Diversion

We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Sometimes, we are made to divert long before reaching our final destination. Other times we may complete the journey only to find the airport is closed on arrival, forcing us to divert at the last moment.

Whether it’s some kind of emergency or our own health that forces us to come back to earth, the reasons are often out of our control. Sometimes, however, we divert because we realise the flight we’re on isn’t taking us where we want to go. We admit the journey itself isn’t what we wanted after all.

This can be a difficult decision to make when you’re already cruising at a comfortable level. A level that you worked hard to reach. The thought of coming back to earth and climbing back up again can be off-putting. Any decision to divert – especially if the possibility of continuing exists – shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I’ve had thoughts about diverting from my profession for a while now. A decade of long-haul flying has taken its toll. I realise that another decade in this job might cost me significantly – if it hasn’t already. The risk to my health is something that plagues my mind. 

I haven’t left yet because, well, I’m also scared of what might happen if I do. I’m scared about what a career change might mean for my children, for the quality of life I can provide for them. I’ve also been comfortable. 

My job – pre-pandemic, at least – has been decent. It’s not only paid the bills but allowed me to have a wonderful lifestyle. I have traveled the world many times over. Outside of work, at least, it has given me everything I wanted. Although I despise flying through the night, I do enjoy flying aeroplanes. 

For all of the above, I told myself to keep going. To grit it out and get my command first. Achieve that, collect my four bars, and then move on. That way, I’ll have achieved everything I wanted and still have time left on the clock to pursue something else.

I figured this would also allow me to work towards a second career in my spare time – to make for an easier transition before I close this chapter of my life. 

That was the flight plan. 

Unfortunately, things have changed. The journey has become much more turbulent. The ride is approaching unbearable. The forecast at destination is looking increasingly dicey too. 

Hong Kong’s strict zero cases policy has come at an extreme cost for the aircrew. The government has handed us a prison sentence. If we break that sentence – for so much as going outside to get some fresh air – they may well send us to prison. 

The burden on our mental health has been immense. To give you one statistic: our crew body spent over 73,000 days in isolation last year. That’s the equivalent of 200 years in prison. 

The truth is, there is no life here for aircrew at the moment. So long as this madness persists, there is no escaping it either. Getting home is an impossible task because of the quarantine restrictions coming back in. 

We’re boxed in. The choice is to either stay and endure or leave for good – to divert sooner than intended. At the moment, I’m weighing the cost of security in the form of a pay cheque against my mental and physical health. Also, against the cost of not leaving a place I feel an increasing dissonance towards.

But what is the cost of one’s aliveness anyway? What is the price of feeling free? Must we not make enormous sacrifices for it? Do my children not need that more? Do they not need to see me make those sacrifices even? To understand if you value freedom, a pay cheque can often work against you. 

The truth is – you know it – the decision in my heart has already been made. Right now, I’m in the process of formulating a plan before I execute my diversion – just short of the destination I had in mind. 

I am scared. 

I realise it’s ok to acknowledge that. But, like Winston Churchill once said, you have to be willing to leave the shore to explore new oceans. Of course, that’s going to leave you stranded at sea for a while. 

But, that’s exactly what an adventure is. The human spirit can only be made in adventure. Provided I back myself to navigate the tricky waters ahead, I believe I can teach my children something that no amount of money ever will: what it really means to live. 

There is no greater reason to divert than that.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

24 thoughts on “Diversion

  • Hi AP, thank you for sharing such a vulnerable and open and candid post. I can only imagine how devastating the pandemic has been to the flight industry and the toll it has taken on the wellbeing of those who directly service the industry. I’m sorry.

    While you don’t have the answer yet, it seems to be that you are asking all the right questions of yourself and of the universe. 🙏 I hope you arrive at a destination with this decision that works best for you and your family.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Ab. The most important thing is that we make back to earth safely. If I’m destined to divert then so be it. My family need a father who is alive and well first and foremost. I appreciate your kind words Ab. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I admire your courage. Courage to stay so long in a nearly impossible situation. Courage to be open and vulnerable in sharing your thoughts as you decide to change course. Beautifully written, AP2. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for saying so. I don’t always feel very courageous. The mad thing is, despite the horrendous working conditions, I still find I blame myself. Thinking that I should be able to cope with it for my family’s sake. This has only added to the stress of course. Your words help me see I’m doing better than I give myself credit. 🙏

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    • There are plenty of opportunities opening up. I’m just not sure my health can handle many more years of long haul flying – even if I did join another airline. For all the industry’s safety records, it hasn’t done a good job of looking after aircrews long term mental health. I believe it’s a can of worms waiting to be opened. Thank you for lending your thoughts. I appreciate your kind words. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I can totally relate. Of course, I don’t have as high a stakes as you, with children to take care of, and even then, I’m already questioning every choice of whether or not my career is the best for me, and if I’m doing myself a disservice by following my own path.

    Sounds like a challenging time at work though, and I’m here to give you some moral support. No matter what you choose, I’m sure you’ll make good work of it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Stuart – I appreciate your kind words. I’m sure we all debate these questions. I think, we want to make the perfect choice but often forget that there is no such thing. At some point we have to place trust in our intuition – whether we succeed or fail – I’d rather go for it than be left wondering what if at the end of it all.

      PS: You’re an awesome writer Stuart – I’ve no doubt in my mind that you can make it work. Take care 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • You make too much sense not to make the right choices. However as someone who has done that and now in an unstable profession (writing novels) its a hard road. Just keep the writing up and good luck with the rest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place either way. My current situation is unsustainable. If I’m going to change profession I figure the earlier I start the better – otherwise I’ll just be left wondering what if. I think that scares me more. Thanks for your kind words Barb 🙏

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  • AP, Watching the difficulties in the airline industry during the pandemic and the unstable political situation in Hong Kong, I have often thought of you. I wish you wisdom and luck as you make a lot of life-altering decisions. All the best to you and your family! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Cheryl – I appreciate your thoughts. It has all been one big lesson in acceptance. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting something else. My life is still abundant in so many ways. It’s important to see what we have in the moment. Whatever we decide as a family – we will make it work. All the best to you and yours Cheryl 🙏🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • AP! I’m immensely glad that I stumbled upon your blog and I’ve been discovering your posts and reading it, absorbing all that you write about. This post, the name caught my attention, is so heartfelt. I have often wondered about everybody working in the aviation industry during the pandemic. It must have been harsh and still is. I do remember how few flight attendants in India were asked to vacate their home by the landlord only because they were working in the aviation industry and the stigma that so many associate with the industry given the pandemic. It seems crazy! And then I read about the several restrictions and the situation in Hong Kong especially, completely cutting itself from the world. Boxed in as you mention is perhaps an understatement. True, uncertainty reigns and one can never be sure of what next. If this meant a diversion, so be it. Although simple to type it out, to live it must be immensely challenging and draining. From what I have learnt through my experiences in life is diversion when seen in hindsight has never been bad and has led to many unexplored, gratifying and beautiful routes. So if life calls for a diversion I’m certain you’ll bless your stars some day. So take off and let your heart soar 🙂

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    • I’m immensely glad to have stumbled upon yours – thank you so much for your kind supportive words. It’s been a tough time but I’m tougher for it. For that I’m grateful. I do believe I have what it takes to navigate the tricky waters ahead. Wishing you well Parikhit 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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