Sky High: Overcoming a Fear of Flying

by Kristin Braswell

Every time I go, I say that this time, it will be different. Countless experiences have proven that it’s not nearly as bad as my imagination makes it out to be. But then, I see it, climbing in the sky like a strange aluminum bird without a heartbeat. I’m at the airport again, bracing myself to board a plane, the thing I distrust most in my life but rely on the most.

I practically live in the airport, but I'm still scared of flying. The flurry of people packed tightly in lines, the mediocre, overpriced sandwiches, the damp tunnel that leads to a cylinder that will be shot into the sky, above the clouds, above my life on the ground. I know that I am not alone, but oftentimes when I board a flight and look around, there is no one that catches my “please tell me it’s going to be alright” look. Someone is downing a Quarter Pounder from the airport McDonald’s. Someone else is carefully sipping coffee in one hand and fumbling through their last emails on their phone in the other hand. And then there’s the passenger that I love to hate the most: the one who falls asleep as soon as their butt touches the seat. Mouth slightly ajar, head often hanging forward before the inevitable neck snap back that never wakes them up…. until the flight has arrived at its destination.

I’ve tried many things to quell the mounting fears, like:

  1. Drinking wine. And I mean a lot of wine. Sometimes this works, and sometimes I just wake up with a hangover and 3 more excruciating hours left on my flight.
  2. Breathing. Honey, listen. I admire people who can breathe their way through difficult situations. I am not one of them.
  3. Talking to a neighbor. This tried and true method always helps. Fortunately, I’ve never sat next to anyone who didn’t respond kindly to my “I know this is probably super annoying, but can you just talk to me until this turbulence is over” pleads. Even the only half-interested still express a type of kindness that I wish would occur in various human interactions.

Like many fears, my distaste for flying draws from both irrationality and past experience. One too many times of being tossed around like a saltshaker at 30,000 feet is just reason enough to cause anxiety. However, despite this fear, I know that I must travel. This is the part of it all I am learning to embrace a bit more; the discomfort and uncertainty that leads to beautiful things and places.

Kind of like life.