With six flights to take in two weeks this disappearing plane has given me the jitters.
Even though my rational side knows it’s safe, with falling coconuts and death by donkeys being statistically more likely, it has still ignited something within me, something that goes far beyond a fear of flying.
Enter – The Existential Crisis
No one wants to die. In fact it would not be too outlandish to claim most people fear death, and even those who don’t probably don’t want to be there when it happens, despite it being our only true certainty in life.
Take this and a situation where you have no control, so vulnerable at the hands of engineering and human error it’s no wonder disasters such is this is are so abhorrent and inconceivable, they’re just not supposed to happen.
Passing time with fellow Chang vest avoider Olivia, who I met in Hoi An, we chatted late in to the night feeding our morbid fascination with the case, not only trying to solve the mystery but overworking our empathetic side, putting ourselves in the position of relatives, wondering what we would do if that was us.
And so as I waited for my flight back to Manila all these things were very reassuringly whizzing round my head and I tried to pinpoint what it is for me that is most scary about dying.
It didn’t take long to decide: put simply the fear of going without having left a mark on the world, of not reaching my full potential, of not contributing something of value to others (whether that be work, relationships, kids whatever) that makes my time here worthwhile.
Actual plane fear
Then there’s the second thing: if I knew my time was so limited would I be doing anything differently. This I think is a very interesting question. As I mentioned in my going East page I’m a fan of the how to live before you die speech by Steve Jobs who talks about how knowing he would die soon was the one thing that kept him truly living.
Again it’s a morbid thought, but one that requires some consideration. If you only had 5 years left as opposed to 50 what would you be doing so differently, and what does that say about the path you are currently on? Of course it’s a slightly unrealistic notion to live each day as if it was your last and I’m not talking skydives and scaling mountains every day here, but rather acting on those quieter voices which stir your curiosity, so often banished to the ‘that’s not realistic drawer’.
And on this point I did feel content (even though I was still scared to death that disaster could strike twice) because for once I did have the courage to act on those thoughts many months ago, to not listen to the ‘what if it doesn’t work outs’, to follow curiosity over logic, to just go and see what happens.
But on point one I was most defiantly not at ease, I’ve not so much as made a dent on leaving a legacy, I don’t even know what I can or want to contribute! I am most certainly not ready to go.
All this morbid introspection made me realise a few things: that the pursuit of dreams is really important, that I’ve got much more I want to give (in whatever guise that will appear!) and that right now things are not half bad.
And so when I stepped on to the Tarmac I savored the humid air, waved to the ground staff (got to love Filipinos) thanked my lucky stars I was there in that moment and bounced out of the airport full of life to live another day.