You’re the Pilot

A reminder — or bit of inspiration — for a Monday morning.

I am the queen of clutter and a big portion of my life is spent sorting and discarding things I don’t need to in an effort keep that clutter under control. The clutter naturally extends to my computer’s virtual desktop, with so many stray icons scattered about that I can barely see the photo beneath them. So, once again, this morning I found myself reviewing and discarding the items I didn’t need.

And that’s when I stumbled upon one of those Facebook or Twitter memes that goes around. You know what I’m talking about. Someone takes a photo and superimposes text over it to share a message. Because social network users respond better to images than plain old text, the image is viewed and the message is read. If it’s meaningful to the viewer and the viewer is a sharer, it gets shared. Eventually it ends up in your Facebook timeline or Twitter stream.

Or mine.

I see a ton of these every day — so many that I fully admit to unfollowing the people who share only these canned messages. The way I see it is that if you can’t come up with something original, there’s really no reason to follow you because whatever you share will likely come from someone else anyway. And who likes seeing the same old crap over and over?

And they are crap, for the most part. Quotes or idioms or just statements that are meant to be deep or meaningful or funny. Most of them completely miss the mark. The ones I hate the most are the ones where the image has absolutely nothing to do with the text superimposed on it. I’m not big on Bible quotes, either, especially when there are so many cafeteria-style Christians who haven’t bothered to read the whole Bible and simply share the quotes they think say it all. (Newsflash: they don’t.)

But every once in a while, one will come across my social media network and really mean something to me. Those are the ones I share. And if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know just how rare it is that I share one of these.

And that’s what I found on my Desktop this morning. One that I’d seen and probably shared on February 19, 2015.

How do I know the exact date if I’m not even sure that I shared it? Easy. I copied the file to my Desktop and it was appropriately time- and date-stamped.

I don’t remember who shared it with me, but I suspect it came through on Twitter. If so, I likely retweeted it before saving it and likely sharing it on Facebook, too. If I wasn’t so lazy — or, in reality, eager to finish this up and get on with my day — I’d take a while to track it down. Ironically, this message sort of explains why I won’t bother.

I'm the Pilot

This particular meme is extremely meaningful to me on so many levels.

First, back in 2008, when my pilot friend Erik got sick with cancer, I found myself with a new sense of urgency in my life. I was 47 back then, not much younger than 54-year-old Erik. I saw myself stuck living in a place I didn’t want to be, mired in a life of [admittedly unusual] routine. While I worked hard, long hours when I had work to do — mostly writing books back then — I had lots of free time. That free time was being pissed away doing very little of interest. Time was flying and I knew time was the one thing I could never get back.

When Erik died the following year, it was easy to see how it could have been me. No one knows when The Big C will strike and how much damage it can do. What if it had been me? There were so many things I wanted to do with my life — things to learn, things to see, things to experience. I wanted to travel far and wide, to experience life in new ways. The dissatisfaction I’d begun to feel with my [admittedly cushy] life became more and more difficult to ignore.

Time was flying away from me and I was letting it.

At this point, I could go into yet another long dissertation about why I was stuck in Wickenburg and why I couldn’t change my life. As regular readers know, I was married at the time and my wasband was an anchor — and not in the positive sense of that metaphor. But in reality, it all comes down to me. I should have realized that my wasband was holding me back and that our relationship was going nowhere. But love and trust and the blind belief in lies and empty promises can play tricks on even the most analytical of people. I was a sucker and I paid for it.

And that’s where the second part of the quote comes in. You see, we all do have control over our lives. We can make excuses why we don’t, but we do.

Throughout our lives, we make decisions that put us into the circumstances in which we find ourselves. School, jobs, relationships, habits, spending. How many decisions do we make each day? How do those decisions affect how we live and what we do? What if we’d made different decisions — how would they have changed our circumstances today?

Think about where you are now and what decisions you made to get there. Happy or unhappy, it’s up to you.

Time flies, but you’re the pilot. You have control over your life.

Of course, this whole meme is made even more meaningful to me because I am a pilot. Literally. I fly helicopters and have been doing so for the past 15 years. I now make my living primarily as a pilot — although I do still write — and I’ve never felt happier or better about my life and my future.

Why? Because I finally took control of my life and made it what I wanted it to be.

Time flies and I’m the pilot.

6 thoughts on “You’re the Pilot

    • I just wish more people understood this.

      So sad to see friends and family members floundering around, wasting time in front of the TV while regretting that they never did this or learned that. What are they waiting for?

      Who knows?

      • I agree wholeheartedly with you there – it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started to do things that I really wanted to do when I was younger. Take getting into the water with a dolphin – that’s something I would have loved to have done when I was younger but I’m glad I waited….

  1. I agree with both you and Joe. ‘Carpe diem’ is the way to live life.
    But for some of us the ‘seizing of control’ is easier than for others. Like you, I have swum with the Dolphins of Florida but I was 36 before I could afford to do it. No point in badgering my Mum and Dad for a family trip as a kid, because they had little spare money. They could afford a trip to Oxford, 50 miles away, but not Orlando (3500 miles away).
    Some Canadian friends called by yesterday on their European tour. One said (of a dear friend of hers) “she is not happy in her marriage, but she has three young kids, what can she do?”
    I thought, ‘well, she should leave him, of course’. But in reality, piloting one’s life through that sort of weather is like being stuck in IMC without an altimeter.

    For some, choices really are constrained.

    • Exactly – I suffer from anxiety and I don’t get too many opportunities to be able to get time to myself and live/travel… I also don’t talk too much about it as over here (I live in Australia), it’s a lesser known mental illness. In saying that though, I’m glad I have met so many amazing people through the power of Facebook (Maria being one of those people that I’ve “met” through being friends on here)

    • Sadly, I agree. My decision not to have children made things easier for me, but I still hung on when I should have moved on. Sometimes you have to look back down a chain of decisions to see where the one holding you back now was made.

      In the case of a marriage, if counseling doesn’t improve things, then a split is the right thing — no matter what the circumstances are. I was a child of a marriage where my parents tried to keep things together “for the kids.” It only made things worse.

What do you think?