“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” (~ Michael Altshuler)

When I read this quote on a friend’s Facebook page, I immediately nodded in agreement. In the world of constant inspirational messaging, these pearls of wisdom are shared and consumed with gusto, and yes, I’m one guilty participant. High from the fix of yet another motivational quote, I saw myself as a butt-kicking pilot: Confident, strutting with purpose, in my aviator sunglasses that reflected the rising sun’s rays. In my mind, I even looked sharp: The creases on my uniform pants were so tightly pressed that a fly would cut its sorry butt should it mindlessly land on my leg.

The image faded as quickly as it popped up, however. I wondered: “Is it always bad that time flies?” I distinctly recall sitting next to a friend’s uncle at party. The table was big. The room was small. The guests resembled vertical lasagna layers, melting into each other presence. The food was abundant and deliciously looking but I had to be careful. Breathing was hazardous thanks to the stink of moth repellent, alcohol fumes, and belches (probably poisonous) coming from my neighbor’s generous belly. He wanted to make me laugh, while I wanted time to move at the speed of light. Never again do I take a corner seat at a table without an emergency exit path. Ever!

But I diverged, back to the quote. Is it always good that we’re the pilots? The problem is expectations. Once we’re up in the air, we’re expected to

  • Know the optimal route to the destination: Be a roaring success as a student, worker, parent, friend, lover, provider, and a plethora of other social roles we are to play throughout our lives;
  • Be mindful of the passengers’ comfort: Otherwise, those around us will eagerly remind us with shame, anger, guilt, and exclusion that their needs aren’t met; and,
  • Not forget that the fuel tank isn’t unlimited: The clock—biological, social, mental—is ticking and every single count takes us closer to the imminent hard landing.

An autopilot can take us only up to a certain point. The thing is we don’t arrive to this world trained to be ace pilots, not even mediocre ones. Did you get a manual on how-to-be that roaring success??? I haven’t! We get on a plane that’s already in motion. But it’s quite scary to acknowledge that we’re just students with a “pilot-in-training” permit in a shaky hand. The permit with a message buried in the fine print: “Expect major and minor fuckups” — or “life lessons” in the language of inspiration. And it’s up to us to do something about them and to choose to chart our own course–however imperfect. And, perhaps, this is the good news.

Photo credit: raymondclarkeimages.

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