I had a dream that I boarded a plane, took off and landed safely at my destination. It sounds straight forward, but the dream marked a significant change as far as the terrain of the unconsciousness goes. For years, I’ve been dreaming of unsuccessful flights.
In those dreams, the bellies of planes skate along freeways, plunge into oceans or never approach cruising altitude. They putter out. As the dreams continued, I began to prepare for the inevitable failure even though each sleep delivered me to a new consciousness without memory of past catastrophes. I developed dream survival skills like reaching a new level in a single-player video game. I learned to brace for impact, swim to the surface, or land the aircraft on a stretch of cornfield. In another, I emerge from the battered jet plane to a bountiful farm stand where black horses run in the background along a beach. When I had that dream several months ago, I was rightfully invigorated. I wasn’t successful but my failures were inching me closer to something promising and sustaining.
My mom always worked for the airline mostly for the perk of flying her family for little, then eventually no money. But it came with a giant catch. These passes got you to the terminal but they didn’t earn you a seat. That prize was handed out by powerful gate agents, who by circumstances and a dose of sympathy, would give some or all of my family the sturdy physical ticket minutes before takeoff. Elated, we’d run down the jetway. Or if our names weren’t called, we hung out in the terminal reading, eating snacks, my brother and I annoying each other and rattling my mom’s nerves. I know the IAH of the 90s very well. Once, my brother and dad were stuck in the Honolulu airport for days during a busy spring break travel season while my mom and I went on ahead. They slept in the terminal, eating food only meant to be enjoyable en route to paradise.
I often dream of airport terminals too. Terminals represent the dull passage of time punctuated with periods of frantic excitement. Sort of like life. Expectations mean nothing. And the best indications of a smooth trip (open seats, off-peak times) are worth little when weather decides to roll in at any point along the travel route. Traveling on flight benefits taught me that while most paying passengers move freely from one point to another, I should get comfortable with waiting if I wanted the chance to see other sites.
My young adulthood was shaped by awayness but lacked any true travel. I stalled. I waited for permission. I distracted myself with cheap entertainment. Then I became a mom and incrementally this started to change. Then I fell in love and it changed more. Then I experienced grief and everything I knew was inverted. Slowly, work eroded the wall-flower self. I clung to her tighter. Then, out of exasperation and fatigue, I let her go so I could actually get on my way and about my business.