Monday, September 17, 2007

Bittersweet Exit

Today I started my last four day trip at Horizon, although it actually ended up getting split into a day trip followed by a three day. Tomorrow I'll check in for the last time, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. I'm not as excited as I think I should be. I know this was the right thing to do, but my heart's just not really in it right now.

The basic problem, I think, is that I really like working for Horizon. It's a good company, and a quality airline that I'm proud to say I work for. I enjoy my coworkers and the overall culture; it's a place I fit in very well. For all of it's faults, I'm pretty fond of the Q400. The variety of flying keeps me interested, and I never get tired of the beautiful scenery around the Pacific Northwest. I feel privileged when I go to work. That's not easy to give up.

You know how when you travel to a place for the first time, it's usually different from how you thought it'd be? Sure, you may have read about it in books and seen it in movies and thumbed through friends' vacation photos, but the image you build of the place in your mind is only slightly informed by these factual scraps; your imagination supplies the myriad details, creating a world as fictional as Narnia or Middle Earth. Then you visit and the actual sights and sounds and smells quickly displace the imagined details until you can't even remember what your preconceived image of the place was like. The fictional place suddenly becomes real, as though it sprang into existence when you arrived.

This is the way I feel about NewCo. As of yet, it's basically a nonentity that exists only in my imagination. It's hard to get excited about something that doesn't exist. Horizon, on the other hand, is real to me and I can't help but be sad that as soon as I leave it will cease to be part of my reality, living on as a relic of memory with the occasional radio call or Q400 sighting as a reminder that I didn't imagine that world or my former place in it.

I feel the same way about Portland, actually. I suspect much of my ambivalence about leaving Horizon is closely tied to leaving the Pacific Northwest. Of course, in this case I'm not leaving a known for the unknown but a known for the even better known place that I grew up. It must seem that I hate Minneapolis, but I really don't. Winter weather notwithstanding, there are many attractive things about it. In some ways it's like Portland: a modern, forward-looking city that's not huge or overbearing, that offers a high quality of life, places a high premium on parks and green space, and invites it's citizens to get outside and play. Minnesota as a whole is a beautiful, varied state that's a great place to raise a family. I have nothing against Minnesota or Minneapolis.

I think it's more so that I just don't see myself as a Minnesotan anymore. It's not home. The Pacific Northwest, and Portland in particular, has become home in a way SoCal never was when I lived there. You could say I've made it part of my identity. In ages past, where you were from was a key element of one's identity, but in today's increasingly mobile and rootless society, where you've chosen to make your home says more about who you are and how you want others to see you. Identity itself has become an increasingly fluid concept; reinvention of self has become the norm. Pick your career, pick your spouse, pick your hometown, pick your hobbies; if you don't like your life, change one or all.

So I guess the problem here is I don't especially want to reinvent myself. I kinda like being me, thank you very much. I'm comfortable being the Midwest boy who escaped to the west coast and has enthusiastically taken up hiking, backpacking, skiing, drinking microbrews, and hanging out with friends at the coffee shop on rainy days. For that matter I like being the pilot who enjoys flying a unique turboprop instead of another McRJ, gets a kick out of going to little airports in the mountains in bad weather, and is proud of flying for a decent regional with a good contract instead of undercutting the profession like everyone else. Ooof, I sure fell hard off of that particular high horse, didn't I? The basic problem here, if I'm being honest, is that I need to get over myself and swallow my pride. Nobody's all that into me and nobody's gonna care if I go back to being the Minnesotan guy flying an RJ.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just getting old and set in my ways, content to let life's inertia carry me along. The funny thing is that I generally crave change; the "imagined place becomes real" aspect of travel I mentioned earlier is a major reason I enjoy traveling. Why shouldn't it apply to life? Maybe I'm just looking at this all wrong; maybe I should start seeing it as the Next Big Adventure. Horizon and the Pacific Northwest? Been there, done that, have the microfleece vest! After all, I didn't realistically expect to stay here my whole life; I might as well keep my adventurous and adaptable side alive before I get too comfortable here.

Wow, this is an insanely self-absorbed post (in the tradition of bloggers everywhere, might I add). Several of you will no doubt point out that it was my choice to leave and if I'm bummed about it now, well boo-friggin'-hoo. I know, I know. I know it was the right choice, I'm just trying to come to grips with how I feel about it. I do think writing this post helped me shift my attitude, though. One more trip, then NewCo here I come! Can't wait to get my hands on that JungleBus! And ooh, the snow stays wonderfully dry for skiing at 30 degrees below zero!

13 comments:

Tom said...

Sam,
I don't post here much but I read your blog quite often and have for over a year now. First, congratulations and good luck on the move to MSP and the new airline.

Second, I can totally relate to your pacific NW experience and I don't blame you for feeling that way. You can hide it as much as you want but the Pacific NW is part of you now and when you leave it you won't be leaving it entirely. You'll always miss it because of the memories of flying over Rainier, going to Powell's Books in Portland, the Columbia River on a sunny day, the Oregon coast, etc.

The Pacific NW isn't like anywhere else in the country, or world for that matter. Sure, there are other progressive cities like PDX, but the scenery is unparalleled anywhere except maybe Alaska. I grew up in California but lived in the Pacific NW for many years before calling New England home. When I got here, it was a constant comparison; the white mountains aren't as big as the cascades, the pine and spruce trees here aren't as big as those in Oregon/WA, the spaces aren't as wide open, the landscape is flatter in most places, etc. Once you've lived in the Pac NW it ruins you in a way because the scenery is so spectacular that you experience withdraw when you leave it. But it's always there for you to go visit, and you never know, you could move back some day to work for AS or even NWA out of Seattle.

Again, good luck. When you get to MN and you have time, drive up to lake of the woods and Voyageurs National Park, then drive east to Grand Portage and take the ferry out to Isle Royale NP in the middle of Lake Superior. You will feel rejuvenated to see the natural, unspoiled beauty that exists in your new state and area and it will help you miss the Pacific NW less (which won't be as easy if you visit flat, tree-less southern MN instead!).

Anonymous said...

Sam: even though you just took a unfair shot at most of us, good luck on the move and enjoy the new airplane. Now I'll go back to flying my McRJ in out of The World's Busiest Airport and undercutting the profession while you pass judgement on me from your lofty perch...

Fred said...

Aaah, so you flew for Horizon!! ;-)

Good luck, as always. Ad astra…

Sam said...

Anonymous, perhaps you missed the sardonic nature of that comment as evidenced by the sentance that followed: "Ooof, I sure fell hard off of that particular high horse, didn't I?"

I don't actually look down on pilots flying RJs and I certainly don't pass judgement on anyone based on who they work for (except goJet creeps); I was basically panning my occasionally preaching on this blog.

Ryan said...

Now you are going to have to change your blog from "Blogging at FL250" to "Blogging at FL350", or higher. Hope it's everything you want it to be.

Sam said...

Naw I'll always be Blogging at FL250, it'll just be in the climb or descent! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Nothing will compare to the Paific NW! I grew up outside of Seattle, (my parents now live in Alaska) and I now live in MN. It is great place to raise my family. Try to take in a few Wild games! My husband was also hired by NewCo. When is your start date?

Sam said...

21 Sept, Anon. How bout your hubby?

Anonymous said...

Originally, Nov. 14, but got call to start earlier. New Co waiting on driving record, so no firm new date yet. Good luck to you! How is wifes new job going? We have great schools here!

Sam said...

The job is going good so far, it sounds like it's a really good school & district, which is good...she was pretty frusterated with the administration at the school she taught at in WA.

Anonymous said...

Did you read this? Yikes! Scroll down to bottom of page for newest posts.

http://www.airlinepilotforums.com/showthread.php?t=15280&page=7

MN has great schools. The wealthy districs tend to be the best ones of course. Inner city ones - not so great. We are in Lakeville. Top notch for sure!

My brother in law works for the FBI in Portland, but lives in Bush Prairie (I think its the name).

Sam said...

I saw that just a few minutes ago, Anon. It gives me a rather uneasy feeling about NewCo mgmt. If they continue to behave in the way, they're going to find themselves with a militant union from the get-go.

Your brother in law probably lives in Brush Prarie, it's just north of here. He's not in the market for a townhome, is he? ;-)

§kyye said...

Wow, this is like reading a post by my BF ~ how funny! He also is from the MSP area (Rochester, actually), is "proptrash" with the local regional airline, and has "grown roots" here in the PNW now. And it truly IS one of the most beautiful areas in the world! I am from Seattle originally, and have lived in Minnesota as well ~ it has its pros and cons, but not much compares to the PNW for me either. :) Enjoying your blog.. (I'm a newbie) Best of luck!