The time I thought my plane would crash

FullSizeRenderkkThe plane went through a zone of turbulence late yesterday evening.  I was on a flight from Newark, N.J. to Charlotte, N.C.   As it shook and rumbled, the calm voice of the lead flight attendant assured us that it would end in a few short minutes.  I had a flashback to almost two months earlier, to a flight with Transaero Airlines from Moscow to New York, when for a few long minutes, I believed that our plane was going to crash.

I have been flying periodically for many years.  Once or twice a year I fly domestically, and two times (there and back) I fly transatlantic to Russia.  I am not afraid of flying.  In fact, it relaxes me, and I usually sleep through most of my flights.  Of course everyone who flies knows that the plane goes through zones of turbulence.  While not always pleasant, it is normal.

On the flight from Moscow to New York in late August, the flight attendants did not pass out blankets.  When my mom inquired, they said they only have enough for children.  My six year old niece did not get one.  The small television screens on the back of seats were not working.  No one dared to ask if the plane had a stash pillows or ear-phones.  Obviously, it did not.

I have always taken for granted these small amenities that where offered to you when you pay $1,000 for an 8-hour flight.  I did not realize that such things went a long way to reassure me, as a passenger, that the airline and the crew had it together.

I sat there wondering if the plane had enough gasoline to fly over the Atlantic Ocean or if it was going to run out somewhere above Greenland.

Note to self: these are not thoughts you want to be left wondering when you are already up in the air.

Sometime after we were served frozen (!) pierogis and the lavatory completely ran out of toilet paper (maybe they did not have any to begin with), the plane went into a zone of turbulence.

Instead of a calm flight attendant reassuring me that it would end momentarily, we were greeted with chaos.  The flight attendants on board, two men and three women, did not stop for a second to say a word to the passengers.  Instead, they were running from one end of the airplane to the other, to fasten themselves in a seat.  Ivan, one of the male flight attendants, practically pushed one of the woman out of the way, running in long strides to get to his seat.

Worst of all were the looks on their faces.  Gone were the cool and collected blank facial expressions… All of them looked utterly mortified.

A woman in front of me was telling her elderly parents in a high-pitched, near hysterical voice to buckle up their seat belts.  Her father was fighting against her.

For two minutes, as the plane plunged up and down, I was praying with an urgency I have never prayed with before.  I do not want to die.  For a split second, I thought I would.

I thought of my mom and niece sitting next to me.  I thought of my weak faith.  I thought of friends and family; even the afterlife. I thought of many things.  But, mostly, I thought that I do not want to die.

When the plane finally steadied, all of the flight attendants disappeared.  Mom said that they must have been summoned to an impromptu meeting with the pilot.

While I believe that this was one of the most ill-trained, unprofessional crews in the history of aviation, I also believe that something was amiss.

I am sure that this was not the first time these flight attendants were on a plane (even if at times it seemed like it was), so they had to have experienced zones of turbulence before.  Their reactions that day showed that the turbulence was abnormal, and that they were afraid.

My greatest wish, for you and myself, is to never see a frightened flight attendant.  It cannot possibly mean anything good.

My mom muttered every swear word she knew under her breath.  All I could say, as if my rewind button was broken, was, “Mom, I was so scared.  Mom, I was so scared.”

After we calmed down, we managed to crack a few jokes about the most ridiculous flight, airline, and crew.  For the rest of the flight, every time we saw Ivan, Mom would snicker, “There’s the one who s**t his pants.”

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On a cold and rainy evening…

new-york-city-336475_1280

It’s a cold and rainy evening
I am sitting all alone
And my thoughts can’t help but linger
How you’re far and on your own.

Does the city make you anxious?
Are the dogs behaving well?
Do you know you can’t stay out late?
Please don’t hide it – call and tell.

I can’t help but think and worry…
Even though I know you’re smart!
That you’ll conquer the Big Apple
With your kind and caring heart.

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Aha! or Oh, the places you’ll go.

Deep down, I always knew I had a calling.  Writing, the media, and television always held a special place in my heart.  But when the time came for me to choose my major in college, and subsequent path in life, I chose Business Administration.  Why?  Because I am a coward.  I was afraid of failure, and thought that everyone has crazy dreams, and these sort of thoughts were absurd.  I was supposed to get a “useful” degree, get married, and have children.  If I did okay, I would have a house, a car, and be able to afford one summer vacation every year.

Oprah Winfrey often talks about having an “Aha!” moment.  This is when you suddenly realize something new, and things click into place.  Oprah, or as I like to call her, the Greatest Woman Ever, did a segment on her OWN network (no pun intended), she discussed with a guest how you know that you are on the right path, and are being true to yourself.  The answer was painfully simple:  You don’t feel like you are betraying yourself.

I had a hard time admitting to myself, let alone speaking it out loud, but I had a quiet voice within that would nag at me Will you regret this? I would stubbornly reply I can’t be irrational and go into journalism! To which the voice would say But why not? I would end the conversation there. But the thought would always resurface.

One night I was having a conversation with my dear friend Katie, who over the years has become both my guru and therapist, in her college dorm room.  She was in her first semester at college, a fact she deplored and I was envious of.  Now I realize she hated it because it wasn’t her destiny, and her inner-voice was trying to tell her that. (She is now a photographer who is starting a program at the New York Film Academy in September).  I recall sitting on my blow-up mattress and looking up at Katie, who was perched on her bed with string lights hanging around her.  Even though I was at college studying business administration, I called out, “I wish I was studying journalism instead, Katie!” I’ll never forget what she said next, speaking the words of my inner voice out loud: “Why can’t you?”

There was my “Aha!” moment.

“Isn’t it crazy,” Katie continued, “That if we really, truly want to, we can do anything?”

Really…we can, can’t we?

And from that moment, something within me shifted.

The next morning, at a Hilton Hotel in Cullowhee, NC, I told Katie that I would apply to transfer into a communication/journalism program.  I was still nervous.  “What if I change my mind and regret it, Brenda?” I asked Katie’s mom.  “Then you’ll just move on to something else,” Brenda replied calmly.  Who said we have to do one thing for ever and ever?  I tried out business administration, and learned that writing and speaking fit me better than accounting and business. Maybe in the process of attaining my bachelors degree, I will learn something else about myself. At least for now I know I am not betraying myself.  Ultimately, everything does happen for a reason, and God has guided me to this place and time so that I would be on the path I am supposed to be on.

And whatever may come, and however things might change, I will always know to simply trust my inner voice.  Demand the truth from yourself.  You never know to what great places it will lead you to.

Much love,

my_signatue

If You Love Me, Let Me Go.

I’ve got mountains to climb,
Countries to seize,
Rivers to cross,
Dreams to achieve
If you love me,
Let me go.

I have villains to kill
Pathways to tread
Flags to raise up
Words to be said
If you love me,
Let me go.

I have lands to discover
Titles to claim
Stories to weave
A fire to tame
If you love me,
Let me go.

If you don’t let me go
And call me to stay
I will still love you
But I will betray
All the countries and rivers and dreams to achieve
Pathways and flags and words to be said
Lands and titles and stories to weave
Most of all the fire; It will burn me instead

You must let me go,
If you love me…

my_signatue

Why Sandra Bland made me afraid.

I am a 20 year old white female, and according to recent news reports, I am not the primary target of police brutality.  Yet after watching the recording of Sandra Bland’s arrest, and carefully reading through the transcripts, I have become afraid.   The actions of Brian Encinia show just how little rights American citizens have against police officers.  It is now apparent to me that I cannot question the actions of a police officer, I cannot answer questions that the police officer asked himself if the answers are not what he wants to hear, and, most importantly, I can be threatened, harassed, and assaulted if I commit the crime of irritating a police officer.  I can only come to one conclusion: it is evident that police officers have too much power, making them equivalent to some untouchable force, and therefore weakening our basic human rights.

It is obvious even to those who possess no knowledge of the jurisdiction that Encinia unlawfully harassed and arrested Sandra Bland.  It seems that he didn’t enjoy the smell of cigarette smoke coming out of Bland’s car, or the fact that she answered his own questions not to his liking.  What angered me the most was that Encinia had the audacity to yell “I’m giving you a lawful order,” when there was nothing lawful in his actions.

Many have commented that Sandra Bland was rude to Encinia, and that if she had simply put out her cigarette the situation would not have escalated.  My only response to this is: why should she have to?  And who decided that it was illegal to not smile and answer “yes sir!” to everything a police officer says.  More importantly, who can guarantee that they, too, would not get upset if they felt they were being treated unfairly?  I am a law-abiding, good-mannered citizen, and I cannot say I wouldn’t have reacted the same way that Sandra Bland did.  Would Encinia have reacted differently because I am white?  Or did he just decide that he didn’t feel like putting up with extra attitude that day?  Either way, this is not only a racial profiling issue, but also an issue of corrupt police forces.  We are taught early on that we must talk sweetly to police officers, and be nothing but polite and respectful.  I now understand what the consequences could be if we do not.  It seems that police officers are able to twist any law into excusing their actions.

The recording of Sandra Bland’s arrest was cringe-worthy.  I felt anger and sorrow as I watched how Encinia abused his powers and assaulted a woman for no other reason than his dislike for her “attitude”.  I cannot imagine the anguish Bland’s loved ones felt when they watched their daughter, sister, or friend be pushed, pulled, and forced down.

While in this case Encinia did not directly kill Sandra Bland, I do believe that Officer Brian Encinia broke Sandra Bland’s spirit.  While it is heartbreaking that she died in such unfortunate circumstances, I hope that the media attention Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent death has drawn will bring forth much-needed changes.  I pray that Sandra’s family finds peace and that, in the end, justice will be served.

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You do not complete me. I complete myself.

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I come from a society that has a deep-rooted belief that a woman’s number one priority in life is to get married and wholeheartedly serve her husband and children.  She is defined as a woman by her ability to get married, and stay in a marriage where the husband is happy. It is assumed that if he is happy, that has to mean that she is happy as well.  In school, my fellow female classmates either discussed their current plans for marriage, or dreams about meeting an amazing guy to whom she would be a dedicated and loyal wife.  There were very few girls who said that they wanted to get a college degree first, so they wouldn’t have to rely on their husband for financial support, and cases of girls saying they didn’t want to get married at all were unheard of.

Weddings are just about always an extravagant affair, with music, fireworks, and romantic slideshows.  But most girls never wonder what follows afterwards…Usually, they assume, it is eternal bliss.  However if you ask women like my mother, who has decades more life experience then my past classmates and I have, she would tell you that in most cases (not all), what follows is a mundane life with everyday problems, where your obligations include running a household, and being the perfect wife for your arrogant and controlling husband.  The belief that these girls are forced or coerced to get married and serve the husband is absolutely not true.  They are often more than willing and happy to be dutifully wives and mothers.  It takes many years before they realize that their husbands never gave them the happiness they were searching for.

Before you assume that this story only relates to the girls I went to high school with in Russia, I urge you to stop and reconsider.  When I started college in 2013 in America, I quickly realized that the same idea is replicated in the minds of American girls as well.  It seems that in the world in general, young girls seem to think that in order to be a happy and complete individual, they must, absolutely must, meet a guy, fall in love, and have a relationship.  That is their priority in life.  I listened in on my conversations of friends and acquaintances alike, in which their sole problem was their significant other, or lack of thereof, and their inability to cope with being single. I can write thousands of words recounting the cringing tales of how young girls I personally knew allowed themselves to be treated inferior by guys, and who were unable to walk away knowing that they deserve better.  What angered me more than watching young girls, who had their whole lives ahead of them and who carried the ability within to accomplish amazing things, was that they were absolutely fine with settling for an average (or below-average) life, as long as an average (or below-average) man was in it.

I wish I could shout from rooftops for all women in this world to hear DO NOT SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING A PARTNER, SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING YOURSELF.

Oprah Winfrey, on a 2005 segment of her show, recounted the popular 90’s film Jerry McGuire, in which the line, “You complete me” melted the hearts of girls all around the world.  To this, Oprah said, “You have to complete yourself.”

Dr. Robin Smith added, “Part of it is being able to develop you into a human being who is rich enough and broad enough that no one is necessary for your existence.  They add to your life, but they aren’t your life.”

When I was 17 years old, I thought the only road to happiness was to fall in love and get married.  Many young girls believe this as well, because it is what we are taught to believe.  Music, movies, books, and quotes all revolve around one thing…love.  While I would never denounce the greatness of love, rather it is because of my utmost respect for it that I urge you should find yourself and love yourself before you seek love from someone else.  You should come go into a relationship with enough confidence, self-respect, and a base to fall back on (education, money, etc.) so that the only thing you need is a pure and honest kind of love, and if it is not given to you or you cannot reciprocate it, you have the power in you to simply walk away.  And you walk away knowing that you deserve better, and that that something better is out there for you.  Most importantly, it is far better to be alone, than to be with someone who doesn’t add value to your life.

You are an individual.  When you meet someone your intuition tells you is the one, remember that they are not there to complete you, but rather to add to your greatness.

I hope you have a happy, happy day.

Much love,

my_signatue

Eating McDonald’s, or catching our flight

I’m lovin’ it!

Every year, I visit my family in Russia for three months in the summer.  This year, I made the cross-Atlantic journey with my mom and 5-year old niece.  We were flying from CLT (Charlotte) to JFK, and JFK to VKO (Moscow).  The morning of our flights, I prayed to myself for everything to go smoothly.  I made sure to repeat the prayer multiple times, and I did this not because I’m paranoid, but because I know that when I fly with my mom, things hardly ever go down without some sort of adventure.  I prayed, nonetheless.

When we landed in JFK at around 12:45 p.m., we knew that we didn’t have much time before our next flight at 2:20 p.m.  However, my niece kept yelling, nonstop, “I’m hungry!  I’m HUNGRY!  I’m H.U.N.G.R.Y!” Mom desperately needed coffee, and when I checked our boarding pass, it said, “Boarding at 1:30 p.m.”  I figured that, my goodness, we had plenty of time to stop for a quick bite!  So we took some time tracking down a McDonalds and placed a big order.  My niece started to crave pretzels after JetBlue offered her a small bag on the flight from Charlotte to New York, so her and my mom went shopping for pretzels while I waited for our order.  Nonchalantly, and out of pure boredom, I glanced down at my boarding pass.  Humming to myself, I skimmed through our seat numbers, airline name, and destination, before my eyes glided over the boarding time again.  My heart stopped beating for a second, and I reread the fine print, which clearly said, “Boarding until 1:30 p.m.”  I glanced down on my phone, on which, in bold, bright numbers, it read, “1:45 p.m.”

Now let me tell you that in my 20 years, I have never stepped away from a McDonalds order.  There are very few things in this life that are more important than my large fries and iced coffee.  However, if anything can top that list of priorities, it is missing a trans-Atlantic flight that cost us thousands of dollars with a hungry 5 year old, my wild mom (more on her later), and $20 in my bank account (I tend to shop a lot for these trips to Russia) in, of all places, New York.

So I drop everything, grab my bag, and begin to run around the airport like a half-baked fool.  Worst of all, Mom was no where in sight, and I had no idea where she went to buy the damn pretzels!  I run up to the nearest security guard, look her dead in the eye, and say “Idon’tknowwheremymomisandIammissingmyflightpleasehelpmetrackherdownortelltheplanetowaitorkillmecallsomeoneforhelppleaseIamdying.”  To which she, of course, replies, “Okay, do you know where they went?”

Ummm…

I didn’t even bother replying and continued running around the McDonald’s in circles with frantic eyes.  I finally spot a lanky child digging her hands into a large bag of pretzels, and run up to my mom and niece.  I thought of how to quickly explain the whole situation, but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Hurry!  Late!”  I grabbed my niece and ran towards Gate B31 which was, naturally, located on the other end of the airport.  My mom was 20 feet behind, and I kept yelling at her to hurry, but all I saw was her muttering words under her breath (nothing good, I’m sure) before she completely disappeared from my view.  I just remember thinking, “Aw, hell!  This ship is sinking and I’m not going down with it! Sorry, Mom!”

At around 1:55 pm, we ran up to Gate B31, my mom coming up behind me a few minutes later, only to see a huge line going around the gate. The passengers had not even boarded yet.  While the flight was running a little behind, I knew that boarding would start any minute!  I turn to Mom, who swears one more time, and says, “What about the food?!”

Wait, what?  She can’t seriously be worrying about the McDonald’s order…

“The food!” She yells again, “We left our food!”

I look at her wild-eyed as she goes up to one of those airport golf-cart cabs, and asks the driver to drive her back to McDonald’s so she could pick up her order.  I stood there, watching her and not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry, until she got onto the taxi and drove off into the crowd.

Forget the flight, my mom wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting McDonald’s.

Part of me wanted the flight to depart just so I could say, “That’s what happens when you choose a Happy Meal over boarding your plane!”  But then I thought about the aftermath of such a catastrophe, and figured, “Eh, maybe I don’t want that after all.”

Twenty minutes later, before boarding ever even begins, Mom pulls up in a golf cart cab like the Queen that she is, towing a large paper bag filled with fast food.

Thankfully, we boarded the flight and safely arrived in Moscow, but we couldn’t have done it without some swear words, a golf-cart cab, and McDonald’s (which was delicious as always).

All is well that ends well.  I hope you have an awesome Thursday.

Much love,

my_signatue