There are approximately 290,000 active commercial airline pilots in the world. Every day, they wake up to whiney kids, sick dogs, aging parents, annoying coworkers, and shitty commutes. Of course they also wake up to great runs, pretty sunrises, home-cooked meals, exotic locations, and trips home. Because they’re people. Normal people, in the grind of life, going to work and going home. And at work, they get to their gate, tick all the boxes, say their polite hellos to their passengers, and move a giant metal fuselage full of strangers 30,000 feet into the air going 500 mph across unexplored oceans of unsurvivable depth.
If someone made you pilot a commercial flight tomorrow, you would have reason to feel overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy because you would literally be inadequate. You would have nothing to contribute to flying because you would have no idea how to fly a plane.
But you do have something to contribute to a relationship, because you do, in fact, know how to be in them. You, despite your not knowing it, have plenty of training. Right now, you’re in a small but very real relationship with me. You’ve come to me with curiosity, vulnerability, and even a dash of humor. I see that vulnerability and am coming back to you with what I hope is kindness and realism. But I don’t know for sure. I can’t know how you’ll receive this message, how you’ll relate to what I’m saying, or what you’ll think of me after. And that, really, is being in a relationship. Putting yourself out there, trying to be your best self, trying to help people, trying to know someone, and knowing that, sometimes despite all of this, sometimes the relationship you’re trying to forge will fail. That is true when we’re 6 on the playground on the monkey bars, it’s true when we’re 16 negotiating curfews and grades, it’s true when we’re 29 interviewing and flirting, it’s true when we’re 43 reassessing our marriages, it’s true forever.
I get that everyone else feels like an airline pilot, navigating skies out of your reach with flexibility and wisdom. But you don’t have to fly a plane to date. You answer a message. You make a joke. You send a text. You get ignored. You turn someone down. You ask someone out. And at whatever speed you’re comfortable with, you remove whatever literal and figurative layers you’re comfortable with.
You are allowed to feel overwhelmed. Everyone feels overwhelmed when approaching something they literally have no idea how to do. That’s OK. But that’s why we learn. That’s why we take our time but also take chances. That’s why flight school exists. That’s why dating blogs and books and movies and websites and everything else exists. So you can learn to date. Because the truth is, even people who’ve been holding hands on the playground since they were 9 can feel overwhelmed by the world of love. We’ve only written an infinite amount of story around the subject. You could say almost every single human is undone, overcome, and indeed overwhelmed by love and all its facets. And that’s OK. But inadequate? A pipe dream? Too late?
No. Too late is when you’re dead. Show yourself a little forgiveness. Because what you’ve shown me isn’t inadequacy, it’s hope. And really, that’s all you need.