Breaking Free

Growing up is a process. Jesus did it. And so do we. We go from dependence on our parents to independence. If we keep going as we should in our human relationships, we will begin to understand interdependence. Ultimately, we realize that we have always been – and always will be – dependent on Our Creator.

At the time I wrote the following essay, I was just beginning to realize how to achieve my independence from dysfunctional relationships. Yes, my freshman year of college – at the age of 40 – was a great time in my life. Part of my story that I often forget. So I decided to share it with you.

The afternoon was beautifully complete with emerald grass, sapphire skies, and the moist heat of August as I pulled my van onto the airport road.

Was it just yesterday that I stood at the end of this same runway and watched a sleek King Air carry my husband off on another adventure? As a full-time wife and mother, I envied his business world. There in the wind, my feet planted firmly on the ground and three little boys in tow, I had said to myself, “I’m going to do that someday.”

At the time I thought I meant that I would go places and be somebody too, but perhaps I meant much more than that. Maybe even then I knew that I would fly.

My husband and I were now divorced. Having to fend for myself and my sons, I attained a position as a marketing assistant for an avionics company. Several times a year we called on customers in our company aircraft. I looked forward to every trip, but it was not enough. I just had to fly myself.

I parked the van, scooped up my log book, and walked around the huge gray hangar. The airport seemed deserted except for the varying hum of single engine aircraft muffled by distance and the sound of my own pounding heart. I spotted the Cessna 152, a mere speck in the southern sky that appeared as it approached the runway then disappeared as it took off again.

The late afternoon sun was scorching, but I was too excited to care. I had been through ground school, studied the flight training videos, and logged several hours in the Cessna, but this day was special. My heart picked up the pace as the white and blue airplane rounded the corner and headed toward the hangar.

Randy, the student who had been flying the plane, grinned at me through the windshield as he shut down the engine. We were coworkers and often kidded each other about our abilities as pilots.

“Hey, Randy, not too bad! When are you going to solo?”

“I don’t know. That’s up to the boss here,” he said, referring to Arik, our flight instructor who remained seated in the plane. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and Randy headed for home as I took his place in the left seat.

Arik, an engineer with the company, was still dressed in his usual office attire of white shirt and black slacks. His short blond hair and fair complexion sparkled with perspiration, but I knew it was from the summer heat and not from nervousness. He was at home in any aircraft, even with unskilled student pilots. He briefed me on the goals of the lesson.

“We’re going to stay in the pattern today and do touch-and-go’s to get you ready for your solo. There’s nothing to worry about, right? All we’re going to do is practice.”

Arik was from Israel, and his Hebrew accent coupled with the static on the headset made communication difficult. I frequently asked him to repeat his instructions, but he never lost patience with me.

I ran through the preflight checklist out loud, contacted the control tower, and taxied to the end of the runway. Cleared for takeoff, I checked the instruments again and pulled the plane up on the center line of the airstrip. I drew a long breath that didn’t seem long enough and pushed the throttle all the way in. My heartbeat accelerated in direct proportion to the speed of the airplane. At eighty knots, I gently pulled the yoke toward me, looked out the window, and checked my pitch attitude against the horizon. The plane lifted off and left the world behind us.

As we reached the desired altitude and cleared the end of the runway, I automatically banked to the right. I usually looked to Arik for affirmation, but that day I was more confident; I knew what to do. It just felt right. I’ll never forget the sense of accomplishment I experienced at that moment. All the details of previous training were finally coming together. I was really flying. I wasn’t just playing the notes; I heard the music.

Above the airport, above the circumstances of life, I found a new and refreshing perspective. Not so long ago, I had looked to my husband for affirmation in my life, much as I had looked to Arik in the plane, but I had come a long way. I no longer required the constant reassurance of another person. I could read the instruments myself. I sensed the freedom that comes with the willingness to take risks on one’s own.

Although we still need other people, there comes a time when we must put the pieces together for ourselves – and fly.

Do you remember a time when you felt free?

  • Where were you?
  • Who was with you?
  • What feelings did you experience?
  • How did that sense of freedom impact your life going forward?