The first time I ever saw a plane I was six – dad and I were dropping my mom off at the airport, cause she was going to work abroad. I don’t have many memories of the time I was six before we moved but I still remember how huge the flight my mom took looked to me. I remember marvelling at the sheer size of the plane, it looked like it could fit more than a thousand six-year-old Nias and I wondered just how such a huge thing was going to go into the air and stay up there (I still don’t know how they do that till today, tbh).
It would be another six years before I took a plane myself for the first time. By then I was twelve and was a little less enamoured by the size of planes. Sometime in those six years, I’d grown older and the planes had gotten smaller. I was quite disappointed at how non-amazing the inside was – I was imagining something on the lines of a luxury cruise – basically a holiday in the air. (I believed they gave free books on the plane to read – actual novels – imagine my crushing disappointment when all they handed out was activity books for the kids).
Over the past year, I’ve felt that particular tinge of disappointment several times. You know, when you build up something so much in your head, expecting it to be absolutely amazing and life-changing and what-not but in reality, it’s just something else you add to your experience and it’s nice but nothing ground-breaking as such. It’s quite a disappointment, because you only get to do something for the first time once.
When I left home for higher studies, I had too many expectations of what a year abroad would entail. And yeah, it’s been a life-altering, life-changing year and what not for sure, but it’s sad because it took me like two days to get used to it and then it was mundane, absolutely not a big deal to me anymore. The part of me that was excited for new experiences and cities and everything in between died so quickly, I wondered if it was ever alive.
Yesterday as I stood ‘crushed’ during London’s peak hour in the tube, it didn’t seem any different than being properly crushed in the Mumbai local’s peak hours. The only difference was that there were fewer people in the former, but the blazing heat, the indifference of the people united in those thirty minutes in their want to get home quickly, the chatter of those who still had some energy left was all very familiar to me.
I think it’s quite a pity how quickly humans adapt and how soon the ‘new’ becomes the daily. Something we’ve wanted to do for years and years becomes yet another thing we’re accustomed to in a couple days. Sure, the fascination remains and from time-to-time I still pause and wonder how I’m in the country I only read about in Enid Blyton books, eyes still sparkling with wonder before I remember I have to do a grocery run and the moment ends.
But I also believe the quick and easy familiarity with new experiences and places and people allows us to make more wishes, to want for more experiences, and that insatiable desire to explore and that curiosity simply gets transferred into a new goal. Cause even though twenty-one-year-old Nia has been on enough planes now that she can go do the whole process in her sleep, I still enjoy the little thump of my heart when the plane leaves the runway and when it lands with a jerk and a half. It’s also a good time to observe the first-time fliers – especially the kids who see the plane fly through cotton-candy clouds for the first time, their minds blown and the first seed of “wow this is amazing, I want to see it again, I want to do it again” planted within them. Because being familiar with something allows you that privilege, you get to see how other humans bond in those moments where you think, yeah, that’s why we continue to exist in this miserable world – for those few seconds where we’re part of something more than our individual selves.
This disjointed ramble about flights, first-time experiences and the settling in of familiarity in an unfamiliar space is brought you by the lack of Wi-Fi in the airport I’m currently in, co-sponsored by the deep, horrifying realization that the time for my safety blanket to come off is alarmingly close and that soon I’ll have the scary bit of new experiences at my door again and then you can find me complaining about how nothing is familiar anymore and how much of a pain settling into something unknown can be.
Until next time,