“Hi, how are you today?”
Those five words are not often heard or spoken on an airplane.
Certain common courtesies (on airplanes and elsewhere) have gone by the wayside, and have been replaced with silence and limited eye contact. What gives, everyone!?
To be totally transparent, I sometimes fall into this habit while traveling — I keep to myself, stay small, and try to get from point A to point B with as little effort as possible.
While traveling to Chicago to visit my sister this past weekend, I expected my flight to be like every other flight I have taken recently.
Naturally, my time up in the air was not what I expected.
I boarded the airplane in that cattle-herd way — shuffling around and trying not to smack people in the head with my gigantic purse as I dead lift my carry on into overhead storage. As I settled down in 11A and buckled in, I turned to my right and said “Hello” to my neighbor and asked those five little words not often heard.
Her name was Dorothy. She was wearing a fuscia Under Armor hooded sweatshirt and black stretchy pants. Her recently curled mousy-brown hair was highlighted by rose colored glasses (yes, seriously, rose colored). Her initial sweet shyness gently transitioned into a genuine conversation.
She started out by asking me what I do for a living.
“I am an actor and a writer,” I sheepishly answered.
She beamed, “Oh my goodness, that is so neat. You must love what you do.”
This was one of many encouraging reminders from my new friend, Dorothy.
We chatted back and forth about following dreams (she was a school teacher for ages), savoring precious relationships with family members (we were both traveling to Chicago to visit loved ones), extroversion and introversion (she swears I’m an extrovert), our love for John Muir, and how energy is contagious (she said, “I know I’m happy right now because I’m sitting next to you!”).
After more conversation about following dreams, she encouraged me to pick up the book, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. She explained to me that Steve Jobs continually pressed forward even if he experienced a set back. He knew that closed doors, hearing “no,” and stumbling blocks in his life were not him. And well, he pretty much ignored all of them. To Steve, they were simply experiences — nothing more. He did not allow those illusions to dictate his life.
Then she looked me in the eyes and said, “You just have to keep moving forward. I know you can do it.”
This is when I had an overwhelming feeling that she sat in 11B for me. This woman didn’t know much about who I really am. But she knew enough to have piercing wisdom that made contact with my heart.
The past few weeks have been really tough for me when it comes to my professional life. I feel lost, emotional, and unsure about the direction I am going. I have been crying every day out of anxiety and fear. But those short 75 minutes of my life that I got to sit next to Dorothy of Mason City, Iowa, truly lifted my spirits.
A stranger told me she believed in me. A stranger said I will accomplish my dreams. A stranger became an angel I could see and hear.
Next time you are up in the air, know that just maybe, the person sitting next to you could have the ability to ground you and bring you back to your true reality.
All you have to do is just say “Hi.”