Today, I flew.

At the bottom of every To-Do list I’ve ever made, I half-jokingly half-seriously write “Learn To Fly”. It’s a quasi joke only because it comes after such easily achievable items like “buy stamps” or “write thank you notes” or “floss”. But its list companions are the only things that make it, by comparison, seem like a joke. Or maybe not a joke… but more bucket-list-y than something I’ll simply do after I buy mangos from Harris Teeter. I don’t know that I’ve ever bought a mango from Harris Teeter, actually. I should though. Good fruit. The point is, I have always had every intention of one day getting into an airplane and learning to fly it. Today was that day.

It started almost a year ago when I got a Groupon deal for flight lessons. Half off. No brainer. I think my mom wanted to kill me before I got in an airplane and killed myself. Weirdly, she wasn’t far off. The first turn I had, I was instructed to “lightly apply some forward pressure to the yoke (I think it’s called a yoke) which makes the plane’s nose point down (pulling it makes it go up). The keyword in that instruction was “lightly”. I shoved that badboy forward like I was tossing a medicine ball across a room. Whoops. “Let Go!” yelled Joshua, the former accountant, as he corrected our mini-nosedive. Hmm. Little terrifying. But after he got us bak to the proper altitude (we dropped some 300 feet) and we put back a few of the things that moved around in the cockpit, I apologized profusely, we laughed it off, and he let me have control again. I learned from the mistake, and EASED the nose up as I rolled into turns and EASED it down as I came out of the turn. I later told Joshua the reason for the nosedive was that I thought he looked a little bored over there in the co-pilot seat, and wanted to assure that he wasn’t napping. I’m not sure Joshua liked me very much. I don’t blame him.

After that initial hiccup, it was smooth sailing…err.. flying. We soared above Greensboro, Elon, Mebane, the Mighty Haw River, and the generally rural North Carolina Piedmont. I looked around and felt on top of the world, even though days ago I climbed to the top of Mt. Mitchell with my brother, which was nearly double the height at which we were flying. Either way, I felt exhilarated. I tried soaking up all the information like a sponge. “I want to fly more,” I told Joshua. I’m sure he was thinking, “Get someone else to teach you.” Again, I don’t blame him.

The hour went by quicker than an hour massage. I wanted to stay in the sky. I wanted to fly to the beach. I wanted to fly above the Appalachians. As long as Joshua was there to correct my slip-ups. And my hazy perception of how cool it was to fly reminds me of a story that one of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia, tells. He’s talking about the first time he did standup, and the folks at the venue asked him to do 15 minutes of comedy. He only had 11 minutes of material. Before he went on stage he threw up. After he got on stage, his 11 minutes of material pared down to 4 minutes, which happens when you are bombing apparently. He thanked the audience and apologized simultaneously as he left the stage. Drove a few hours home to his girlfriend, who asked how it went. “It was amazing.” It wasn’t amazing obviously, but that delusion was necessary for him to ever try standup again. That’s kinda what happened after I shook Joshua’s hand, thanked him and apologized simultaneously, walked to my car, and uttered, “That was amazing.” I don’t really know how close to killing us I actually came. I mean we only dropped 300 or so feet, it wasn’t a plummet by any means. But the whole experience was thrilling. I felt alive. And that feeling may be delusion, or it may be a natural high, but either way, it wasn’t your average Monday.

Almost as satisfying as flying a plane for an hour (less the amount time Joshua had to step in and not kill us), was coming home, going through a stack of old Moleskines (small creative journals), finding every To-Do list I’ve made and making a big red check next to each time I had written “Learn To Fly”. It’s always a trip down memory lane to read those Moleskines. Plenty of girlfriend angst and script ideas and sketches and stories. Times of joy and times of darkness. An overall account of my times where I felt alive. I got to write with red ink to those old Peyton’s, “I did it. I learned to fly.” I don’t have my pilot’s license and I’m now 39 hours of sky time away from being able to fly alone, but still. Today, I flew.

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~ by Peyton Lea on July 2, 2012.

One Response to “Today, I flew.”

  1. you’re so cool.
    mean it peyton. proud for you in so many things

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