If there were a competition for the most annoying question, the award might very well go to: “What is the meaning of life?” In all its glorious cliché, unanswerability, and, dare I say, laziness (for, after all, shouldn’t we be able to figure it out for ourselves, and ask each other the better question: “What is the meaning of your life?”), I once drunkenly popped that interrogatory succession of six words to a guy on a first date in near desperation for something to talk about. His response will never leave me: “We’re all just trying to find a way to live.”
How we live is a sure product of the choices we make in our lives. Some of the best decisions I have ever made were on a plane just as it took off. I have left jobs, apartments, boyfriends, and even a husband in the moment that an aircraft I was strapped into began flight. The level of conviction with which those particular decisions were taken is unparalleled. Like everyone else, I make choices, big and small, all the time. But there is something about a huge metal ship filled with humans about to part ways with the planet which seems to lend more importance to any resolution.
The physics of getting a plane off the ground are mind-boggling. Its ability to suspend itself so high up in the air and propel itself forward at such a rapid speed is simply magic. The fact that, most of the time, these flying machines do not fall out of the sky is a miracle. And with so much wondrousness and sense of fatality infused in every airborne trip, the life-altering matters about which I may be riddled with indecisiveness on the ground seem increasingly trivial with every foot I climb into the atmosphere.
With every take-off-induced epiphany, I shed a carapace which plummets to the tarmac below. The immediate consequence is invariably to fall into a deep slumber, stirred only by the passing cart offering welcome drinks, to which I react by sitting up straight, unfolding my tray table, and requesting a celebratory tiny bottle of wine. The rest of the flight is a haze of serenity, rejuvenated enthusiasm, and dreams of the bright future ahead.
The effect tends to wear off soon after touching back down to Earth. But with every trip, I try to hold on to the glow of lifting off and letting go. Like an athlete or Pavlovian dog, I want to train myself to reach a point where all I’d need to do is simply jump into the air to reach the same zen result. “Jump it out”, as Florence might say to the Machine. And as much as it’s undoubtedly easier said than done, I firmly believe that nothing, not even that, is impossible. I’m sure the Wright brothers would agree.