What Turbulence Teaches Us About Life


Where’s the only place on Earth that you hear more prayers than you do in church?  That’s right – an airplane.  It’s quite interesting to see how many people start calling on their faith when they are 30,000 feet in the air and no guarantee that they are going to ever land safely.  I write this article because I’m fascinated by human behavior and perspective.  Recently, I encountered some extreme turbulence on a flight to Milan, Italy (pre-COVID19) and it got me thinking……

First things first, life is precious.  Recently we lost arguably the best athlete ever to touch a basketball, Kobe Bryant, due to a helicopter crash.  Not only was he an incredible athlete, but he was an amazing father and figure in the community.  Despite taking that helicopter hundreds of times, he kept getting on despite there being no guarantee of landing.  Think about that.  When you get in your car and start driving there is no guarantee that you will make it back in one piece.  When you get a rollercoaster, there is no guarantee that you will make it off.  Heck, in today’s world, you go to the store with no guarantee you won’t catch COVID-19 nor get stung by a “murder hornet.”  Yet, we constantly get up and get on airplanes, take that long drive (most people lower their odds even further by being distracted when they drive via texting, etc. which is even crazier), line up for the front row on that roller coaster, and go buy dozens of unnecessary rolls of toilet paper from the store (really hope if you’re reading this, you aren’t one of those people).   Often, we don’t second guess it.  If we constantly worry about the potential negatives of not landing, crashing, or falling out of our seat, we would all be hermits that likely never stepped outside.   What kind of life is that?  

That brings me to my recent experience.  Here we are flying 35,000 feet in the air halfway into a 9 hour 45 minute flight from Miami to Milan when “it” happened.  You know exactly what that “it” is.  It starts by hearing and seeing the seatbelt sign go on randomly.  Then, one of the stewardesses comes over the loud speaker and tells everyone to remain in their seats as it is going to be “a little bumpy.” Next thing you know, cell phones are falling on the ground, drinks are spilling, and horrific screams radiate throughout the cabin as we’re in the midst of some pretty brutal turbulence.  The guy across the aisle from me closes his eyes and is clearly praying.  Meanwhile, the lady in the seat in front of me appears to be giving the entire cabin a blessing by belting out prayer after prayer and squeezing her necklace so tight I thought she was going to rip the cross right off her neck.  I try and play it cool as I’ve flown plenty and dealt with my share of turbulence, but immediately my hands start to get a little sweaty.  


Usually the turbulence only lasts for a couple of seconds to maybe a minute.  Not this time.  We were flying through some heavy stuff and though it seemed like an hour, it likely was 4 or 5 minutes straight.  Now here is what I find interesting.  Where does your head go when you experience turbulence?  If you’re like the vast majority of people, you start thinking about loved ones.  You start thinking about what you wish you would have said to them or what you wish you would have done.  You might be filled with regrets and sadness of all of the opportunities you passed up in life.  All the bullshit that’s currently going on in your life means nothing because the fear of it all ending has taken over.  All the small shit that kept you up the night before or made you really angry at your coworkers, friends, or even worse – your family, instantly means nothing.  Then what happens?  The plane levels out.  We stop sweating.  We stop crying.  We stop praying.  We start caring about the small shit again.  We start going about our lives just like we did before.  Why?


We live in a time where these two polar extremes are ever so prevalent.  One moment we are praying that we had just one more kiss with our significant others or one more chance to tell our families we love them.  The next we are with our loved ones and not present.  Rather, we are on the phone texting or ignoring them.  We leave without saying we love them.  We go about our day as if tomorrow is promised.  Here’s the hint – it’s not.  


I’ll leave you with this question.  Are we afraid of dying because we love living or because we fear missing out after we are gone?  I truly hope it’s the former.  If it’s not (and even if it is) now is the time to change that perspective.  Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  Be present.  Tell someone you love them.  Stop worrying about the small shit.  Love living so much that when your time has come you don’t have those same regrets that fill you up when you are 30,000 feet in the air.  


Live every day with “turbulence clarity.”

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