What Do Female Pilots Have In Common?

It might not be what you think.  

Choosing A flyGIRL

In the past few weeks, a large amount of my time has been spent reading and reviewing (reading and reviewing, and reading, and rereading…) the resumés, essays, and recommendation letters, etc., of hundreds of women who are seeking the $4,000 flyGIRL/Sporty’s flight training scholarship.  They have some exciting aviation dreams. Each of these women wants to be a pilot, for one reason or another. Their stories and goals are all worthy of sharing. I love stepping into their worlds for a bit, getting to know them, and sharing the enthusiasm for their endeavors. There is such a broad range of women, from all backgrounds, all stages of life, each with a different vision of their future.  

The experience and honor of getting to help these women, in one way or another, is hard to beat. Going through this process has caused me to evaluate and think about many things, one being, what drives this person or what has given this person that extra ingredient to keep plowing ahead in spite of the obstacles she’s facing? The human mindset, abilities, and unique characteristics fascinate me. Each person is so different; what propels one person may completely derail another.  

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the women who will cross the finish line to become pilots, and reach their goals. SPOILER ALERT! Truthfully, this isn’t just about female pilots, it’s really about anyone that’s successful. “Successful” by their measure, not what the general public or anyone else believes success is. There are a few magic ingredients but today I’m focusing on the wherewithal to overcome.

Overcoming

Successful people have faced challenges and are optimistic. There are many articles, books, podcasts, resources, etc., that can back this up. In an exercise, I bet you could write down 5-10 unforeseen events in your life that completely changed your outlook, your feelings, and your trajectory. You may not have taken the time to realize how these things affected and/or changed you. Let’s focus on the most painful, difficult things because apparently, that’s where we either become stronger or succumb. People who triumph go through very painful experiences and can use those to become stronger. Being a victim is not an acceptable or appealing option to individuals that “make it.” And…

Successful people realize it’s through challenges that we grow the most. This one kind of sucks, doesn’t it? It means we have to struggle in order to develop the strength and competence that allow us to continually overcome hurdles and keep fighting for the best version of ourselves. This is something you can cling to when you are amid a low-point or crisis. Having a strong faith in God, or a higher power, is helpful as well. Realizing that you’re not in control and believing in good things helps maintain optimism.  

What Have You Overcome?

I’m challenging you to sit down and write at least five painful events of your life. And guess what? You survived! I guarantee you grew and became stronger from those awful times. That’s the payout. Be gentle with yourself and realize that you are an overcomer. Maybe you did stupid things that led to a terrible phase in your life. It’s not the end of your life just yet. Many of the events that shape us are completely not of our own doing and out of our control. When you’re going through these times, remind yourself that you are an overcomer! One of my favorite bible verses to rehearse during difficult times is: 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

During trials, and tears, and frustration, this gives me hope that whatever life throws at me, there will be something positive to come from it (you know I’m a big salesman for finding and memorizing powerful quotes that speak to you so that they can be easily recalled when needed)! 

Five Life Events

When I sat down to create a list of the top five defining moments of my life, I actually came up with closer to ten. In retrospect, the majority of these life-changing events culminated all at once, in a relatively short span of time. These were Godawful. They still cause some pain. As you sit to recall and reminisce, be prepared for a plethora of emotions. One could say I’ve learned how to bury some things over the years, sometimes intentionally, but not always. Life gets in the way and keeps going! Plus, going through heartache is the worst. I want that sh*t to move on, right?!?! Allowing myself to pause and ruminate with admittance, “yeah, that was very difficult,” or “that really hurt,” has been therapeutic. I’ve come to the realization (and I hope you will as well), that if I could make it through those things without being committed (barely…haha), then there isn’t anything that I can’t face.  By the way, my therapist (closest friend in different circumstances) forced me to take on this exercise.  It is definitely not something that I would’ve volunteered myself to do without some prodding.  She helped me identify and point out all that I’d faced early on.  My desire is to help you realize what you’re capable of handling, as well.

My 16th Birthday!

Years 16-19: Natalie, Reality Bites…

There are three major events I’ll share here that each took place between ages 15 and 19. There were three additional life-altering situations during this time that will not be shared for different reasons: too personal and/or to protect others. I know what they are and am fully aware of their effect and repercussions. That they also took place during this phase of my life makes them very significant. 

1. The divorce of my parents. It wasn’t so much the divorce itself, but the response of those around me. The timing was terrible too. The process lasted for years. The worst of it may have been between the ages of 16-18. Having teenagers myself now, that period of life is challenging in and of itself, without family drama and disruption. When you picture a terrible, nasty divorce…it was that. That specific incident continues to have a rippling effect on one relationship in particular. 

2. The destruction and loss of my best friend. Have you ever had a bestie? It’s a rare and wonderful thing to instantly connect with someone and feel like they have been a part of your life since the beginning. My girlfriend and I did everything together. We practically lived with one another. Her family was my family and vice versa. Her mom actually gave me her wedding ring years ago that I still wear. We were very annoying to many because we were so close. She was my confidante during tumultuous family times.

At age 16, she was hit by a drunk driver (who happened to be a peer and friend of my sister’s). She didn’t die, but she had to have her leg amputated. I can still see this gruesome picture she had been given by the hospital of her severed leg before it was incinerated lying on the operating table. That image will never go away. Everything changed. There were lawsuits, of which she received very little. There were years of rehabilitation, of which I’d often accompany her. I learned and took on many things 16-year olds haven’t faced: relearning to walk with one leg, phantom pain, new leg fittings every few weeks, new prosthetics for varied purposes, extended school absences and homework, transportation to events, her mental state, etc., etc. It felt as though I had to make her life “happy” and as normal as possible. It was a huge weight for a 16-year old. Our families became very close. Eventually, in our mid-twenties, we grew apart. I’d say the toll the accident took on both of us led us in different directions.  Her mom passed away last summer from cancer and her dad passed about three weeks ago. Their deaths brought back many emotions and memories from those difficult days. 

The “skin” is coming off this particular leg…and summer is coming so she needs painted toenails!

3. The death of my aunt. My mom is part of a large family and there are many aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, etc. This aunt was special. I spent the night at her home often. She always had good junk food! She and I would paint pottery together, and play games. She was my uncle Robert’s first wife (Robert is my PILOT uncle). She got cancer. Watching her battle it for years during my teens, was terrible. She went through chemo, lost her hair, lost weight, lost fingernails. I remember trying to have fun buying wigs, scarves, and hats. Then, she’d go in remission for a time. It would come back and the cycle would repeat. Finally, her body couldn’t battle it anymore and both of us (including everyone else) had to come to the realization that she was going to die. Period. There was nothing anyone could do about it, but wait. That is a cold, harsh reality. No one has the power to do a thing about this awful, tragic death: no specialist doctor, no new drug, nothing. The last visit we shared is a vivid memory. We were in her bedroom where she was lying in bed. She was a frail existence of skin and bones. Tears were lightly streaming down her face and mine. It was a heart-wrenching pain that I’ll never forget. It makes me cry every time I think of it. We held hands and she said with calm finality, “We had some good times, didn’t we Nat?” For both of us to know that it was the end, to feel so powerless, and to have no choice but to accept it and say goodbye, felt like a punch in the gut, over and over again. She died that night. I returned to their house the next day. It felt so cold and empty. That was the first death of someone I loved very much.  

Building resilience requires facing and going through painful circumstances that are often out of our control. You must resilience to cope and not let the reality of life keep you down or stop you. The most successful people have learned to continue fighting for the good life that they want even after let-downs. There is NO WAY to avoid disappointments in life. Everyone has a choice. You either use these occasions to become stronger or you let them become an excuse to settle for less. How happy will settling make you?? NOT VERY! Therefore, the only thing you must do is use it for good; use it to better yourself and to help others better themselves. Knowing we all go through hard times should, hopefully, allow you to empathize more with others, not resent, and become a better, more helpful member of humanity.  

No matter who wins the flyGIRL scholarship at the end of the month, each of these women is a success because they will forge ahead with or without this particular awarded financial assistance. Every single one of them has no plans to quit. They are each patient and willing to work for every flight hour they can gain, whether it takes one year or ten. They are optimistic overcomers who will not let the hardships of life stop them, but make them stronger.  

 

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