Vagabond Woes: Rejection

As the airline life would have it, I got called out on my last day in my Chicago apartment— I left the keys with the concierge, headed to the airport, and the next day I would fly to Seattle to start life anew.

Except it hasn’t been all magic and rainbows as my life so dearly appears.

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Prior to this decision to move, it was completely in the plan to be a floating vagabond for a while— going here, doing this and that, coming home to Missouri when I could or making pit stops in Montana if I couldn’t make the half-transcon home. While there is a certain freedom involved with not being tied down to any one place, there is a chaotic, survivalist mode in which my brain engages when I don’t know where I’ll rest my head.

It hit home (giggle) recently when I finished a trip in Seattle, too late to catch the flight to Montana where my grandparents live. Not wanting to pay for a hotel for the night, I hopped on a red eye flight to New York, a nice long flight to sleep. I didn’t wake up until the wheels hit the pavement at JFK. Smelling like airplane, I went to the Delta Sky Club (a perk of my American Express Platinum Card) to take a shower.

To summarize, I flew for free on a transcontinental flight and showered in an airport lounge: I’m the most privileged homeless person there is.

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Kiki, a doogle

I hung out in Minneapolis for a few days with my darling Kate and Emily and their doogle Kiki— there are very few ailments that best friends and a dog can’t fix.

My search for an apartment in Seattle is not going well. I’ve scoped out a few places within budget that fall within my parameters (which aren’t that specific, truly. One room, stove, fridge, in the gayborhood). But the ones that I truly like have one common theme— the property management companies (or sole landlords) don’t get back to me.

I feel rejected, the motherlode of all insecurities and perhaps the best vulnerability out there. Of course, there are far worse rejections I’m facing— romance, select friends, dogs who won’t let me pet them— but to be ignored by a leasing company? Sheesh! What’s a girl gotta do to get a home around here?

Most of this rejection is obscure— it is said by the unsaid. When landlords don’t get back to me, I have no idea of knowing where I stand in the matter. Is the property spoken for? Or do I just not fit your building? Silence, therefore, is the culprit; I find it rude and dismissive.

As a classic Taurus, I’m grounded by nature. But when I had my chakras read (yes, I’m that much of a hippie), it revealed that my root chakra was out of whack. The healer pointed to my lack of home and that I hadn’t been eating meat during lent; aside from the suggestion to have a steak, it was obvious that the cure for this imbalance would be to acquire semi-permanent housing. I’m trying, desperately.

Dealing with rejection takes patience. I won’t say that I deal well with patience; I’m more apathetic to the construct overall. But there are deadlines here— sort of! Losing my mind is one of them, because I don’t know how much longer I can manage being uprooted. Breath by breath, day by day.

TFIM

It’s so petty— you post a picture on social media with friends, and someone inevitably comments, “TFIM” or “TFTI.” These new acronyms, Thanks for Inviting Me or Thanks for the Invite, annoy me.

When I hang out with a group of people, it is never my intent to exclude any one person. Usually, my nights are organic and snowball into a few friends meeting up with a herd of people. For example, just a few nights ago, I went out with a friend from college (not aviation) and his colleagues. Next thing you know, it turned into a huge group of gay pilots, kikiing and having a great time.

Whether these slights are said in jest or not, it’s indicative of one’s insecurity with their friend group. Perhaps a more positive comment would be appropriate. I don’t know why you weren’t invited. It could be circumstance— maybe you’re in a different city. Maybe you’re with other friends. Or maybe you really are that salty girl that no one wants at the party. But that kind of attitude surely won’t help you get invited to more things.

We all become FOMO homos (Fear of Missing Out) when we see large gaggles of gays together, and we aren’t there to participate. Whether it’s chartering a private jet to Maui or simply meeting up in the gayborhood for a beverage, let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard of wishing each other well.

I just signed a deal with Lipton with how much tea I spilled, and you can thank me for the next solar eclipse from all the shade I’ve just thrown— but don’t come for me for having a good time, just because you’re not there. It’s unnecessary drama that could be circumvented with a simple, “Looks like you’re having a great time!” Any extra comments can be muttered under your breath, thank you very much. *hair toss, death drop*

Special Little Snowflake

IMG_3926.JPGThe snow came down lightly as my friend and I walked back to the hotel after lunch. He commented on how the snowflakes were hitting our outerwear, not melting just yet. “They’re the most perfect snowflakes I’ve ever seen.”

Such an innocuous statement incensed me, but only later as I instagrammed the photo— how fitting. It wasn’t what he said, but what I’ve seen elsewhere.

Lately, the older crowd on social medias (namely, Facebook, because they can’t figure out any of the rest) have posted negative memes about millennials. Specifically this one:

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I am a millennial. I crested puberty just as Nokia was on its way out, and I had an iPhone by the time I entered into a four year university— you know, that “worthless” piece of paper you groan about (sorry, all the manufacturing jobs had been outsourced, and trade work is not prestigious enough). 

And this whole “safe space” ordeal— I’ll yap on that in my next post, because it deserves an entire rant in and of itself. Forget the politics of this meme, because it shows extreme ignorance.

Who raised us? Because we weren’t alive while these bad things were going on that you supposedly toughed out— never you mind that we were children who witnessed 9/11 (and I, for one, was not let home early. Does that make me tough?). I didn’t raise myself; society raised me. Oooo big scary society. You raised me. Our current world fostered what my parents didn’t (who were and are excellent parents, by the way. Hi mommy!) because of its own selfish demands— we are the generation of instant gratification sponsored by whoever paid the most to market to us. “WHAT DO WE WANT? WHATEVER THEY TELL US! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!”

A relevant aside: I remember having a conversation with an acquaintance’s mother about PTSD. She recounted how her father, after serving in WWII, “…sucked it up and put on his big boy underwear” and didn’t need any therapy. Sure, your dad likely suffered for years, because he didn’t have the tools to cope; if silence is toughness, I wonder what that makes a loudmouth like me.

And let me tell you why your slights on my generation don’t bother me:

I’m going to live longer than you, and I have to live here— you’ll be dead.

I’m not crass; I’m factual. I’m trying to create a world for my longevity, as yours is so very threatened. Perhaps you know this already as your bullying comments indicate— that’s what bullies do when they feel threatened. Nanny nanny boo boo— can’t you just suck it up?

The funny thing is that I don’t find your anti-millennial sentiments hurtful or offensive, as you might expect my fragile feelings to be broken: I find them boring and useless. If we’re the generation that is entitled, then your generation is one that uses THE CAPS LOCK WAY TOO MUCH AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! 

I’m not one to whine and complain (as, you know, we millennials do) without offering solutions. We have to glean wisdom from our elders and shrug off their outdated opinions. We have a more astute understanding of how our world works today, and we must use that to our advantage— we have to learn what works for us now, because what isn’t working is how the previous generation operated.

So there you have it. I’m a special little snowflake. I’m delicate yet strong; I’m unique and perfect. Bite me.

I’ll leave you with this video that also sparked this rant. It’s an excellent 17 minute clip of why and who and how.

Crash and Burn

En route to the farm on Easter Sunday, I rounded the second ninety degree corner on a wet morning, jamming to Beyoncé, and I started to fishtail. Unable to regain control, my truck swerved off the road, down an embankment, swung around a tree, and came to a stop against a thicket of saplings. A quick body scan revealed that I had all my fingers and toes, everything could move, and, despite trembling, I was fine— how, I’m unsure.

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As I rose from the wreckage, a very nice family stopped to help me; the matriarch was already on the phone with 911, having witnessed my epic twirl. She said in a slight drawl, “Are you ok? Oh, we were praying for you. Are you sure you’re ok? You’re bleeding on your forehead.” Indeed, I had a wound— but it wasn’t from this wreck.

 
In a completely unrelated incident just one week prior— an  evening that did not involve any driving— I had one too many beverages. I did, in fact, fall and smack my little head on the pavement. This left me with an embarrassing story and scratch on my forehead; I’m 23 and get to make this kind of mistake. I’ve cut out alcohol completely. No, I don’t have a problem, but it certainly was a wakeup call: and now it’s a challenge to myself. The timeframe until I drink again is indefinite. I don’t know when I’ll break my stride of sobriety.

So, I sat in the family’s minivan while the Highway Patrol came. They asked, and with a heavy sigh, I was reluctant to tell them what I do for living. “But I swear I’m a decent pilot,” I defended myself. And like a true pilot, I’ve replayed the incident over and over in my head.What was the cause? What could I have done better? I’d driven this road hundreds of times, intimately knowing every curve and the next turn. The conclusion I’ve surmised is that I hydroplaned.

I wish I had some shocking revelation, a piece of truth gleaned from the accidents. But nothing major has hit me yet, other than the ground and some foliage.

As my grandpa so eloquently said, “Poo poo occurs.

So my truck, while probably fixable, is heading to where all broken little trucks go— a place where Jesus will take the wheel.

 

The Skinny

The tea, the gossip, the 411, the skinny— is that I’m not.

First, let me tell you what this isn’t. This isn’t a piece on my self-deprecation or how I’m going to strive to meet a goal of a six pack, or eat kale for six weeks (I hate kale). This is my observation of how I feel about being gay fat.

Don’t tell me that I’m not. In the hierarchy of gay culture, I’m on the totem pole somewhere around fat friend meets motherly and sassy figure— the confidant with an exuberant personality, flamboyant gesticulation, and jokes.

There is plenty of room in my daily routine to become more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. I attend yoga frequently but not as often as I would like; being on-the-go makes it difficult to make regular classes. And I despise running— from the cops? Maybe. And even then, I’m calling a cab.

 

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Beardless

I’ve had to shave for my new gig, because of an antiquated belief that a certain type of oxygen mask won’t adhere properly to a face obscured (and beautified) by facial hair. This, in turn, has made me very self-conscious— my beard has been with me since I realized I could grow it some eight years ago. My lack of face weave opens up more body image insecurities. I’m not used to seeing my face so barren; I feel like it highlights my dental imperfections in addition to looking prepubescent. The skin under my beard hasn’t seen the sun in nearly a decade.

 

 

 

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Differences

All of these concerns are issues on their own. But the fact that I’m moving to a more cosmopolitan area exacerbates and confounds it all. Chicago has a very vibrant gay scene, and I can’t wait to twirl on my own through Boystown. With that, though, comes the superficiality and vapidness of which we are all guilty. When I’ve visited in the past, the plethora of Adonis type men has been mesmerizing— but now that I am making it my home throws me in the arena. This ain’t my first rodeo, and normally I can hold my own when it comes to the politics of gay men. But anticipating the sheer number of stunning men against my not-fab flab is overwhelming.

Perhaps the move will pressure me to change a few things about my quasi-sedentary lifestyle. Is that, in and of itself, living inauthentically? Maybe I’ll move and change on my own terms as opposed to being ridiculed into thinness.

A cornerstone of this exploration is that I give a valiant effort not to compare myself to others. The previous picture of some random guy I saw at a bar highlights our stark differences. He’s ripped. Gorgeous. And then there’s Berta with the pudge and fur. The battle becomes not to admonish myself over his appearance.

And don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m a shell of a person who doesn’t feel bouts of sexiness now and then. But I feel slighted by many men based purely upon my lack of definition. But Berta, you think, the bear community would accept you as you are with your hairy gut. True. And I love the bears— but I’m on the fringes of their subculture. Others have identified me as a cub or an otter; neither fits my persona.

On the flip-side, I don’t feel like a pretty boy. I don’t feel like exerting the effort to become one, either. Greasy tacos taste too good. Buffets are bountiful challenges— finding that balance of enjoying food and not abusing it is an uphill climb.

My mom took me shopping for big-boy work clothes, as I didn’t have a professional wardrobe outside of my pilot uniform. I stood in Banana Republic, ashamed and frustrated— mediums were too constrictive and larges had me swimming. She consoled me and said that I “just have broad shoulders like my dad.” (Cue the husky scene from Sordid Lives). Be that as it may, I think I should be a size small given my height. I bought a scarf instead.

So that’s where I stand. Day by day, I scan my body for how its feeling. Some days, I caress it and think Yaaaaas, kween. You are rocking it! Other days, I want to wrap up in my biggest cardigan and hide my tub of lard. But like the debacle of my shirt size, I fit somewhere in the middle.

Please, please, spare me the “You’re beautiful! Love yourself!” comments. I’ll accept them, graciously, but that’s not why I wrote this— whether or not you’re patronizing me. I wrote it because my perception changes constantly. I could put on my angry feminist voice and yell about positive body image— but I know that I could be healthier. I could point a finger toward my fellow gay men about dismantling our worship of sculpted bodies— but that would make me a hypocrite if and when my body takes on a different form. At minimum, I am attempting to unravel this layered topic out loud.

Life on the Line

Photo Aug 18, 19 13 27Typing from a hotel room, I look back on the past six months of my budding aviation career.

You’re going to ask: so how do you like it? And my response will typically be this— I am humbled by my job. I was so lucky to be hired fresh out of school, with a mere 252.6 hours. A classmate of mine referred me to this small company, flying Caravans to small, midwestern cities under the Essential Air Service program. Yes, I fly people. No, I don’t fly boxes. It’s not glamorous. I’m Second in Command on an airplane that doesn’t even require a copilot; I trudge through deicing fluid in my Cole Haan boots after completing a walkaround; and half the time our groundspeed isn’t much better than Vref on jets. Our show times can be as early as 03:50, despite TSA not even being open.

But, for the love of Gaga, I’m gaining the absolute best experience. I have a taste of what working at an air carrier is like, and I’m finding my own style of flying. After flying with a multitude of captains, some very good and some very bad, I pick and choose what I like from each of them— I’m savoring their ingredients of a good flight in order to develop my own flavor of flying. Photo Nov 20, 15 08 32

I could have chosen to get my Certified Flight Instructor rating in order to build hours, but this opportunity was too good to pass up. While I think I will get my CFI at some point in the future, I’d much rather do what I’m doing now than do stalls and steep turns with students trying to kill me. And I fly into Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world— a feat that not many of my peers can parallel.

My friends who fly bigger and shinier things make jokes at my expense all the time— Your gear doesn’t even come up! What’s that spinny thing on the front? Do you drive a lawn mower? Of course, they mean it in jest, and everyone has to pay their dues somehow. But don’t worry— I’ll just slow down and have them vectored off the final approach. The Cessna Caravan, or as I affectionately call her, “Miss Van,” is an extremely capable airplane that will do anything you ask of her. Except, erm, go fast.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the elephant in the room— how is it being gay on the job? I don’t (and mostly can’t) hide my identity. Let’s be honest— I sashay through the airport to the gate with my Jackie-O sunglasses and big scarf. I proudly wear a rainbow pin on my lanyard and my National Gay Pilots Association wings on either my tie or sweater. Half the time, gate agents at other airlines think I’m a flight attendant until I whip off my cardigan and flaunt my three silver stripes that stand for “Kick Your Ass.” But as far as interacting in the flight deck, I haven’t had a problem yet. And I won’t. For the most part, my life outside of work is no one’s business (not that I have a love life, but that’s for a different post). As long as I show up and do my job— and I do it well, I might add— then there will be no problems. If you happen to hear a Weber on the radio, wishing ATC a “fabulous day,” then you have been graced with my rainbow contrail in the skies.

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Sunburst Chicago Skyline

How do you fly for free? Perhaps you’ve seen my gallivanting across the country over the past few months. That’s my favorite perk of the job. We’re involved with CASS: Cockpit Access Security System, which is essentially a database of participating airlines. It’s a “Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” kind of deal. Many pilots use CASS as a way to commute to work— I just happen to use it to travel. Domestically, assuming there are seats in the back or an open jumpseat up front, I am able to fly for free on airlines with whom we have reciprocal agreements— and, in return, they can fly us to Decatur, Illinois, for whatever god awful reason they need.

I’m living in St. Louis for the time being. My contract with this company isn’t up until August 2016, so I’ll be around The Lou until then or a bit after. I have a darling apartment that I stay in, sometimes. I’m on assignment now in Mason City, Iowa for two weeks— which makes me cringe when I pay my rent for a place that I won’t see for half a month. And it doesn’t make it better to come home to a cold, dark apartment. But I refuse to live in a “crash pad” with 15 other pilots— nothing against them, it’s just that 1. Boys stink and 2. I need my space.

For now, this is exactly where I need to be. It might be rainy, we could be delayed for asinine reasons, but 9 times out of 10, I walk to the airplane and think Oh. My. God. They’re paying me to do this— not much, but they are. And that’s the best feeling to have.

How Much Do You Know?

I tricked you! This isn’t a quiz on Buzzfeed or PlayBuzz or any of those 10 question baseless surveys that tell you which Kardashian you are or what color your aura is. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good mindless clicking session, usually redoing a quiz to get the answer I want (because, seriously, I WILL get Dorothy as my true Golden Girl). Those sites only want your traffic for advertising, which you probably don’t notice anyway.

“Do you even understand?”

We live in a world in which everyone is an activist and everyone knows everything. And why shouldn’t we boast that— information is at our fingertips. If you can’t Google something in 10 seconds, then what’s the point of having access to all the knowledge in the world?

I’m a proponent of this technology. But, even as optimistic as I can be about it, there are downsides.

In no way am I insinuating that I’m holier than thou; I’m merely observing trends on social media. We love to “like” and “share” posts because it fills some void in our vapidity and points the finger— without doing work to solve them. The thought process is this: I deeply care about poverty, so I’m going to post three stories from Upworthy, just so everyone knows I’m about change. Great! Advocacy is the first step. When was the last time you volunteered? (Again, this is where I concede and admit to lightly volunteering here and there). But when your Timeline or Newsfeed is littered with random causes, are you actively making a change, or just giving free publicity to causes? There is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. And we like to flex our muscles about who is a better activist. Oh, you read an article on Jezebel? Gosh. Your feminism is so much better than mine. Let me call Susan B. Anthony and turn in my card.

I would argue that, in a lot of cases, we are flaunting causes just to convey to the general public that we aren’t assholes. The remedy? Don’t be an asshole. You can relax into your passions and educate without seeking validation.

“So, I read this article, and…”

It goes farther than pressing issues. Since we know everything, we are experts on every topic. And it is my pet peeve when a conversation evolves into a pissing match between someone who read an article and someone educated in a field. For example, I did not study biology in college. I did not take one bio-themed class, and the extent of my knowledge dates way back to high school; so, I’ve probably forgotten the entire concept of a cytoplasm or who Mitochondria was. Therefore, I leave it to dear friends who studied health sciences or medicine to inform me all about the field. But because someone with no background in health “read an article” about the latest and greatest medical practices, that doesn’t mean that they have any credibility whatsoever. It’s a regurgitation of boiled down knowledge, handed to you in simplistic forms that you may easily comprehend.

One thing with which I do not easily deal well is condescension. Because you have no knowledge in a subject, don’t preach to me about it. Endless pontification about a topic with which you have little experience only makes you seem foolish— especially when I do have knowledge. It would be like someone discussing with me the 1500 rule plaguing the aviation industry right now. Not only did I devote my past four years to studying the industry, I’m personally feeling the effects of said legislation. And you think after reading a USA Today piece that you can debate it? Sit down.

Memes from Facebook’s “I Fucking Love Science” are fantastic for snippets of sensationalized, flashy stories on interesting happenings in our world. But if you take an article, read it, and run with it as testimony to your expertise, you are doing the authors a disservice by acting as their colleagues.

Is this diluting our knowledge? No. Is possessing knowledge not within your study or scope a bad thing? Not at all. It makes for good fodder for conversation. But there are dedicated individuals in each field who are the real experts— and by no means do I consider myself an expert in any field, other than LGBT Young Adult literature, featuring romances between gay male teens.  How’s that for specific!

As my mother always says, “You can’t have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”

The Road

 

Montana Mooney Sunset
Montana Mooney Sunset

There are moments in meditation when I visualize a road that represents my journey. A long, slender path proceeds forward into an abyss, and a heavy sigh comes over me. Wow. That’s a long way to go, I think to myself.

But an inner voice chimes in and asks, without judgment, “Would you turn around?”

Probably not. Everything I have done up to this point is built from the path behind me. And I have the chance to build the path in front of me— whether it darts to the right, curves to the left, or weaves its way forward. The straight and narrow path is merely a mirage that I have created for myself; an expectation that has yet to be realized.

Brick by brick, stone by stone, clearing the way for a steady stroll.

Suits, but not Pant Suits

Recently, I was asked about the significant increase in male attendance at the Women in Aviation conference. From my perspective as a male person and also an active volunteer, I had several things in mind— and it was always my intention to post about conference, too. I became involved with my school’s Women in Aviation chapter years ago, because I value diversity and fight for equality. When I became president, my typical spiel was “No, I’m not a woman, but I do support women in aviation.” It seems to me that women have more fun with aviation than men. Furthermore, as a member of the LGBT community, I find it imperative that marginalized demographics, especially those of which involved in aviation, band together in an effort to promote their demographic.

Aviatrix Minnie Mouse!

I reached out several years ago to the writing staff at WAI, and I asked them if they needed any assistance at conference— what a better way to combine my two passions! They couldn’t have been more thrilled, and I was thrown into the ring to spotlight collegiate aviators. 

Because egos are often inflated in aviation (I mean, let’s be serious. Flying airplanes is pretty cool!), we lose sight of our other talents and abilities. And when we all come together for conference, we can use these different parts of our identities to enrich the overall experience. Most organizations of which I am a part struggle to find and retain volunteers. It takes people power (not just MANpower) to accomplish a huge feat of corralling 4,000 attendees. 

But I was dismayed by the number of men jumping on the bandwagon. It was obvious why they were at conference. Someone, somewhere, told them “Oh, you have to go to WAI. Everyone is there.” And it’s true! The best of the best and the who’s who of aviation attend this conference.

It’s exciting that our industry is experience growth. Future professional pilots like myself are in a great position for a great career. Just a few years ago, it was easy to walk up to the Delta booth and shoot the breeze, maybe turn in a resume for an internship, and walk away to the next booth. But this year, I had to navigate through endless lines of applicants, mostly male, and couldn’t get a word in edgewise to vendors. It was frustrating.

A source of mine, close to a large airline, said that they were sorting resumes by the applications based on years of membership with Women in Aviation— I praise that wholeheartedly. The question that often came to me as I saw the hustle and bustle of suited-up men was, “What do they contribute to the organization?” With my positive outlook, I can only hope that these men are truly joining for the cause and not riding on the coattails of many magnificent women to score employment. But the last thing I want is for this formidable organization to turn into that which aviation is already— a good ol’ boys club. 

And I’m not going to police every male member of Women in Aviation. So long as you can fight the good fight of putting more women in the flight deck, welcome aboard.

Disclaimer: This is my opinion based solely on my experience at the WAI 2014 conference. In no way does it reflect the opinions of WAI as an organization. 

Deep Up There

Mission Mountains

 

This is mostly a letter to myself, a reflection I scribbled down: it is now yours.

Saturday, I attended a rugby tournament— a dear friend of mine plays on a local team, and I love cheering them on with her girlfriend.

But a quiet moment revealed itself to me as I looked into the sun and spread my arms. This was the first time I had spent a long time outside since the winter released its grasp on us.

I lay down in the grass, peering deeply into the blue sky, scattered with wispy, high-level clouds— it came to me our size in the scheme of the universe. I imagined for a moment that gravity wasn’t keeping me down to earth, but preventing me from falling into the color changing abyss.

We fabricate every instance of our lives. Our perceptions are our realities; our realities are our truths. Whatever we choose to be our truths through experience become our present moment. In simplistic terms, then, it would seem that destiny could be guided by our thought.

And if that were the case, we’d all have smiles and fancy cars. The only hurdle is our ego, which is massive blob of insecurities under the guise of confidence. We think of ourselves as big creatures, but the irony is that any number of things could smite us. Rather than futilely preparing for the unknown, recycle that wasted energy!

When you free yourself of this vanity, which you have built up on your own and with the help of others, you can laugh and look your ego in the eyes. Hold his hand, smile at him, and fall away from the earth.