I started flying at a young age (13) but didn't decide to make it my career until a few years later. I'd only flown a few times previously, and the unfamiliar beauty and power of flight had a firm grip on me. I knew I had to fly, sooner or later. I chose sooner. That it could turn into a career certainly crossed my mind, but that was secondary at the time.
After flying for a few years and logging some hours, I made the decision to pursue flying as a career. By then, flying was an absolute passion; nothing in my young existence had made me happier, and I could think of nothing I wanted to do more than fly for the rest of my life. If somebody would pay me to do it, then, how could I resist?
I distinctly remember the first time I really did not want to fly. I was at college and was working on the instrument rating. I'd flown three or four times that week and was supposed to do a cross-country that night; however, I was repulsed by the thought of going up again. I wasn't having fun flying so often. I considered calling the flight off. Then I realized that if I was serious about flying for a career, I had to be absolutely committed, flying whether I felt like it or not at the time. I did the flight, and another the next day.
It was then that I realized an unpleasant truth about a flying career: when you fly every day, and it's your job, you won't get the same satisfaction out of it that you did when you flew for pleasure. There's a whole lot of boredom, fatigue, frustration, and hard work. Many days, it's "just a job." Then you see all the turmoil in the industry - bankruptcys, furloughs, paycuts - and you sometimes wonder if getting into a flying career was such a smart choice after all.
But then there are flights where it's just like those first flight lessons. It might be a tough approach flown well, or glimpsing a moment of immense beauty, but you find yourself completely happy and satsified, and you wouldn't trade your job for any other in the world. You have a strangly full, peaceful feeling as you leave the airplane, and you look back at her at least once as you walk away.
I've had a few really memorable flights at my current airline, but most are utterly routine and quickly disappear down the memory hole. Interestingly, I find more satisfaction every time I fly for Ameriflight. I fly the Chieftain too infrequently for it to be routine, and without dispatch, flight attendants, rampers, or another pilot, it's a far more self-reliant kind of flying. The Chieftain lacks FADEC and FMS, which results in a higher workload, but a purring engine and accurate course is far more satisfying when it comes from one's own knowledge and skill.
Truthfully, that's the main reason I fly for AMF on my days off. The extra cash and PIC multi time is fine, I guess, but that's not really why I do it. I do it for that last look: the waning moments of the day, when the engines have fallen silent and I've thrown 1200 lbs of bags out of the plane, and I walk slowly across the ramp, adrenaline slowly dripping back down my veins. That's when I look back at "my" airplane and feel the pride of a job well done, and the satisfaction of a day well spent.