I was relaxing in the back of the conversion van, laying out on the bed, giggling with my twin cousins who were my age. I was on an adventure! We had just left our family reunion and we were embarking on the long road trip to their home. I was giddy and excited and couldn’t wait to spend two weeks with them.
My aunt and uncle had planned some exciting stuff, so my mind was really on the duration of the trip. The two weeks were packed with so much fun that I really gave no thought about the return trip home. I mean, I knew I would travel home after the two weeks. The part I really didn’t think through was actually flying home on an airplane…by myself.
I remember driving to the airport, just me and my Godfather. We checked my bag and walked up to the gate. (That was back in the day when you could accompany people to the gate and meet them at the gate without being a ticketed passenger. However, with a minor flying alone, I’m sure that would be approved of today.)
“Gina, you’ll be okay. I’ll be right here when you walk onto the plane. If you have trouble finding your seat, the stewardess will help you find it. She knows you’re flying alone. Your Dad will be there as soon as you get off the plane.” My uncle was trying to reassure me.
In my young twelve year old mind, all I could think of was “But I’ll be ALONE on the plane! I’ve never done this before! What if something happens? What do I do? What if… what if someone actually talks to me?” Panic rose up and I wanted to run. I was not feeling brave at all. I wanted someone with me. The fear of the unknown was somewhat paralyzing to me.
I can clearly picture in my head the image of my uncle, smiling and waving goodbye as I turned and walked down to the plane. After that moment, I was completely alone. I cried. I did.
When the plane landed, I walked off to find a similar version of my uncle, my dad, waiting for me. It was then that I realized I fully exhaled for the first time in two and half hours.
As a young child, I was not, by nature a risk taker. I always played it safe. That first solo plane ride was a huge step for me.
I rode home feeling a little more brave.