What are your big dreams?
Dreaming big can seem such a cliché when you are an adult yet those childhood desires to be a dinosaur, an astronaut, live in a hotel and shop in Harrods or be Luke Skywalker are one of the most important parts of your daily life…
and yet dreams are important even for adults - they feed our souls, motivate us to go out there and get great stuff done and if we are a bit lucky, put the work in and are courageous we will see our dreams become reality.
For me one of the big dreams I had as far back as I can remember was the desire to learn to fly. I had the fortune to have parents that loved to travel and wanted their kids to experience the world through its people and their cultures.
To do that we got on a lot of planes!
When I think back on my life, I have spent much of it on or in the vicinity of one type of plane or another. The anticipation of being up in the air was almost as exciting as being up there itself.
The sense of freedom I felt was addictive.
Looking down on the world seemed to put everything into perspective, I realised how small I was as a solitary human, how devastating the damage to the planet has been in my lifetime and more than that how awesomely beautiful the earth is when viewed from above.
It took nearly 40 years, but I finally did it – I learnt to fly!
So, what does it feel like it to have a dream become reality?
When I think about my dream being reality now there is still a sense of the unreal to it. Then I hear myself say that I have a private pilot’s licence, all the emotions flood back – the excitement, fear, anger, anxiety, relief, and pure joy.
My journey to getting a pilot’s licence starts in the searing summer heat of the San Diego desert, sitting in what amounts to a tin can with wings with my instructor whose family hail from Afghanistan (there is another tale to tell here but that might be for another time) and I can hear my inner child’s voice shouting out ‘yay I’m gonna fly in the sky’!
Learning something new as an adult is a totally different experience to that of a child, as adults we have built up a wealth of knowledge and experiences good & bad to use to judge what we believe will happen, how many things might go wrong, what we think about the people involved, the expectations we hold of how it should all unfold and much more.
I was surprised at how much anxiety I had swirling around inside; it’s voice often louder than the one of expected excitement. You realise how much louder those adult narratives have become over the years and how quiet the fearless excited child voice is now.
Of course, ‘Bridget’ (you know Bridget, my inner voice of self-doubt) was there too with her ever helpful thoughts… How was I ever going to get this tiny tin can with wings back down on the ground by myself, what were the words I am meant to say to ‘control’ when I want to take off, where the hell am I up here and what happens if the engine stops mid-air??!!
To top it all off I was being taught by children, well it felt like that. Most flight instructors are 20-something year old men who are clocking up their hours to become commercial pilots, come to that most of the students were under 25.
How I, as a mature student, wanted to learn was not high up on the priority list.
WOW did I feel old! My 1st instructor left after a few weeks to follow his dream, 2nd instructor said he didn’t want another female student so 3rd time’s a charm, so they say… they couldn’t have been more wrong!
I felt my dream disappearing before my eyes as I grappled with living in a different country, being a learner in a ‘listen, don’t ask questions’ teaching culture, instructors that didn’t follow the safety protocols – I could go on but it makes me feel sad again.
Taking control of your own learning!
It took my instructor’s near miss - head versus propeller isn’t an image I will forget any time soon – to know that I had to take control of my own learning journey if I wanted my dream to become a reality.
It was a moment to say ‘Take that Bridget’ - I was an adult with choices and a voice, and it was time to start using them.
The 3 things I did to claim my dream back.
- Fired my instructor
- Demanded I choose my next instructor
- Explained to the Chief Flight instructor how I like to learn and what needed to change for me to succeed
I switched to the one & only female instructor (she was more similar in age to me, had already been a commercial pilot, had 2 kids and life experiences to draw on).
She cared about my learning, wanted me to experience the joy she had when flying and did not want yet another woman to feel like flying was just for men. More on this subject another time…
We took to the skies together, taking off as soon as the early morning mist cleared – flying further than I had ever been. Past the desert, the lakes to the foothills and on into the mountains – there it was again that feeling of freedom, solitary humanness in the vast natural world.