I just came back from an hour of counseling yesterday. Since the lockdown, going to my therapist’s office is now regarded as an enjoyable excursion. I get to put on make-up and wear clothes different from my daily uniform of pajama or yoga pants. I’ve been seeing Laurie for over a year now. I’ve tried several therapists before but no one could really understand the complexities of having had a child with cancer, the emotional strain it imposes on the whole family, and to me personally—as a mother, wife, and as an individual. Laurie understands me on a much deeper level than just a mother with an ill child. Sometimes I sit there wondering how I got to this point, of actually paying someone to listen to me talk about my life. I’m Filipino and therapy isn’t ingrained in my culture. My relatives used to laugh and poke fun of Americans. “They have to pay for someone to talk to and listen to their problems. We don’t need to pay someone because we have family,” Well, I hate to admit, but the joke’s on me now. The thing is….no one really understands what I’m going through. Everyone sees my life from the outside. When my son’s cancer treatments were over, they assumed all my worries were over too—to just go ahead and move on with my life, forget everything, like it never happened. It’s not that easy. Not with ten years of pain and suffering. Not with all the ramifications that came with childhood cancer.

Laurie thinks I show all the signs of depression. But I tell her I’m not always moping and crying, so how could I be? But my mood changes as quickly as the Texas weather. Having a rollercoaster of emotions—the loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, of being stuck, the lack of motivation, and the constant fantasies to escape my reality—are all signs of depression. She asks me how I’m coping. I tell her I’ve been really bored and all I can think of is traveling. Oh, but wait…I recently wrote a blog about getting the F* out of America! 🙄 She can probably sense the anger building inside of me so she suggested to write about my happy place: travel. She gives me a topic: write about my previous travels since I can’t go anywhere at the moment. “Find old pictures and write about your memories of them,” were her parting words before my time with her was up.

Here’s a photo that sometimes captures my therapy session 😂

So I went home, immediately opened the antique chest where my old photos were stored and found a treasure of nostalgia: pictures of me in my early days as a flight attendant. This is where my love for travel all began…..

I don’t have many pictures of when I was a flight attendant. We didn’t have iPhones back then and selfie wasn’t a vocabulary yet. Carrying a camera was not very common either. But occasionally I would bring one in some of my flights. I was in my young twenties when I interviewed for Delta Airlines. I found out later that I was one of two who were invited to get a medical check up right after my interview (and it only meant I almost got the job, granted I pass all the requirements). The next day I was at the clinic to get my medical clearance. The tech who took all my vitals told me I may not be tall enough. I was a quarter inch short of the height requirement. I begged the tech to why not just round it off? Because it is mathematically correct to round it off to the nearest number, right? 😛 He told me that legally he can’t do that. My tears started to fall, and I had the nerve to tell him he was going to crush my childhood dream if he didn’t do it. Feeling guilty about his decision, he left the room and a few minutes later, an Asian lady showed up. She introduced herself as the manager and told me I had nothing to worry. I am actually 3/4 inches above the height requirement! I almost passed out but relieved I made it. Another minor obstacle that day though: my blood pressure was so high, she instructed me to relax so that they can take my BP again.

I flew to Atlanta the day after Christmas for my six-week training. I’ve never been to this part of America before. I met girls (and guys) from all over the country, mostly white girls from the south. My roommate was a tall and pretty black girl from Atlanta. She spoke perfect Spanish and found out later her family’s originally from Dominican Republic. There were Asians too but they were all housed at a hotel close by. I stayed at the dorms, in the main building where we did our training. The airline did not only provide housing and food but gave us a salary, which was very helpful for us who needed the extra money. Half of the training was classroom lectures and the other half was hands-on in a mock aircraft.

Everyday we had to wear business attire. No jeans, T-shirt, or shorts were allowed except on casual days. Everyone looked pretty in their high heels and make up. Every Monday they weighed us first thing in the morning (they had a heavy weight restrictions) and so on Sundays, everyone was in diet mode, except for me. I weighed only less than 100 pounds, not by choice. It’s because I hardly ate the food served at the cafeteria. I wasn’t used to eating American food everyday and for someone who grew up eating rice and Asian food, the lack of my go-to foods made me the very sad girl without an appetite. The girls in my class were a mixture of personalities. Some were sophisticated enough to know the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese and some made me wonder how on earth did they land this job. “Do French people really smell and heavily use perfume to cover their stink?” were some of the questions asked in class. If emojis were a thing then, 🙄 and 😳 and 😬 would’ve been what I used to describe my feelings. A young pretty blonde girl sitting behind me with a huge diamond ring would always talk about the importance of finding a man who could afford to buy us a big diamond ring. Later in the training, she abruptly quit because her husband was not happy about her becoming a flight attendant. I remember her talking to our instructor in the morning, bawling her eyes out, and then she was gone. Well, at least she kept her diamond ring lol. And for the guys, there were a few good looking ones (and the stereotype of all male fight attendants are gay was far from the truth). Bill O. was probably the best looking of the bunch and the girls were always flirty towards him. He reminded me of a young version of Paul Newman.

Six weeks went by quickly but there were days that felt long, especially when you’re homesick (although I was fortunate to take a break mid-training and flew back to LA for my US citizenship test). My unforgettable part of the training was the day when representatives from Estée Lauder came to teach us about make up. That was the first time (and the beginning) of my interest in make up. Our training was not too difficult but we were tested on a daily basis and fortunately no one failed—we all passed and graduated! A few days before graduation, they announced where our bases were. Some were excited of a new city and some were not. My roommate was devastated to find out she was going to be based in New York while I was ecstatic to be back home in Los Angeles.

I worked for the airlines for five years and resigned when I got married and moved to Tokyo. I can honestly say they were some of the best years of my life. I’m so glad I pursued this dream even when I was told by others I was not tall enough or not too pretty enough to be a flight attendant. If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity of a lifetime. I am forever indebted to that job. My experiences were mostly outside of my comfort zone and it opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world I wouldn’t have known otherwise. The best education I received was from all my travels and they made me the person I am today. They say travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and they’re right because it has truly enriched my life.

Suggested reading: https://inthewrongboots.com/2012/08/29/they-were-once-called-stewardesses/