Today I met a stranger who told me a story I already knew about a man I never met. The stranger was the relative of a pilot. The pilot had worked since high school to get his private licence, his commercial licence, his multi engine rating, his instrument rating, his float rating, and his instructor rating. He had worked as an instructor, and worked for a small company in a remote part of the country. He worked for another company and slowly, despite companies going bankrupt or being taken over, he moved along with his cohort of same age male pilots and gained a position on what Canadians call a tier one carrier, a major airline.
That's a textbook career track. There are as many similar stories as there have ever been red or blue seniority numbers. That's the way many pilots want to go.
He flew for the major carrier, on various aircraft until he became medically disqualified from flying. And that was it for that career. He then drank too much and within a few years that was it altogether. That's not the way a pilot wants to go.
"It's like the army," my stranger told me, "They tell them where to go and what to wear and when to sleep for so long, that they cannot be removed from that environment."
I have heard this story too many times. Serves me right for talking to strangers. I pledge to keep my life sufficiently diverse that should my flying career end, it cannot take my self-image down with it.