Live a Little

For the past twenty years of my life, I have always loved flying in airplanes. I have probably been on hundreds by now and there is something so fascinating to me about them. Speeding down the runway for thirty something seconds and then lifting up into the air is a magical experience. Knowing me, I ALWAYS want the window seat just so I can look out the window and think about life. I feel inspired when I’m 20,000-plus feet above the earth, looking down at mountain tops, roads, cars, and homes - you feel like you can conquer the world.

I spend almost every summer in Poland to see my family. It honestly is an exhausting trip to travel 3,000 miles across the ocean, so we limit this vacation to once a year. But 2017 was a little different...we flew there for winter break as well.

It was a great experience, but eventually it was time to return home. We had a layover in New York and our flight back home was the next morning on New Year’s Eve. Everyone boarded the plane, the cabin crew closed the doors, demonstrated the safety features of the aircraft, and right as we approached the runway, I put on my headphones. I always feel like I need the perfect song playing for when the plane takes off and I will restart the song until the plane is off the ground...sounds a little OCD, no? But like I said, this moment taking off into the sky makes me feel happy and powerful.

We were four minutes into the air and I was constantly taking pictures of the snowy New York grounds during a sunrise. My mom tapped me on the shoulder and said  “Anna, the pilot just announced we are returning to the JFK airport for an emergency landing.” In this moment I immediately paused my music and took my headphones off. What could be going on?! The departure door was not closed all the way and there was a technical glitch with the nose of the aircraft. My eyes widened, and I tightened my seatbelt. All of these visions of the plane door opening (because of pressure changes) and sucking us all out went through my mind at this point. I put my headphones back on and looked out the window - we were right above water, New York harbor just barely visible in the distance. 

I honesty thought this was the end of my life. I had Wi-Fi on this plane, so I began texting and Snapchatting my closest friends (really whoever I thought of in that moment) notifying them of the situation and telling them how scared I was. I looked out the window one last time and saw land beneath us. It made me feel a little better the closer and closer we approached the runway for landing.

Right when we touched down, I realized just how short life can be. As brutal or scary as it may sound, you never know how or when death will come. So many thoughts ran through my mind. Life decisions about my future flashed before my eyes regarding college, my career, and opportunities in general.

Never in twenty years of flying have I ever experienced an emergency landing. I knew it was bound to happen eventually. What is strange though, is that a few nights earlier I had a dream I was in a plane crash. I woke up before the plane hit the ground, so I survived. It was almost as if my dream was foreshadowing this event which tripped me out a little.

I don’t always take big risks in life. By taking big risks I DO NOT mean going skydiving without a parachute or jumping off the tallest building in the world...come on, be smart. I mean taking opportunities that come my way. With most things in life, you have a choice. Whatever your first instinct may be, go with it! I usually second guess myself and then regret my choice later. This plane situation played with my mind and made me realize that life is short and that I just need to live a little. Let loose and have a little fun from time to time. Don’t beat yourself up about things that are beyond your control. Is there a guy you can’t get over? Didn’t get that internship you were dreaming about? It's okay!

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and when one door closes, another opens. Next time you find yourself in a tricky situation, ask yourself if it will matter a year or ten years from now...usually the answer is no. Time heals everything. I mean look - it is already 2018. The older you get, the faster time seems to go by. Make this time worth looking back on!

Photo courtesy of Anna Trojanowska.