Meeting people on airplanes is almost like sharing extended elevator speeches. You have enough time to connect, but not always enough time to make a lasting bond. You hear vaguely familiar stories, maybe what people you know have gone through before, but without any other context. In the end, you learn life lessons from people you will probably never see again. Like…
The hopeless romantic.
One iteration of this spent four hours talking about his love for his wife and thought he gave her the world: money, emotional support, kids, a white picket fence and a dog. But we know where this went- she ended up cheating and leaving, and he allegedly had no idea why. Though jaded, his face and eyes would still light up as he remembered their good times and turn bleak thinking about where they are now. Real relationships aren’t easy; they take work and compromise, listening and giving. Even if they go sour, don’t forget how you felt during the good times, and don’t forget to move forward.
The 20 something visionaries.
This duo told me about the VR startup they founded in their upstate NY tech college dorm, traveling to Seattle to pitch the idea to different funders, because their trust fund only took them so far. When you have resources to get started, the world is at your fingertips. LOL jk- saltiness aside, never forget to dream, then make your dreams come true. We have the inventions and technologies we do now because someone worked hard to see their ideas take form. Young people are great because they’re still willing to take chances, but older people need to remember their power and drive too.
The immigrant struggling to adjust.
When we hear about immigration issues, we think of things like poverty or xenophobia. Culture shock is also very real. This Tunisian father had raised his two kids in Norway, and while the kids and ex-wife assimilated, he did not. Tearing his family apart was the disconnect between his view of the world- the role of family, the idea of mental illness, the presence of community, the future for his kids, vs the rest of his family’s more Western view. Remember to listen and empathize with those around you. We all come from different places and a little understanding can go a long way.
The housewife turned working professional.
Back in the day, they moved to Seattle so her husband could work at Microsoft while she stayed home to cook and clean. Soon after the move, he was laid off, and they struggled to make ends meet- until she started working at Microsoft instead. Before confined to the walls of her house, now unlimited in the languages and applications she could learn, she gushed over how she loved her working life and and nerded out over the new skills she learned. The best part was her husband supported her and their marriage was still strong despite the previous financial hardships. If times are rough now, they will eventually get better, even if eventually feels like a long time.
The underdog trying to make the world a better place.
One was a lawyer who represented people abused by corporations in a particular field. He was visibly nervous as he was preparing to go into one of his bigger cases so far; he knew that he was likely going to lose, but he was still excited because he loved what he did and was able to give people a voice. His passion flowed through his words and got me and window seat guy giddy for the case too, angry that sometimes justice doesn’t get served, and hopeful for his successes. He was a reminder that even when it feels like everything is stacked against you, if you really believe in something, fight for it all the way through. If you give up, you won’t succeed. If you try, you might.
PS: Almost immediately after writing this, I had the worst meeting people on a plane experience ever. It’s not all fun and games.