In a combined effort with other aviation bloggers, I promised a post that ties in with the holiday some people will be celebrating today. Not the New Year's celebration, but the other holiday. The one with hearts instead of dragons.
There's a wide societal expectation that your romantic life will follow a certain pattern. You'll date a few people who turn out to be inappropriate, or just not long term prospects for you. You then get more serious and fall in love with Mr. or Miss. Right. There's a proposal, an acceptance, engagement, wedding plans and then happily ever after. It's considered polite conversation with near strangers to ask if they are married. And if you don't seem to be on that path, there are confused questions.
Friends try to set you up. And you think you want that, so you accept and thank them, then never call the number, or call but accept flimsy excuses, and fail to follow up if they don't call back. You go through bursts where you rededicate yourself to believing that this really is something you want. You carefully craft a personal ad. You are thrilled but also terrified when you get a response from someone who seems right. You're not sure if you're dreading the date itself--because there have been some terrible ones, and they can be so humiliating--or the inevitable rejection. You gloss over the reason for your previous break ups, trying to make yourself look as good as possible without lying. You try to make the best impression you can, which might mean not presenting your real self. You check your e-mail and your phone for messages, hoping to hear back. Sometimes they schedule another date. You try to be the person they want, and argue to yourself that it is your real self, just the best sides of it, but deep down you wonder if 'maybe there's someone out there who wants me for me, all of me.'
You plan self-improvement of some kind, to make yourself more appealing, but find yourself shirking or dreading sessions because they are a reminder of being unwanted, and is the expense worth the marginal improvement? You catch yourself avoiding friends who are in relationships, because their casual references remind you of what you're supposed to have. You cut yourself off from the people who could help you get what you think you want.
Maybe you're with someone, but it's not very serious. There are no long term prospects and your friends keep asking if you're still with that loser. Maybe you're freelancing, good friends with a enough people whom you can rely on for a booty call or a fling when you're that way inclined. Maybe you've discovered that your life is pretty comfortable with your feet on the ground, avoiding any romantic entanglements. How does one tell whether passing doubts or dissatisfaction is because you aren't with the partner you want, or you aren't with the partner society has taught you and continues to assume is Right? Have you 'settled' or is this what you want? Even when you're totally comfortable right now, external and internal expectations whisper messages of guilt and failure and concern for your future if you haven't succumbed to traditional marriage before you lose your marketability.
This post does not carry the non-aviation tag, because it's really about aviation. The airline job is the mythical Mr. Right for the commercial pilot. Personnel ads and résumés are just like personal ads. Interviews are as awkward and potentially humiliating as first dates. Contract flying is exciting and varied, but does sometimes leave you without a date when there are bills to be paid. You can end up with the wrong one, in a dangerous relationship, but not have the resources to leave, or the self-esteem to know you can do better. The metaphor follows all the way through, including tearful breakups and those confusing relationships where you're not really sure who dumped whom and you're tempted to go over and beg them to take you back. Calling your ex to get your stuff back and talking to your replacement, who has been told lies about you. Yep, it's all there. The only upside is that you probably won't get dumped if your current employer discovers you are actively looking for the next one. You probably won't get promoted either, though. And many who think they have achieved happily ever after discover that the one they have committed thirty years to has gambled away the pension money.
If you're flying helicopters instead of fixed wing, things get more complicated, especially as many people don't become helicopter pilots until years of believing their destiny is in fixed wing. Friends and family who don't know helicopters don't have a clue what they do anyway or what your prospects might be, because there isn't a widely respected stereotype of a successful rotary wing pilot. You might not live in an area where a stable airline job is an option at all on a helicopter. There's a certain freedom there, because expectations are different, but the same angst over career progress. You're forced to define your own success.
Whichever side of the airport you're working, long to be working, or have decided you really don't need the headaches from, I wish you a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger. Gung Hay Fat Choy.