I went paragliding last week while in Costa Rica. Normally, there would have been a post to FB and Twitter about the same time about how great an experience it was to be up in the air. Except that it wasn’t. The flying was wonderful of course – the instructor was highly capable and did some aerobatics that I hadn’t even heard of before. That part was great. The part that sucked was everything other than the flying itself.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this, but it’s the first time I’ve put together the pattern and it kinda put me into a funk. What I’ve come to realize is that pilots are assholes. I don’t mean individual pilots, although some certainly are while some pilots are really nice people. I mean that as a group pilots aren’t terrifically caring, neither to others nor to their own kind. Pilots come together as pilots to fly, and you’re expected to either be just as enthused as they are to be up in the air, or be awed by their ability to do so. Otherwise, why would you be at the airfield?
The result is that the people you deal with when flying aren’t there to enjoy each other’s company but in spite of it. This becomes self reinforcing when the people who are more interested in good company than flying leave for other things. In the end, only stogy old men are left.
I very quickly realized that neither paragliding nor gliding are things that I want to continue doing, largely because of what it means to my social circles. To do either of those means spending huge amounts of time with people I’m not terrifically fond of – and conversely, takes time away from the people I do want to spend time with.
My mistake wasn’t in wanting of fly. It was in prioritizing flying over being with the people that matter to me. I used to think that having a list of goals to accomplish and going out and doing them was the essential thing in life. For example, I’d go to the gliding club because I really wanted to go flying. Of course, I’d make friend there and get along with people as best as I could. But the important thing was to be flying. I’m starting to realize that the cost of something isn’t just hours and dollars, but in the social connections too.
I’d like to change that approach to life. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll stop flying, but I am going to look at what flying is doing for me. If I can use it for being closer to the people I care about, then flying will stay an important part of my life. If not, then I might just give it up.