aerophobia (noun) ˌer-ō-ˈfō-bē-ə: a fear or strong dislike of flying
If you know me at all, then you know of my aversion to flying. Friends and family members have tried to reason with me by subjecting me to long, statistical, drawn out speeches about transportation safety and how I am more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a plane crash. But talk all you want because…LA LA LA LA LA LA MY BRAIN CANNOT HEAR YOU. Unless you and I are exceptionally close and I can hear in your voice why you should care, you should know that your sermon makes you sound pushy and condescending, like I should feel bad about my decision to not fly.
So, please…just stop.
Last night I had a conversation about this little quirk of mine and finally decided to speak up about how I feel like I am constantly defending myself. Aside from the fact that my fiancé, whom I love immensely, lives over a thousand miles away and would greatly benefit from me lugging my terrified ass onto an airplane, I can’t really think of how my phobia really affects anybody.
If anybody should be pissed about this irrationality of mine, it should be him. But I made it perfectly clear before our relationship even started that I. DO. NOT. FLY. Maybe this helps me to feel justified in allowing him to be the one who does all the traveling, but it’s something that was made known from Day One. In fact, he knew about this long before we even got together, maybe even going years and years back. And even HE is okay with this. That’s not to say I don’t feel guilty about it or that I don’t recognize how my phobia affects those closest to me, but really…why would anyone else feel they have a right to argue with me about it?
I love airplanes. I grew up on and around military bases and I currently live near Jacksonville International Airport, so the sound of a jet engine or a commercial plane flying overhead is one of the most comforting sounds to me. I have flown on airplanes numerous times before, but that was when I was younger and my parents booked family vacations and I had no choice but to travel by air. I have never liked to fly. Now I have a choice. I choose to not fly.
As a traveler who employs very limited modes of transportation, I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on the world. My earliest years were spent in Italy and taking trips to Germany and the former Yugoslavia. Luckily, I remember these moments. There is no strong desire pulling me back to visit any place abroad.
I think America is just as good a place as any to drive across, travel through, and wander aimlessly in search of history and a cultural connection. Why isn’t that enough? In what rule book does it say I must have a pining desire to stroll the romantic streets of Paris or to drink a pint of Guinness in an authentic Irish pub or visit the war-torn lands of my Polish ancestors, otherwise there is something terribly wrong with me?
And why does this mean so much to everyone who learns of my fear of flying? It obviously matters more to them than it does to me, maybe because I have had my entire life to acknowledge and accept this. And, for my entire adult life, I have had to defend myself against being treated as if this is a shortcoming, a flaw, or some kind a defect. It is what it is.