I’ll never forget my first Christmas as a Flight Attendant. I was lucky enough to buddy bid with a couple of classmates that month, and we were looking forward to a long layover on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. We each had visions of the spread promised to us in initial training. A free meal, a good time with fellow crew members, and the shared camaraderie of making it through the day. Of course, Mother Nature had other ideas for us, and we found ourselves arriving at our hotel several hours later than we were scheduled.
I knew when I signed up for the job that flexibility was a key component of surviving the unpredictability of the schedule. Yet I couldn’t help but be disappointed that night. I found myself throwing a bit of a temper tantrum as I realized that there was no Christmas dinner in store for us. Even though I wanted to put myself to bed instead of spending time with the friends I was flying with, I chose contrary action, and we found ourselves strolling down A1A, where we found a NY style Pizza joint, and the five of us shared a large pizza on the steps of a Fort Lauderdale shopping center.
Since that Christmas, I’ve had quiet overnights where my entire crew left me at the hotel while they visited family. I’ve also been the one to go and leave my crew, choosing instead to spend time with friends or family. I’ve had very lonely nights and some nights where I’ve felt perfectly content with my choice to work and be away from the people I love.
(This picture is from one of the many Christmas’ that I have spent on the road. On the outside I am happy and enjoying helping everyone get to see their friends and family. On the inside I am wondering if I’ll ever get to spend another holiday not missing my own friends and family.)
Some of us don’t have Happy Holidays, or we just haven’t had them yet. Whatever your feelings are about the week ahead, if you’re new to the industry or you’ve been around for a long time, all kinds of feelings are bound to come up. It is emotional to watch others experience the holidays and not have the desire or the ability to do so yourself.
For all of the new friends and comrades we’ve made in the industry the last few months, welcome. I hope you have crew members that help you find the joy of working during this emotional time and if not, I hope you find the strength to endure. This time of year brings up a lot of emotion for passengers, and our comrades, so remember to be extra gentle yourself and with each other in the upcoming days.
The most challenging Christmas I spent as a Flight Attendant was in my fifth year. I was alone in LAX, my entire crew had other plans, and all of my friends and family were with other people. I was 55 days sober, and I felt very, very alone. The food was divine, and I wanted desperately to share my feelings about it with someone else. I thought about drinking, but I did not. Instead, I went to the hot tub, took a long shower, watched Christmas movies, and went to bed early.
Each day for the last 21 months, we have experienced new traumas and letdowns. These kinds of repeated blows can be tough on anyone, but especially hard for those of us with PTSD or other types of challenges.
This year, if you find yourself in a similar place to where I was that Christmas in 2010, you can text the th|AIR|apy helpline and find someone to talk to right away.
Don’t suffer alone. Reach out. WE can find a way to get through these times together.
“When I is replaced with WE, even illness becomes wellness.”- Malcolm X