Carlo flew his first solo on Fathers Day, 2006. As far Tonet can remember, Carlo’s enduring dreams were of commanding the Starship Enterprise. He wasn’t the type to fly an X-Wing down an abyss into the Death Star. More a strategic Captain who backed up his diplomacy with proton torpedoes.
As Carlo and Tonet flew on downwind at Omni today, a taxiing US Air Force C-130 came on the radio:
“Clark Tower, request to hold at this position to align our navigational systems.”
Carlo and his Dad looked at each other and considered the following reply:
“Clark Tower, RP-C1513 would like to orbit here to calibrate our phasers.”
We all hurry to grow up. Then we wish were were young again… .
It is a truism of adult life that life never ends up quite the way you planned it.
I had a very specific plan upon graduating. It was derailed. Badly. My fault.
On the bright side, I had no plans on going into a relationship after graduating. Look at me now. 🙂
It is some consolation to me that the unexpected tides of life after school are both positive and negative. It is even more comforting that I held on to both my dreams of teaching English and flying airplanes. My only regret is that I did not have the courage and foresight to start teaching sooner. If I get run over by a bus tomorrow, that last sentence will be among my final thoughts. But on the other hand, I’m deeply grateful for my hard-earned second chance, and for the support of the many people without whom it would not be possible.
I’m teaching today in one of the best high schools in the country, surrounded by good-natured colleagues, in charge of two hundred endlessly quirky and lovable teenagers, and I cannot imagine ever having wanted anything else. The classroom is my natural habitat. Often even more so than the cockpit.
Even my view of flying has changed. The act of flying itself is not as important to me as it once was, and its endless wonders seem somehow less poetic to my older eyes. The airplane is a wonderful machine, yes, a chariot to realms of adventure and beauty. But it is a machine. It is aluminum, copper wires, three little tires, knobbly things, and rigid wings.
Something happened over the past year that I’m still trying to understand. Whatever it is, it’s made everything seem a little grayer. The smiles are just this shade of wry, the laughter is now tinged with mild hysteria, and the flowers evoke nostalgia rather than daydreams. I look at the wonderful job I’m in now, the one I worked for years to prepare for, and I think, guiltily, that amazing though it is, it is not quite what I spent my years dreaming of.
I miss those dreams. I miss the times when everything seemed possible, when there was a plan that made sense, and success was directly tied to hard work and trust in your loved ones.
Don’t get me wrong. I have an amazing family, a girl whom I would trade for no one else on earth, and a job that brings me joy, fulfillment, and pizza money. I am happy.
But I have learned that the marker of adulthood is not when you begin to earn money, not when you finish school, not when you first fall in love, not when you first feel pain. It is when you begin to have regrets.
The act of flying itself feels almost like a childish memory, the quixotic escape from reality of a young man who can’t even afford the avgas, let alone the plane.
But I remember the smiles on the faces of the very special people I have taken flying, the wonder of my friends as they see the photos I take and look at their homeland with new eyes, and the indescribable look on Dad’s face when he realized that yes, I was going to be a pilot. These things feel even more valuable now. They are no longer just the highlights of life, they are reasons to live. It is relationships that matter in this new world of funhouse mirrors and nostalgia and small salaries. And flying is more important to me than ever because of this.
Some parts of flying have diminished in value to me, and some parts have increased tremendously.
And now I think of the man who made this unlikely dream possible in the first place, who’ll enjoy a special day today before being pulled back into the realm of obligations and deadlines.
My Dad. We flew for an hour yesterday, performing S-turns in strong winds using a road for reference, laughing at how fun it was to fly again. I think of the S-turns of life, and how once again my unusual hobby, my aluminum paramour, and my indispensable copilot have helped me make sense of growing up.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Posted from Manila, June 21, 2009