Dear Kreisha of 2008,
You are about to fall in love. You don’t know it yet, but your life will never be the same.
In the next five years, you will cry more tears, experience more joy and stretch yourself far, far beyond your wildest imaginings. You will learn things about mechanics, physics and meteorology, the very thought of which would frighten you now, sitting in a car in your heels and your lipstick, blindly unaware of your upcoming surprise.
Your future lexicon will include words such as ‘engine nacelle’ ‘viscosity’ and ‘nimbostratus’. You will become fluent in ‘acronym’ and will not bat an eyelid deciphering coded weather forecasts. You will learn to judge the weather by the number of lines on a terminal forecast, and you will become tuned to sense the change in pressure that determines whether you can fly or not. BOM will replace Ebay as your homepage, and weather radar images will become as familiar to you as the peppery palate of a fine Shiraz.
As you turn onto Birch Street and approach the flying school, and you begin to understand the meaning of your surprise birthday present, you feel a blend of fear and excitement churn in your belly. This feeling, a pre-flight nervousness, will become your companion over the next five years; you will learn to trust it, listen to it, and be in awe of the fact that your body seems to know you’re going flying long before your brain does.
When you meet the first of what will become a very long line of instructors, you will, initially, be in awe. This smooth and confident man will introduce you to your very first aircraft; a tiny toy-like machine that you cannot believe you will ever fly. He will show you all the components and you will instantly forget their names. He will strap you in and make you believe you have control, but that he is always there, behind you, really doing all the work. While it will most certainly be love at first flight for you, sadly it will be a while before you find an instructor who makes you feel this good.
This calm and capable man will allow you to taxi the aircraft, and ask you to hold onto the throttle and yoke as you take off. It will seem both surreal and perfectly right when you hurtle (as much as a C150 can hurtle) down the runway and become airborne. Something inside you moves, and you feel you were born purely for this moment; to fly, to soar, to become the person you were in your childhood dreams.
The moment you are on the ground, you are without a single doubt that you must learn to fly. You book a lesson the very next weekend and begin your mountainous path towards your pilots licence.
I can tell you now, it will not be easy. I would give anything to be able to meet you, Kreisha-of-the-past, and tell you to breathe deeply, to look for a mentor, to join a flying club. I would encourage you to pace yourself, take each hurdle one at a time, and meet other students with whom you can share your experiences. If you are not happy at a school, with an instructor, leave. There are plenty more birds in the sky.
Despite the mistakes (ahh, the time you joined the circuit in the wrong direction; your prop strike; the occasion where you forgot to untie the tail tie down and the many, many times you’ve sat under the wing and sobbed) you have matured. You have achieved amazing things. I am as proud of you as you will be of yourself (when you are me, in five years time).
I have two final pieces of advice:
Your boundless optimism will see you through the many times you feel the need to quit. The difference between a dream and a goal is a date. Don’t give up.
And, in 2011, when that particularly difficult instructor suggests you hold the stick like it’s a penis, open the aircraft door and push him out!