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It’s been nearly four years since I sat in a plane. For someone who loves to travel, this is a very long time. It isn’t that I haven’t been new (and familiar) places in this time, I just haven’t flown anywhere. I’ve driven, and bussed, and ridden the train. But no planes.

Part of it is that I haven’t had the occasion to fly. I’m the kind of woman who jumps at the opportunity to go somewhere new, have a new experience, be a “stranger” in a strange world. But this kind of opportunity has not appeared in the last four years, and I haven’t had the means to create it.

The deeper reason is economics. I grew up in a working-class poor family. We didn’t have much. We had enough, but not much. We rarely traveled, let alone flew somewhere. As an adult, I’ve been a college student (meaning broke) and a single adult living minimum-wage jobs (or just above minimum wage) since graduation. I say this because it is my reality, the world in which I have existed for the past five years (since graduation). I wouldn’t say I am content here, or even happy, but I am facing this reality in order to change it.

Flying is very much about money. If you cannot afford a $650 plane ticket to London, you don’t fly to London. If you cannot afford a $300 ticket to Seattle to participate in the coolest retreat, you don’t fly to Seattle. As someone who has little-to-no monthly income, these things are out of my range.

So, when a kind and loving friend offers you 43,000 of her half-million frequent flier miles to get you home for your little sister’s graduation party, you accept. I, until that moment, did not believe I would be attending this monumental occasion.

The last time I boarded an airplane, it was in Seattle. All of my belongings (save for what I fit in a suitcase, rolling duffle, backpack, and pillowcase) were boxed and packed into a storage locker on the Peninsula. I had no return ticket, and didn’t know when I would be retrieving them. I was banished from my island home. I was terrified, and yet certain that all would actually be okay, somehow.

I remembered this experience last night, as I was packing a different (smaller) suitcase to fly back to my hometown, and caught myself spiraling into that same panic, that same fear. I do have a return flight. I am coming home. I will be completely safe, both when traveling and visiting.

This afternoon, I board a flight in my new home town. I have a three-hour layover between that and the next leg of my journey, during which I will eat the dinner I am packing, catch up on some reading, and journal, journal, journal. When I land tonight, the air will be different, the light gone, the fears lingering at the edge of shadows. But I will be alive, and safe, and strong in my own skin.

In each moment, everything changes.

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