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I sit at Miami airport waiting to board the plane back to New York. I am reading Orwell’s 1984 wondering if I should delete my Facebook account and trying to drown out the TV which has CNN’s coverage of whether Obama and Clinton are getting too much media coverage. Maybe CNN does stand for Chicken Noodle News.
We will board in ten minutes and will be called according to zone numbers. A few people have already gathered in front of the gate even though the newly arrived plane hasn’t relinquished itself of passengers. A woman approaches the desk and speaks into a mic. “If you are trying to have your seat changed, the flight is full and there is nothing we can do for you. You will be called to board shortly. For now please have a seat.”
None of them move. The man leading this small, ignorable group is dressed in a suit. His generic tie is perfectly aligned with his belt buckle and sits firmly against his sucked-in paunch. A handful of hair gel holds his hair back in perfectly combed rows. His face is contorted into a possessive, secretive smirk with his lower lip burying the top and his cheeks slightly raised. It is as though he is trying to hold back a smile so as not to reveal how proud he feels amongst the rest of us. His shoulders are stiff and his hands look like they have accepted a life of carting bags around. When are those hands not in the form of a fist? Those hands have probably drown in so many handshakes they have since forgotten the simple joy of a high five.
I am disappointed with this man. As I look over at him from across the waiting area I try not to physically shake my head. I let the thought pass until a chill suddenly takes hold of me. Cold sweat, blurred vision, and inconsistent breaths. My eyes dart from side to side. My hands grip the sides of the seat. I feel as though I could asphyxiate if my lungs continue in this sporadic fashion. I need to hold it together. I gently bite my lower lip and try to finger the focal point of my disarray. My mind is issuing a warning involving my integrity. Everything is at stake now. My college graduation is finally here and now the reality of what I will do when I grow up is a serious thought.
The time has come to stay on course. I want to do what I love and not have to choose between living to work or working to live. I look back to the empty gaze of this man. That man may be me. A life full of hollow handshakes, dry jokes and synthetic smiles.
I take deep breaths and with the help of an inner monologue I bring myself to reason. I will not lose touch with what I know is important to me. I refuse to sell out. I refuse to let myself slip into monotony for money. If I am working for the number of zeros in my bank account rather than for a dream, I will know I have turned on myself. I will know I have turned on myself when that kid on the verge of it all sees me at the airport and is subconsciously shaking his head at my jaded countenance.
I retain my focus and watch as the impatient first class boards first. I’ve been there. I’ve sat in the VIP lounge drinking the tiny cans of free beer and sneaking back for more in a guilty fashion. I’ve knocked back the complimentary shots of whiskey on the plane. I’ve gorged myself on salmon and fresh vegetables that put those jokes about airline food out of commission for good. I’ve reclined the seat beyond my wildest expectations and turned comfortably on my side to sleep. And now I know it’s not worth it. I don’t want the arbitrary perks if things are so hopeless that I pride myself on them.
On this flight, I am on the verge of it all and seated far from first class next to an emotional middle-aged woman who grasps violently at the stewardess for a shot of something. I tend to end up next to this personality profile on my flights. I thrive on these quirky situations. I cannot settle for predictable. I will only feel in control when things are unpredictable.