beaches and cities, nights out and adventures, don’t you? Alas my friends, I have no such stories to tell, and yet here I am, writing things down to clear my head. I hope you don’t mind.
A year ago I walked confidently into 2020, owning it like most of us do every New Year! Myself and my friends declared it would be our ‘year of adventures,’ and had great plans to explore parts of the world that we had yet to discover. We were fired up and ready, eager and excited…. But alas, higher powers had totally different ideas for us mere humans, and while I cannot deny that the year was an adventure of sorts, it was definitely not one that I would have planned or have been excited for. My life has been diverted.
Now we walk into 2021 and I am creeping in silently haha! I won’t touch anything, I won’t even let it know that I am here. I definitely do not own it. I will just let it carry on and do its thing, and just hope that at some point we will all get some control back of our lives.
So how was 2020 for you? I hope that you survived it and didn’t lose loved ones to this awful virus. I hope that you kept your job, stayed in touch with your friends and family, adapted and even flourished in this new world. If you didn’t, I truly hope that 2021 will be kinder and that it will heal the wounds that 2020 left behind.
For myself, while I have stayed healthy, embraced some changes and adapted to others, 2020 has left me with a question that I lie awake at night trying to answer but cannot…
Who am I?
You see I got to thinking this morning, remembering the ‘good old days’, and I felt so sad about what I have lost. Then I felt angry with myself, because I know that others have lost so much more than me. It was just a job after all, and I have been lucky enough to find another one, a good one, and I am grateful for that, I promise.
I wondered why I can’t move on, embrace my new life and stop looking backwards. Maybe it is the hopelessness of entering our third national lockdown. How can we truly imagine a new life when this one right now is forever on hold? How do you make the best of it when each time you start to look forward to something it is cancelled? For those of you who live on your own, like me, you will understand the dread I feel at spending another three months alone every evening, when as humans we need social interaction. Instead, we are forced to retreat into our own little worlds and try to stay positive in these short, dark winter days.
While I sat with my thoughts it occurred to me that I, Carmen Baker, am not alone with my struggles. I am one of tens of thousands of cabin crew that have had their wings clipped, that arestruggling to recognise who they are now if they aren’t ‘crew’, to find a new identity in these strange times. I’m not the only one, by far, that is still a little bewildered, not quite sure which direction I should go in, especially when so many routes are closed right now. Who even am I if I’m not crew? Who can I be?
Even for the crew that are still flying, while I envy them still having their identity, life isn’t the same as it was for them either. They fly planes with no passengers, land at faraway airports and fly straight back, but they can’t complain because they are perceived to be the lucky ones. They live with the guilt of knowing that their colleagues have lost their jobs, and that they should be thankful to still be flying, even though they might hate it right now and wish for the old days back as much as us ‘redundants’. Layovers are cut, flying hours are through the roof, and everyone is still fearful that the struggle isn’t over, that their airline may be the next to fall. Some have been on furlough since the beginning and travelled as little as me…
Being Cabin Crew right now sucks… but even with that knowledge, it doesn’t stop me missing my old life. Every. Single. Day.
So, I would like to salute these past colleagues who carry on, working and worrying, in the hope that one day they can get their old life back, that their friends will return to the fold and they can do a job that they love again, together.
As for me, would I go back if I was asked?
It’s something I think about often, but here’s the thing… There are so many things about normal life that I love, that I didn’t know about because I had never lived it before! I like not being tired, for a start, waking up in the morning and going to bed every night in my own bed. I like the routine I have now, my evening runs with my dog and sometimes my friend, Ray. I like my new job, and I have never felt so appreciated in my life. It could be just my luck to find such great employers, but I’m hearing it time and again, how crew are finding unexpected satisfaction and rewards in their new roles.
After a decade of flying, I feel like I am learning to walk.
Now I don’t know where life will take me when we finally come out of this. I dream of days lounging on the beach with my friends again, lust after travel and exploration. But will I be working those flights, or will I be a passenger? Am I feeling that I miss my old life so much purely because I have been on the ground for so long, and if I could just have a holiday, would that be enough to settle me back down?
So, back to my question… who am I if I’m not Carmen Baker, Cabin Crew?
Trying to answer this difficult question I wondered if I was okay to define myself by a job title in the first place. If so, does that mean that I am now Carmen Baker, PA? My answer was ‘Absolutely Not’! Because there is something so much deeper than a job title when you are crew, it’s a flying family, a shared mindset that nobody else can truly understand unless they are in it. It’s more a type of person than a job title, and so I decided that it was okay to have defined myself that way, I think most of us do.
And that is why I am struggling to find this new identity, and I need to find other things to define me. SO, my brain slightly fried with all this thinking, and on my third cup of coffee, I mulled over what my strengths are, what makes me the person that I quite like and I came up with these: *blushing*
Sociable and outgoing
Caring and listening
Kind and compassionate
Quick thinking and adaptable
Hardworking and conscientious
As the list grew I realised that I had written a similar one before, back when I was talking about the transferable skills of crew. Yes, what I was writing about myself are the core strengths of almost everyone I ever worked in the skies with. We do/did the job because of the type of people we are, we were crew before we were crew!
So, who am I?
I am Carmen Baker, and I will always be crew at heart.
Thanks for reading,
Take care and keep taking one day at a time, the sun will soon be shining on us all again.
Carmen looked out of the window at the grey winter sky and felt connected to everyone like her who was feeling lost, struggling with this lockdown as they tried to work things out. She knew that she was doing okay though, that hopefully the worst had happened for her. Now she just needed to keep moving forward and see where life would take her.
Shit, she thought as she noticed the time. Ray would be here in five minutes for their night-time run. She hit the Publish button without even checking it through. Writing it down had made her feel a whole lot better, and she hoped that her words would help someone else too.
Now, she thought, where is that head torch?