I get lots of e-mails asking me odd questions, and there is one I get at least once a month in one form or another. This time, it said: “I’m thinking about learning to fly. Should I wait until my daughter graduates from college?” This is a question without an answer. Well, that’s not exactly true because there are a dozen ways to answer it, but obviously, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
Even though the question is ambiguous, I feel that it’s necessary to fumble around and give some sort of advice, and this time, I’m going to do my fumbling in public. Make believe that you’re being CC’d on my response e-mail.
First, let’s analyze the question. “I’m thinking about learning to fly.” Exactly what does this mean? Did the thought just flash through your head for the first time? Did you e-mail me because it was too late to bother your wife with the revelation? Or maybe you thought you’d try it out on me first, just to see how it sounds before mustering up the courage to hit your wife (or husband) with it.
Or is this one of those thoughts that periodically floats through your mind, like background music? For instance, the front of your brain is busy calculating the weight of a neutrino at 99% the speed of light, while the other part of it is coasting off over far horizons and suddenly, “I think I’ll learn to fly” flashes up on the screen. These kinds of urges may or may not be cause for action because the thought may be nothing more than one of those “Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to (insert weird activity here)?” thoughts. There’s no passion attached. It’s just a random brain-cell spasm.
You have a more serious problem, however, if learning to fly is one of those thoughts that creeps around your unconscious mind and is always just there. At times, because you haven’t heard from that thought for a while, you think the urge has gone away. But then, when the noise of living lets up for a few seconds, there it is, chirping away in the background, reminding you that there is something you want to be doing, but aren’t doing. This is an indication that, whether you know it or not, some part of you will forever be sorry if you don’t act on the desire.
Here’s a hint from the DDMH (Davisson Department of Mental Health): If you can’t drive away the thought of learning to fly from your mind, then maybe you’d better evaluate it more seriously. You need to drag that urge out into the sunshine and examine how you feel about it in very concrete terms. Exactly how serious do you feel about this? Is it a whim or a passionate calling that you’ve steadfastly kept stuffed under a mental rock because it doesn’t look “responsible” enough to fit into your current life?
I’ve got a hot flash for you: The really neat things don’t comfortably dovetail into an existing life. They often barge on stage and rewrite that life, making it bigger and better. You know this is a life-changing decision, yet you’re letting rationalization get in the way. While you’re rationalizing, remember that life is measured by the things you do, not the things you don’t do. So do it.
And then, there’s the second part of your question. “Should I wait until my daughter graduates from college?”
In the first place, who told you that the expense of having a daughter ends on graduation day? Do the words “wedding,” “first house,” “grandkid” and others of the same ilk mean nothing to you? All of the foregoing coming events in your daughter’s life are pretty much guaranteed, and they’re going to impact your financial life more than you know. Flying isn’t cheap, and it’ll never make sense financially. Those are guarantees. What isn’t guaranteed is tomorrow.
The concept of tomorrow for each of us is based upon a theory that the sun will always come up. But someday, it won’t. The operative word there is “someday.” It might be tomorrow. It might be next week, next month or the next decade. But it’s going to happen, and death renders the idea of procrastination moot and leaves a bunch of wishes unfulfilled, projects unfinished and things unsaid. If learning to fly is on your wish list, it definitely shouldn’t be in the “unfinished” column on the day the sun refuses to rise for you.
Don’t use your daughter’s future college plans as a reason for not realizing your own dream. It’s only money, and in the big scheme of things, money difficulties can always be resolved. A dream not realized, however, is one of life’s true tragedies. We know that “now” is guaranteed, but “tomorrow” is a pretty iffy concept, and “someday” might as well not even exist. So, don’t wait. Others have, and they’ve always been sorry.
Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII & A, aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Check out his Website at www.airbum.com.