One of my favorite songs right now is “30,000 Feet” by Ben Rector. I heard it in concert a couple of months ago, and since then it’s just had a lot of relevance to my life.
Traveling is exciting. Flying can be stressful and overwhelming, but it’s exciting. Dropping off your bags and going through security and making sure that you have all the right snacks and stopping to grab a coffee and weaving in between all of the different people who are all going to such different places, only to just barely make it to your gate in time before take-off where you find your seat and sit for the next few hours in between two complete strangers.
Unless if I’m sleeping or sick, there is rarely time set aside to sit still. If I’m sitting, I’m doing something. I’m doing homework or eating with friends or on the phone or watching Netflix. And even then, that time is short. It’s onto the next class, seeing the next person, working the next shift. And, of course, in between all of this is barely enough time to respond to text messages and keep up with social media and go to the bathroom and grab a coffee. Days are short. And there is something about a plane ride that makes four or five hours feel so long.
The message is simple. Life is fast, time flies, and there is always so much to do and so little time to do it. Everyone’s just doing their thing and trying their hardest to do their very best at it. But there is something so refreshing about being forced to sit in a seat for hours on end. You can only bring as much entertainment as will fit under the seat in front of you. You can only talk to the people sitting on either side of you. Airplane mode is a beautiful thing.
A lot can happen in four hours during a normal day. There are classes in the morning and work and friends and responsibilities. Four hours can feel so short. So many things to get done during that time and still yet not enough time to finish it all. But then, when you have to sit for that same amount of time in the same seat with a very limited number of things to do, it feels entirely different.
Plane rides can be pretty significant. Flying to the state where you’re going to school. Flying home to be with family that you haven’t seen in months. Flying somewhere to celebrate the holidays. Flying any direction, across the country, across the world.
I love plane rides because they give you set apart time to sit and think. And when you can’t really talk, you can’t check social media, and you don’t have classes to get to in a few minutes; your mind finally has time to rest. Or time to process. Or time to dream. I can remember such specific plane rides and such specific thoughts or memories. It’s similar to a long car ride, but even more so. When all distractions are stripped away, what do you think about? Who do you think about? What do you dream about and remember and plan and think through?
I don’t think there’s a better way to say it than Ben did –
“I’ve been better, I’ve been worse, I’ve chased after pretty girls,
I’ve seen a couple places that I never thought I'd see
I've walked into harder times, and I've walked out the other side
It seems like you end up getting what you need
Yeah, looking down from 30,000 feet, life's been good to me”
The simple truth is easily seen from the window seat from 30,000 feet in the air, sitting quietly for hours without your phone or any other distractions. Thanks Ben for the little reminder that life is pretty good.