The Lesson of the Cancelled Flight: When Life Makes You Pause

Life doesn’t always go as we plan. And sometimes we expend a lot of physical and mental energy trying to set things back on a path that’s no longer open to us. But there are lessons to learn about accepting circumstances and finding joy in a new plan, even one you didn’t create with a phone app.

I knew this man. He never got out.

Traveling the unfriendly skies is often a microcosm of the painful fact that we don’t control everything. When weather or a mechanical issue leaves us stranded, there is the instinct to dig in, to fight tooth and nail for a spot on the next flight out.

Every now and then the effort pays off. Against all the odds, a seat opens up on another charter and an escape is made. But it’s more likely that the day is lost. The question becomes how much we’ll battle before we accept our fates.

Getting Grounded by Life

I learned this lesson after several frustrating instances of getting abandoned by my flights at airports. That dreaded notification on my phone or on a flight board caused real panic. Fight or flight set in. But there are good and bad ways to handle the curveballs life throws at you.

Those glossy floors can be cold and unforgiving.

When a flight is suddenly canceled, passengers wait in line, hop from counter to counter, skip meals, forgo hydration and bathroom breaks, desperately trying to book a train, a horse carriage, or another plane. And take it from me, travelers get treated pretty terribly in these situations.

We dig in and decide to only accept one end result; our lives exactly the way we planned them or with just the slightest alterations. But this steadfastness is often unrealistic and keeps us from learning and experiencing.

Not every memory we form in our lives will be manufactured. Life will hand you some side adventures and we must be willing to accept that they’ll replace some of the blueprints we’ve drawn up.

Genghis Khan

The flight that may or may not be at the gate becomes a metaphor. Apply it to waiting on a college acceptance letter, a dating experience, or some other major life decision. We hit pause on our lives to wait on a dream that’s unattainable while other amazing options or destinies sail by.

That Fateful Moment at The Airport Ticket Counter

You stare into that poor airline desk person’s eyes, who has served hundreds of desperate travelers like you that day. The ticket wizard makes the offer. “I can book you on a flight four hours from now. It has one free seat and five people are ahead of you for it. Do you want wait it out?”

What if your answer was “no?” You take the sure-thing flight tomorrow. You graciously accept a free hotel room and meal voucher. You grab your luggage and find the nearest shuttle. Wake up the next morning refreshed. (Pro Tip: Always carry clean underwear and socks in your carry-on.)

You accept that the day wasn’t going as expected and you wouldn’t be able to change it. You can spend the rest of your time making the most of your situation, or you can spend it wishing you could have arrived in Witchita 16 hours earlier. Your choice.

A Free Hotel Room or a Sticky Terminal Bench?

I’d take this over an airport bathroom almost every time. Think of the free body wash!

I’ve lost a flight at one airport, been sent by cab across a major metropolitan area to a second airport, only to arrive and lose another flight.

And then I finally surrendered to my fate as the sun went down. I took a free hotel room, a free meal, and a seat on a flight the next morning.

I arrived in my hotel room, took a breath, and wondered how many hours I could have spent at this same hotel room, instead of trying to nap at an airport Panera drink station. What if I’d thrown in the towel a little sooner? (All-cotton, plush, towel.)

There are times when our plans/planes are quite obviously not getting off the ground. When you stop losing your mind trying to patch up those plans and permit new ones to form. You’ll find there are pocket universes opening up you would never have explored without being pulled out of your intricately constructed schedule.

An Air Battle Worth Fighting

Free Stroopwafle With Each Flight.

Of course, there will be times when your destination is time sensitive. Your on-time arrival is critical to your life plans or someone else’s. You’ll be forced to try every route possible. The Northwest Passage. You could still end up stuck in place, but in some cases, you have to pull out all the stops.

The rock in your path may not budge. All you can do is take a breath and sit tight until rescue arrives…the storm passes…a new door opens up.

Maybe it’s the next morning. Maybe it’s next semester. Maybe it’s the next job opportunity. Maybe your plan was never meant to lift off. Perhaps you haven’t learned everything you’re meant to from your current circumstances.

Final Approach On Rerouted Life Plans

Learn to accept these forks in the road with a little less resistance. Stay curious and open. What did your surprise change of plans help you avoid? What new paths were opened up?

What color are the tater tots in your altered plans?

We must learn to better gauge when a fight will improve our situation, and when to seek shelter and perhaps some clean sheets and towels. There are also instances where we purposely sabotage any alternate route in protest of the perfect route we can’t have. Power down your indignation and accept your current location and situation.

And sometimes the hotel restaurant serves loaded tots. Your intersection with those loaded tots might never have happened if you hadn’t allowed your fate to be rebooked.

Published by scottsentell20

Lifelong writer and coffee shop journaling champion. Content creator. Deep-Thought Diver. Hikes with dogs to learn their secrets to life. Likes the silence found on mountaintops and the peace that collects along the banks of small streams. I read old sci-fi novels to understand current events. Scott has roots in Alaska, Spokane, and North Carolina.

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