Sunday, December 13, 2015


Photo courtesy of

It was my 16th birthday, the day every teenager dreams of.  I'd finally be behind the wheel by myself without my instructor, completely on my own.  But not in a car, because I hadn't driven one yet.   This was to be my first solo flight in a plane with me as the pilot.  But because of a crosswind, I'd have to wait until the following day to fly.  Alone.

Like most teenagers, I lacked confidence, but on top of that, I was painfully shy and a certified, card carrying people pleaser.  And the person I wanted to please most was my dad.  He, of course, was a pilot.  Plus being a pilot sounded adventurous, and if anything appealed to me, adventure did.  So, I knew I had to do it.  But first I needed the money.  So, I applied for and won a flight scholarship to pay for the instructor, rental of the plane and fuel.   

Turns out, I was a natural.  

On the ground I was insecure and anxious.  But, in the air I was confident and fearless.  The most nerve wracking part was talking to my instructor because of my social anxiety.   With a mere 8 hours of flight time, my instructor deemed me ready to fly on my own.  Not only did I feel ready, but I was relieved not to have to make conversation with anyone other than the control tower.  And that required only the most minimal, concise and factual communication.  I could do this.  

When the day came with my mom and instructor watching from a window in the small airport of my hometown, I conducted the preflight and taxied out to the runway and took off, gingerly pulling the nose up, the wheels leaving the ground.  That's when the stall siren in the Cessna broke the silence warning me of imminent danger.  And a weird thing happened.  Nothing.  I didn't second guess myself.  I didn't radio anyone to mention the malfunction.  Because for the first time in my life, I trusted me.  I wasn't in a stall,  my flying was text book and I figured the indicator must be broken.  I flew the flight pattern three times around the airport as was required, with a siren blaring at me the entire time.  Before I brought it down for the perfect landing.  

I'd never been proud of anything I'd done up until that moment.  

And that's why what happened next may seem out of the blue.  I quit.  Not because the money had run out, although it had.  But because it wasn't my passion.  I knew I could've gone on to get my pilot's license, but I also knew that I didn't love it.  And I knew doing it simply to make someone else proud of me wasn't reason enough for me to continue.  I didn't need to prove anything to anyone else.  I needed to give it up to find myself.  Because I'm brave.  


joeh said...

For someone without any confidence, you sure try a lot of stuff that takes a lot of self confidence!

Marie Loerzel said...

@joeh-I guess I have when i think about it.

Debbie Rodrigues said...

I love flying, but I don't think that becoming a pilot is my thing either. I'm more into sitting on a comfy chair and enjoying the clouds with a champagne glass.
But still, major congrats for getting it done. It's indeed much more rewarding than forcing yourself into something you aren't passionate about.

Chris Highley said...

You are still a flygirl in my book, and didn't you and Craig kindle your romance around airplanes, CAP? I was so freaking nervous when I soloed. Moved this introvert one notch toward extrovert. When I failed my first check ride I felt like like a complete failure, but recovered fine and became a better pilot because of it.

E Blankenship said...

I totally get this. All too often, society expects us to do what we are good at even if we don't enjoy doing it. I've been in that situation several times. Good for you for doing what you want to do and not doing what you don't.

Janine Ripper said...

Wow you never cease to amaze me!


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