Blog #3917: Sparrow in the Engine

I just had a massive reality check. Life is so weird sometimes. I found myself having just boarded a plane in Austin, ready to fly out for a week-long trip to Traverse City, MI. It would be a jam-packed week ahead; two concerts to photograph, a blog story, business meetings, dinners, brunches and breakfasts planned and some resort photography. And when I say “some,” I really mean; “a list ridiculously long and probably somewhat unattainable.” It wouldn’t be a dull week. After checking my to-do list and stowing my carry-on, I had precisely twenty-three seconds of elation. I’d been a stress-head for months over a variety of quasi-inconsequential things. But the universe had just planted in front of me an opportunity to take on some really cool photoshoots that could potentially open new doors for me, help a client greatly, and help along some existing projects and personal goals. I was being flown from Austin to Michigan to shoot in-house for Grand Traverse Resort, the pinnacle of this being the one-and-only 80’s hair band Skid Row performing at GTR’s Leelanau Sands Casino that very same evening. Skid Row was entirely a bucket-list shoot. It not only suited my penchant for dramatic concert photography, but placed my photos in the hands of the right people. It was a bright opportunity for me to show what I could do, and people were watching.

I sat down in my seat on the first leg of my trip, Austin-Dallas. After a very early start, leaving my brand new rescue pup at a pet motel in a guilt-ridden haze. And after endless sleepless nights, crippling anxiety, packing, checking, re-packing, and re-checking all over again (O.C.D. is my middle name), and about as much scrimping and saving as I can bear to tell you about, I was on my way. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I spend too much time worrying and even more time stressing. And absolutely never enough time actually enjoying the experience. But this time, I decided to allow the joy and excitement to wash over me. To bask, to relish; whatever you want to call it. For all twenty-three seconds of it.

At second twenty-four of my indulgent elation, our pilot comes on the intercom. “Folks, I’m afraid our plane has a maintenance issue following a bird strike and before we can fly, we’ll need to pass a series of FAA inspections and file the necessary paperwork. It’ll take at least an hour. If you have a connection you might miss and want to deplane, now is your chance.” With a tight 30-minute connection in Dallas, my first thought was; “what about all of my checked luggage and gear?!” A snippy flight attendant informed me that there was no way to pull luggage off the plane. It would automatically be sent on to my destination at a later unspecified point, should we miss the connection.

Just.

Wonderful.

Was this the universe telling me I really needed to think about an alternative, less ambitious career move? Fate was laughing at me gleefully like a fat kid downing their fourth Mountain Dew and binge-watching Jackass. Burp. Who was I to think it’d all be that easy? Here I am, stuck on a plane, stuck without knowing if I can get to Michigan in time for Skid Row.

I sat in my seat and I just hoped.

Picture

Our pilot and crew made an incredible effort, completed the inspection and got us to Dallas late. But not entirely too late. Slightly less late than my worst-case-scenario brain would lead me to expect. As we parked at the gate, we played the aisle-crushing “we all must get off this plane immediately, so it’ll help if we ALL try to stand in the aisle all at once” dance. I glanced at my phone. My next flight was boarding and gates close in eighteen minutes. I was three terminals away.

I grabbed my bags, managed not to hit anyone on the way out, and I ran.

Except it wasn’t quite that elegant. I flapped, tripped, weaved and dodged, and attempted not to barrel over stray children and the darling elderly in a busy airport. With an oversized camera gear pack on my back and a second shoulder bag packed to the hilt, it was a little bit like dressing up a tortoise as a pack mule, throwing him in cute kitten heels and asking him to sprint a 10k. In a crowded airport. I hopped on a tram, hopped off the tram two gates too early, was SO sure of a shortcut, took that shortcut at a less-than-coordinated gait, learned that all of the moving walkways on my shortcut were out of order, then realized the shortcut took me to the wrong gate. My plane was no longer departing from B4, but instead it was now B21. I kept running, developed some nice blisters, lost a shoe, grabbed that shoe and somehow got it back on my foot as I was hopping down an escalator (now one-footed, bags flapping wildly), and hauled myself and my two bags through the gate as they closed the doors. The stewardess just stepped back and let hurricane Me fly by. I sat down in my seat, every bit the flustered, profusely sweating crazy person who almost missed their flight – the ones that you see in the airport from time to time and always hope it’ll never be you. Think Home Alone, but this is 2019 and the haircuts are a little bit better. 

As I cranked the overhead fan and caught my breath (while apologizing to my seat mate for the kerfuffle, disorganization and possible stench), I had two thoughts.

Firstly, it was: “Huh! Now when someone asks me why I’m so committed as a runner, why I spend so many hours training for a sport that’s never going to take me anywhere close to a competitive outlet (I’m slower than a f’n snail..)… now I have an answer.” Cool. 

I also just felt super badass. I realized that with a little grit and determination (Ok, and a little cardiovascular conditioning), things that might seem impossible are worth holding on to – worth trying, really trying for. Even when it seems a little unlikely. And I realized that I had seriously neglected to give myself credit in similar cases in the past; where I did what was necessary when things got tough or challenging or unlikely. I tried, dammit. Regardless of the outcome, I was cheating myself by not giving myself credit.

And if that’s not a life lesson, I don’t know what is.

The kicker? I made it to that concert and shot some of the best photos of my life.

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