The Year Of Independence: Episode 2


You know that commercial with the beautiful clouds, delicious drink, and luxurious legroom for days as the smiling traveler lifts off to that magical destination?

My commercial would look more like group 9 boarding and a middle seat in the last row.

(Don’t all scream at once! I realize everyone wants to travel with me.)

When I was finally able to board my plane last week, I found my seat next to an elderly lady - in a bright yellow floral pantsuit.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get annoyed when she didn’t hear me right away when I politely asked if I could slide in.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel impatient while she finally looked up from her book, and took centuries to get up because of her “bad knee”.

I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t judge her taste of fashion.

And when she made the urgent comment that I needed to put up my tray (while I ate my dinner) because “they won’t let us go if that’s down”, I’d be quadruple lying if I didn’t say I internally rolled my eyes because of this women’s ignorance.

We were still at the gate.

However, emotions pass and soon I forgot she was sitting next to me. I carried on in my own little world until my eye caught the title of the book she was reading and I had to hold my tongue back from asking if she liked it.

(The book was the Last Song by Nicholas Sparks.)

She seemed pretty invested in reading so I kept my mouth shut. But when we started to descend to the ground, I figured it was a great excuse to start a conversation. Remember, I am kinda on this journey of beating social anxiety.

“Are you liking the book?”

She looked up. 

“It was one of two books that were in English when I was leaving the airport so I grabbed it. But yes, I do like it.”

And this is another episode of how I met another stranger. 

The lady chatted to me when I asked what part she was. I didn’t push for a full blown convo because I wasn’t sure how much she wanted to focus on reading. But soon after we sat in silence for a little, she grabbed her bag on the floor. 

“This book is making me cry”. 

I grabbed her my tissues from my bag. “I always cry when I read it too”. 

From this, the onion started peeling away. I learned that she was flying back from Punta Cana and the room service there was excellent. She never read the book “The Notebook” , only had ever seen the movie and her husband loved the movie. Her husband died a year ago. Her eyes filled with tears when I shared that I’d lost my mother a year ago too. It was oddly fulfilling to be sitting in each others grief because we both knew loss and its unbearable pain. She emphasized more than once that as we age, we figure out its not worth the energy to get worked up over our driver being on time to pick us up or if our luggage makes it to the carousel. She said there are bigger things in this life to worry about. 

Like our health. Our relationships.

This time, I made sure I asked for her name (because if you read about ~Brooke~, you know I failed at this). I thought it was going to be Nancy, but it turned out to be Diane. I introduced myself too, and she made the comment that my name was unusual. I chuckled when I told her that I “use to think I was special” but that “then I got to college and now know 20 other Emma’s”.

She smiled. 

“You are special. At least, you seem like a special girl”. 

There’s something fulfilling about meeting a new stranger. Maybe it's because she told me I was special. Or maybe it's because I learned all this new knowledge, from a new perspective. Planes are also such an easy place to practice stepping out of my social anxiety bubble. Most of the time, I’d rather plug in my headphones and disconnect but moments like this help me realize how much I learn from other people. 

In that short, sweet period of time on the plane, I absorbed life knowledge from a stranger who’s been around for awhile. 

When we are young, everything’s important. We fast forward through every moment, ready for the next. There are so many new opportunities and possibilities around the corner; we musnt’ let them slip away. But then adversity hits, forcing us to reflect on our way of living. As you age you realize not to sweat the little things, that there are bigger things to worry about. 

The quirky older lady seemed very excited when I shared my upcoming travel plans. She also asked me if I had a boyfriend. I laughed.

“No, I Am enjoying my independence too much.”

“Well, don’t wait too long”. 

Setting out of my comfort zone: 2

Social anxiety: 0

What I learned from Diane:

My reminder to you.

My reminder to you.

  1. Dealing with adversity doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in your room for weeks.

    1. She lost her husband, yet still went to a foreign country on her own. “What am I supposed to do? Sit around and cry all the time?”. Adversity is inevitable. It also sucks. Yet, we’re better off moving forward to make up for the pain we all face by exploring what life has to offer.

  2. Daily stressors are not worth getting worked up about.

    1. We can’t avoid them and there are much more important things to be worrying about than something that won’t matter in an hour, let alone a year. She talked about how her memory was going - how awful it was to lose that as you get older. Take care of yourself. Focus on what matters to you: whether that be your health, the relationships you build, meeting that end goal. You never know when those precious things may be ripped away from you or someone you loved. 

  3. Life’s too short to be afraid to wear color.

    1. Her bright floral, yellow pant suit couldn’t be missed. She was a flurry of color and it poured off of her (personality). I mean I love neutral, pale colors, but something about her colorful outfit beamed a colorful life. What a joy.

Growth, TravelEmma Ecklin