Every Takeoff

My stomach lurches every time the plane’s wheels leave the runway.

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No matter how many times I fly, every takeoff feels like the first time. On days when the security queue feels like a recurring nightmare of struggling in and out of shoes, belts, and jackets, when every terminal looks the same, when I think I’ve lived my whole life in this one uncomfortable airplane seat—takeoff feels new.

As the wind reaches under the plane’s wings, tugging us away from the grime of the earth and into a sky so crisp I could crack it with my fingers, excitement rushes through me.

I am going somewhere, and I love to be going somewhere.

Travelling. Visiting. Flying to school or flying home.

My greatest delight is to soar through mother-of-pearl clouds and then shudder to earth in a new place—a corner of dirt I haven’t touched yet, a city whose streets I don’t know, a town grown a little older since last I saw it.

Every takeoff feels fresh, the sudden lift like the turning of a page, the adventures waiting at the end of the flight a mystery. Somehow I’m always certain this time will be the climax. This adventure, this new city—it will somehow be significant.

Somehow it will make me different.

And every time, it turns out that I’m still me.

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Still the same person when I fly home for holidays. Still the same when I fly back to school. I was me in London and Edinburgh and Dublin; I was me in Baltimore and Winchester.

Now I’m me in New York City.

If I expected something drastic—perhaps a shock rippling through me when my feet first hit the famous streets, perhaps a sudden shift from small-town-girl to New Yorker—I must be disappointed. I remain me, still myself in a new city.

But maybe, in the end, I am different, carrying a little of each place with me wherever I go.

I like to think I’m braver for having taken the subway downtown and back alone this morning. I like to think I’m more hospitable for the time I spent on the Mexican border, more open for the time I spent in Indiana’s cornfields.

And maybe, just maybe, there are pieces of me left behind, corners of myself that chipped off and stayed in those cities when I boarded yet another plane and felt that familiar rush of adrenaline as the wheels left the runway.

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