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I’m Not Superstitious, But I’m a Little Stitious*

I sort of can’t believe what I have dubbed my 2012 West Coast Tour is actually over. Ten 5+ hour flights in four months. When I booked all of these trips at the end of last year, one long flight after another, I just didn’t think about it. I shut my brain off, booked the trips, and decided to deal with each flight one at a time. I know a lot of people travel much more than this, much further distances, but six years ago I was not even able to get on a plane. Although I have been flying since I was a baby and had made numerous treks across the pond, in my early twenties I became so paralyzed with fear that when John and I were house hunting in New York City, I just refused to get on a plane. So we drove six hours from our home in North Carolina to DC and took Amtrak from there. And for a long time, I was a train rider – twelve hours down to North Carolina to visit my family, twelve hours back – instead of taking the one hour flight.

Eventually – somehow – John coaxed me back into the air. Short flights at first, and then in 2008 he finally got me making transatlantic flights again. But not well. I held the plane up the entire ride – I couldn’t sleep, watch a movie, or read a book; I was so focused on keeping this metal tube in the air. I just knew if I relaxed for one second, it would plummet to the earth. And I cried during every take off. That’s pretty much the state I was still in when I began my epic 2012 West Coast Tour in February with my trip to Vegas for WPPI.

Yesterday afternoon as my plane took off in Salt Lake City, I was a different person. Sometime in the last four months, I’ve just realized it’s too exhausting being scared all the time. Especially on long flights. I don’t have the energy anymore. I’ve read books, watched movies, and even slept on planes this year. I don’t feel like I have to hold the plane up. I don’t hold my breath through turbulence. Sometimes I’ve actually found myself enjoying being in the air. The worst part is waiting to get on the plane. Once I’m on, I’m fine. I take pictures of clouds and think about how amazing it is that I can be across the country in six hours; eat pretzels and make friends with my seatmates. And feel a rush of excitement as the plane eventually begins descending because I get to visit someplace brand new. (As opposed to fear that the pilot is going to miss the runway.) I just can’t be bothered to worry anymore. If I’m going down on a plane, I’m going down. I can’t do anything about it. But it’s pretty dumb to let a fear hold me back from my favorite thing to do: see the world.

Of course, somewhere deep down inside, my subconscious is laughing, “You know, now that we’ve gotten over this thing, we’re probably going to be in a plane crash.” My subconscious is such an annoying idiot. So I will still wear the prayer beads that my dear friend, Ken, brought me from Thailand and gave to me on my wedding day, and which I wrap around my wrist whenever I travel anywhere further than an hour from my home. I will still continue to tell my family I love them before I board any flight. I’ll still thank the pilots for getting us there safely as I get off the plane. And I’ll still probably pop two dramamine to take the edge off things. What can I say, I’m not really afraid to fly anymore, but I’m still a little superstitious.*

I didn’t set out to cure my fear of flying when I decided to do all this traveling this year. But I had hoped that by the end I’d be a little more comfortable. I’ve realized that fear is a choice. And I have decided not to let this one control me anymore. John and I want to go to Australia in 2014. I’d like to take a ride in a hot air balloon sometime. Fear just dulls these experiences for me. And it’s not welcome in my life anymore.

Sunday, Allison and I went shopping in Park City. I walked into a shop, and the first thing I saw were these earrings. They were the only pair left, so I had to get them. A small gift to myself at the end of a really long journey. A journey much longer than four months.

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  • I’m proud of you!!

  • This is such an awesome post. Thank you for giving me hope that I can overcome my paralyzing anxiety too. I only recently became afraid of flying alone (never in groups or with Michael though, what is that? And what is it with being in your early twenties and terrified of flying? It’s like I just discovered my own mortality. Oy). Anyway, your journey is totally inspiring and your trip sounded AMAZING.

    Good on you. Also, LOVE the earrings. :)

  • Aww, what a perfect find to commemorate conquering your fear!

  • HeatherG

    What a great post and what a great journey for you. “Fear is a choice.” I like that.