Bing bong, went the electronic noise to say the captain was about to speak to us. I opened my eyes and looked past my folded up wool coat pillow and out the tiny round window of the small aircraft I was sitting on.
“Were coming in on final approach, please fasten your seat belts and put your trays in the upright position”
The plane began to bump and jolt and shake.
The sky outside was an vicious swirling cauldron of grey. Water ran in rivers across the outside of the window. The turbo prop engine looked fine but sounded like a dying mule crying with its last breath. I looked down expecting to see the green fields of Palmerston North but there was just more swirling grey.
I felt the pilot lower his landing gear and engage his flaps for landing. Looking down, I scanned left and right for some sign of terra firma. I wondered how low we were. The plane lurched and bumped in the turbulent air.
I felt the cold finger tips of panic and fear claw at my consciousness – a singular thought in the forefront of my mind: we should be down now.
Quickly my brain slammed the door on the thought; the voice of a lifeguard instructor I had years previously echoing in my mind: “panic is never useful, in any situation ever. It is your greatest enemy in the water and in life”. I took a deep breath and looked up the plane at our air hostess, a consummate professional, sitting upright in her seat, calm & expressionless.
Another 10 minutes went by. Her expression didn’t change. We definitely should have landed by now.
Bing bong. “This is your co-pilot speaking, unfortunately the rain is so heavy that we’re unable to see the runway to land and we are now in a holding pattern. We’re in touch with The Company and are deciding on a course of action. We are very sorry for this inconvenience however your safety is our primary consideration. ”
I looked around the half full aircraft. To my right was a Maori guy who looked like he ate two cows and twelve pigs for breakfast each day before spending the morning bench pressing an articulated truck. He was massive & rugby player fit. He looked unconcerned. Maybe he felt if we crashed, the ground and the plane would be sorry they had impacted him. Whatever was going on in his head, stress wasn’t part of it.
When I looked back down the plane, everyone else looked varying degrees of worried. One woman was breathing into a paper bag. Her friend reassuring her as the bag collapsed and expanded repeatedly.
I live out of my suitcase and work from the road. I am, currently, a Digital Nomad. This is not something that happened to me by accident. I chose this lifestyle because I want to see the world and my intuition told me my happiness would be found in embracing my sense of adventure.
I am also massively into personal development and becoming the best possible version of myself. The great unadvertised bonus of my lifestyle choice is that I get lots of opportunity to practice the mindset theories I read and chose to adopt. For example: most people think of stress as something that happens to them. Like it’s a gas in the air that they breath and consequently are made to feel stressed.
I know different. I’m certain that stress is something we create inside ourselves. External stimuli are just the triggers. YOU chose how you react to those triggers.
Some people need a paper bag to help them breath because of stress. Some think “fuck you ground, I can take you”, and some of us work on our mindset and because of that effort, we recognise stress when we begin to feel it.
We accept that stress, like panic, is our enemy. We chose to say no to it. We acknowledge that the situation we are in is scary, but we surrender ourselves to the fact that in that moment the only thing we can do is chose how we will react to it.
And here’s the thing, stress is not just your enemy. It is also the enemy of happiness too.
Let me ask you, have you ever been stressed out AND happy in the same moment?
Both are intangible but opposing things we create inside ourselves. This was an incredibly empowering realisation for me, because if stress is something we create ourselves, for ourselves, then it means we have a choice.
We can chose to control it, rather than to let it control us. We can chose to flip the stress switch off on the dashboard of our lives.
We can chose happiness and being present in the moment instead. This may seem fantastical, and it’s certainly not easy, but it is possible.
My flight had to divert to another airport a half hour away. In the end I spent 17 hours travelling a distance that takes most people 5 hours. It was a really challenging day that I survived on almost will power alone, however its the most challenging days that provide us with the greatest insights and build the most character.
If you don’t (or if you do) agree that stress is a choice I’d love to hear why in the comments below.