Once upon a time, a self-proclaimed Archaeology-Lifer got a job as a flight attendant. No one knows quite how it happened. Here's what happened next...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Confidence Issues

I have been working on my Private Pilot's License for just under three months now.  This blows my mind a little bit.  For one thing, I'm working on my Private Pilot's License.  It's not really something I ever expected myself to say.  It's slow going, because I can usually only fly once a week, but I'm doing it.  For another thing, it doesn't seem like only three months.  It feels like three years.  I feel like I have always been doing this, like I have always wanted to and needed to do this.  I've gone through so much in such a short amount of time it's a wonder I haven't short-circuited yet.

Training hasn't been all fun happy times either.  Don't get me wrong, I've loved every second of it so far.  But it's been stressful and emotional for me, and very trying at times.

After the first few lessons, the initial "OMG I'M FLYING AN AIRPLANE" factor started to wear off a little.  In my third lesson I had my first surge of doubt.  All I could think of was how poorly I was doing that day, and felt like I had no place being there and should never be allowed to be a Pilot.   And then just when I was starting to feel comfortable with My Instructor, he announced that he was leaving for a week, and I was going to have to take a lesson with a Substitute Instructor.  This lesson was an utter disaster, or at least I felt it was.  Definitely not the Substitute Instructor's fault, but mostly because of my own nerves.  When My Instructor returned from his trip I practically had to bite my tongue to stop myself from crying out 'never leave me again!!!!'. 

My lessons continued, and I started to get edged out about a couple of upcoming chapters in my flight training manual - Stalls, and Spins.  I quickly overcame the fear of stalls, it wasn't really what I had expected based upon the name, and turned out to be something that, once in the air, I didn't really waste much stress on it.  I just got on with the exercise.

Spins was a whole different story though.  I managed to freak myself out completely by looking them up on youtube weeks before the lesson, and decided that they looked utterly terrifying and I thought I was nuts for getting myself into this.  Then, to make matters worse, My Instructor told me I was going to be going out on that lesson with a Supervisor Instructor.  My brain shut down completely.  I had just begun to feel really good about flying with My Instructor, although briefing was giving me grief - I would get nervous and clam up and feel stupid, and that would hit my confidence a little.  And now I was facing this challenging lesson, and I had to go with an instructor I had never flown with before?  Based upon my performance with the Substitute Instructor some weeks earlier, I felt that this did not bode well for me.  The nerves of performing flight exercises in front of a total stranger, and the added pressure that messing up would not only make me look bad, but would reflect poorly on My Instructor as well, PLUS the nerves of my first spin all added up to make me one frazzled little Flygirl for a week or so.

The day dawned, and I probably didn't sleep as well as I needed to.  I was nervous.  I wasn't scared - in my brain, scared is bad, nervous is good.  Scared makes people run away from the things they fear.  Nerves just gives you a little extra energy with which to face your fears.  But I was nervous.

I expected the lesson to be awful, and then to go back and apologize profusely to My Instructor for making it look like he was a bad teacher, which was absolutely not the case.  But five minutes into the briefing I noticed something strange.  My brain was connected to my mouth.  I was able to adequately display that I understood the material using my words.  Interesting.  New.

Things got better.  We got in the plane and I did the take-off, which the Supervisor said was "perfect".  Score another point for me.  Things just kept going right for me.  I did my radio communications by myself.  I had no trouble keeping the correct altitude.  I rocked stalls.  'Oh, wing drop? No problem, just a little rudder here, and sorted!'  By the time the exercise was over I felt like a rock star.  And then it was time for the dreaded spin.  I don't know if I was more surprised by how slow and serene it felt, or by how much I enjoyed it.  Looking up and seeing the ground 2500ft above your head is not something you generally get to see.  It's quite beautiful.

By the time the Supervisor Instructor and I landed, I was buzzing again.  I felt confident and capable in a brand new way.  But then this new found confidence led to more internal struggle.  Why had I never felt that confident before?  Did I prefer this new instructor?  What was going on?  I didn't think it was really about the instructor, because I had really liked working with My Instructor.  But I couldn't deny the fact that I had been a badass that day, and I needed to know why.  I booked a couple more lessons with the Supervisor Instructor in order to figure things out.

After a couple of lessons, I still felt like a confident, capable student pilot.  I tried another lesson with My Instructor, and it felt about fifteen times better than it had before.  Although My Instructor and I did discuss ways we could kill my nerves in the briefings, I think the huge change in my confidence came from my brain somewhere.  I stopped feeling as though flying was something I would never be able to get the hang of, and just started to focus on doing it.

Now I am working in the circuits and practicing my landings (boy do they need some work...) and still feel really good about it all.  My first solo flight is starting to look like something in the foreseeable future, instead of something that makes me giggle nervously whenever mentioned.  There are still a lot of hurdles before I get to that point though, but onwards and upwards!

1 comment:

  1. Good on you! Don't worry too much about those ups and downs (oops - no pun intended) in your confidence and abilities. We pretty much all go through that - and continue to each time we upgrade to new challenges. (well, maybe there are a few "naturals" around who never seem to - but that's not most of us).