Diversion

We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Sometimes, we are made to divert long before reaching our final destination. Other times we may complete the journey only to find the airport is closed on arrival, forcing us to divert at the last moment.

Whether it’s some kind of emergency or our own health that forces us to come back to earth, the reasons are often out of our control. Sometimes, however, we divert because we realise the flight we’re on isn’t taking us where we want to go. We admit the journey itself isn’t what we wanted after all.

This can be a difficult decision to make when you’re already cruising at a comfortable level. A level that you worked hard to reach. The thought of coming back to earth and climbing back up again can be off-putting. Any decision to divert – especially if the possibility of continuing exists – shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I’ve had thoughts about diverting from my profession for a while now. A decade of long-haul flying has taken its toll. I realise that another decade in this job might cost me significantly – if it hasn’t already. The risk to my health is something that plagues my mind. 

I haven’t left yet because, well, I’m also scared of what might happen if I do. I’m scared about what a career change might mean for my children, for the quality of life I can provide for them. I’ve also been comfortable.

My job – pre-pandemic, at least – has been decent. It’s not only paid the bills but allowed me to have a wonderful lifestyle. I have traveled the world many times over. Outside of work, at least, it has given me everything I wanted. Although I despise flying through the night, I do enjoy flying aeroplanes. 

For all of the above, I told myself to keep going. To grit it out and get my command first. Achieve that, collect my four bars, and then move on. That way, I’ll have achieved everything I wanted and still have time left on the clock to pursue something else.

I figured this would also allow me to work towards a second career in my spare time – to make for an easier transition before I close this chapter of my life. 

That was the flight plan. 

Unfortunately, things have changed. The journey has become much more turbulent. The ride is approaching unbearable. The forecast at destination is looking increasingly dicey too. 

Hong Kong’s strict zero cases policy has come at an extreme cost for the aircrew. The government has handed us a prison sentence. If we break that sentence – for so much as going outside to get some fresh air – they may well send us to prison. 

The burden on our mental health has been immense. To give you one statistic: our crew body spent over 73,000 days in isolation last year. That’s the equivalent of 200 years in prison. 

The truth is, there is no life here for aircrew at the moment. So long as this madness persists, there is no escaping it either. Getting home is an impossible task because of the quarantine restrictions coming back in. 

We’re boxed in. The choice is to either stay and endure or leave for good – to divert sooner than intended. At the moment, I’m weighing the cost of security in the form of a pay cheque against my mental and physical health. Also, against the cost of not leaving a place I feel an increasing dissonance towards.

But what is the cost of one’s aliveness anyway? What is the price of feeling free? Must we not make enormous sacrifices for it? Do my children not need that more? Do they not need to see me make those sacrifices even? To understand if you value freedom, a pay cheque can often work against you. 

The truth is – you know it – the decision in my heart has already been made. Right now, I’m in the process of formulating a plan before I execute my diversion – just short of the destination I had in mind. 

I am scared. 

I realise it’s ok to acknowledge that. But, like Winston Churchill once said, you have to be willing to leave the shore to explore new oceans. Of course, that’s going to leave you stranded at sea for a while. 

But, that’s exactly what an adventure is. The human spirit can only be made in adventure. Provided I back myself to navigate the tricky waters ahead, I believe I can teach my children something that no amount of money ever will: what it really means to live. 

There is no greater reason to divert than that.

***

You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


39 thoughts on “Diversion

  1. AP2, I admire you for putting your life-altering decisions out there, and for doing so so eloquently. My guess is that you are speaking to many, many people in parallel situations who may not be able to articulate their options and (natural) fears as well as you have done. I hope your words may help others as well as you. Don’t stop writing, whatever you do!

    1. Thank you Jane – that means a lot. Writing helps me understand what I really think and feel – I have no intention of stopping. I try to place my heart on sleeve for the reasons you mention. I used to think of it as a weakness. I now see how freeing it is to openly admit to being scared. When you place your fear out in the open, it becomes less scary. When others open up as a result – that gives you confidence in the knowledge you’re not alone. Wishing you well Jane 🙂🙏

  2. If you are disturbed by your present situation, no amount of sacrifice will do you or those around you any good. It’s only a matter of time before things begin to crumble and they will slowly tear apart pieces from that picture perfect life that you and also most of us want. I think teaching and learning begins with the self and it seeps out to others without one’s really knowing. A livelihood is important but retaining one’s confidence and sanity is too. I hope you are able to give some direction to your thoughts and take appropriate action. Be considerate to yourself and the effects will show all around you. Take care and good luck! 🙂

    1. This is what plagues my mind. If it weren’t for the kids I would have left already. Is the sacrifice really worth it? I think I would have less trouble with my predicament if I had no choice in the matter. I’d be able to accept and make the most of it. But I do. I can walk away. I feel a great weight would be lifted if I do too. I’m on stress leave at the moment. Time away from work has made me much happier. I feel my sanity is the most valuable thing I give my children. Thank you Terveen. I always appreciate your wisdom 🙏

  3. Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts about career diversion. I am in a similar situation where I am struggling finding my new path and your words motivate me a lot. Hope your children will feel the same way when you teach them what you have been experiencing these days.
    Best wishes.

  4. Do what you must to be with your family in a place that is free. We in the west so often take our freedom for granted. In fact we often take it for not being free. We get hysterical over abridgements that – if you compare them to what passes for life in the rest of the world – are almost laughable.

    1. Thank you Fred. Freedom is something I certainly took for granted before this pandemic. I won’t make that mistake again. 🙏

      1. Thought experiment. You were in Hong Kong. Now imagine you’re in Taiwan. What are you feeling?

        Freedom may be priceless but it is still fragile and sure as hell isn’t free.

      2. All of us have to make huge sacrifices when it comes to freedom. It certainly ain’t free you’re right. I’ve no doubt Taiwan are fearing the same fate as HK.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, we are kindred spirits as I contemplate uprooting from the place i currently live and a job that is very in very good in all respects – from pay, to my team, to respect, and to suiting me well – for the place I still call home and for the life that is lived outside of work – that of family and relationships and history – of which I have none right now. I am comfortable – almost too comfortable – but not in a peaceful way. I am 50 yrs young. I “should” be settled in my life- right?
    I wish you well in your diversion.

    1. For those who were meant for changing horizons security can feel like imprisonment. The soul seeks freedom. I wish you well in your diversion too – should you choose to do so. Thank you so much for your kind words 🙏

  6. The inspiring dilemma of your post reminds me of a quote,

    “People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre’ Gide

    Add in a pandemic, flight crew and family, and it’s easier said than accomplished.

    Your have my prayers for His flight plan to be accomplished AP2

  7. AP, this post touches me deeply. I have made a lot of unconventional decisions in my life, taken a lot of risks, and paid a lot of dues to pursue my dreams. I have few regrets, and I have had a very interesting and fulfilling life.

    I wish you easy transitions into a life that makes you and your family happy. Fifty is the new thirty, I hear. 🙂 All the best! <3 <3 <3

    1. That’s wonderful to hear Cheryl. And well done for having the courage to take those risks. Every year is the new thirty. The trick is to maintain that mindset. Thank you Cheryl. Your words mean a lot at time time. 🙂🙏

  8. As with others here, I first want to thank you for sharing your dilemma and doing it so eloquently – even if it’s easier for a pilot than for most people to write an extended metaphor! I sincerely hope you decide to escape the madness of covid restrictions and Hong Kong politics and make a new life. Your family will be happy if you are happy, even if you all have less to spend. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal” (Paulo Coelho). Best wishes.

    1. Extended aviation metaphors are my specialty! 😂 Thank you for your kind words. I love that Paulo Coelho quote. I’ve certainly learnt that over the past two years. Best wishes to you too 🙏

  9. Wow, those are some harsh conditions, my friend! I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve had to endure. And I completely understand both your need to divert and the fear that comes with it!

    It occurs to me that you may have gotten what you most need from flying — metaphors that will last a lifetime! Sending you and your family lots of good wishes and peace as you travel the transitions ahead!

    1. Extended aviation metaphors are my specialty! 😂 It’s been tough for sure but I believe I’m stronger for it. Just scared about pulling the plug for good. I appreciate your words Wynne – 🙏

  10. I hesitated before posting a comment, I felt that I had not the right words to transmit you the courage for this diversion. Then I thought that any change in one’s life means growing. Trust the person you will become.

  11. Whoa, an AP with good reasons! Do what needs doing, and drop the ‘what ifs?’, because those will hang you up. No one knows how this whole mess will play out eventually, but you might be able to return there someday? You might not, but you have a little bit of time for getting ready. I am thinking of you in that hilarious picture you used to have, of you skydiving outside a window with the little sign that read ‘I was your pilot!’ 😀 Think of that moment as you leave your place, and make sure your parachute is on tight. Good luck.

    1. The what ifs are already hanging me up. The time to jump out the aeroplane is fast approaching. I’m in the process of checking my parachute now. I’m not worried about leaving HK so much as I am starting afresh. Trying to find my feet with a new career. If I had no children I’d already be gone. Thank you for the kind words KJ. I appreciate it. 🙏

  12. For your mental health, your sanity, take the leap. You are not a stupid person. You can figure out what to do with your life on the cuff. I took the risk over 25 years ago, and I’m still glad I did it.

    1. Thank you. I appreciate the encouragement. If it weren’t for my kids I think I already would have. I just want to make sure I’m doing everything right by them.

      1. My kid was twelve years old when I made the leap. It ended up being the beginning of his endeavor in welding. He’s now above the class of journeyman (can’t remember what it’s called).

  13. Hi AP,
    You’ve been very brave and a good, thoughtful father.. I appreciate how much you
    Love your kids but always remember to love yourself too…you have all the resources within you to come out strong from this life situation.. so do not fear…do not be overwhelmed.. just take one right decision after another… and if writing about it helps you process these thoughts and emotions- keep on.. . There’s a great community out here that could life your spirits up, relate to you and pray for you…
    I see no conflict whether you stay or go for your second-act , (whatever work that would be} — the intention is the same and it revolves around your love for the family…. And i think it’s powerful enough to fuel either choice…

    1. My family are key. You’re right. With them at heart, I’ll do whatever it takes. Thank you so much for your kind words – I really appreciate it. 🙂🙏

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