The Past, Present & the Future
As I sit down and reflect upon the 1st day of the journey I discover myself filled with new moments of gratitude I encountered throughout the day. Yesterday I placed the key in the ignition switch of the Subaru and pulled away with a full tank of gas, car loaded with food, kayak, bike, land paddle, clothes and an open heart. I had a general idea of what the day might look like, however as I write about my experiences several other cool encounters were revealed to me as the day progressed. My first stop yesterday was in Tulsa where I met my dear friend Lisa for a quick breakfast at the IHOP right off the interstate by the Hard Rock Café. Lisa who is a lifetime friend of mine always greets you with a giant smile and a huge hug. Although Lisa herself is in a fight for her life against cancer you would never know as she in present in today gracious, kind, and funny as hell. As we finished breakfast and she prepared herself for an upcoming radiation treatment I was warmed by her outlook as she continues to be contagiously positive and vibrant. When I consider my own struggles and trials I am reminded of Lisa’s unrelenting courageous attitude through this fight and her positive flow of healing optimism. I love you Lisa and am sending you strength for the day!
Yesterday as I approached the outskirts of Oklahoma City I began thinking about an earlier time in my life when I lived in OKC. A blast of emotion came over my mind like a wave crashing on the surf. I reminisced about a time when I was a young woman attending Metro Tech Aviation Academy at the Will Rogers International airport. I have no idea why I suddenly started thinking about the old school that I attended in 1991-1992? I unexpectedly felt the strong urge to drive over to the airport and see if I could stumble upon my old stomping grounds. During this time period in my life I was wild, free spirited, a little crazy, and without fear of any pre conceived norms, or at least society norms and pressures we sometimes put upon ourselves.
I finally settled into my yoga mat about 8am and played the events of yesterday back in my head this morning. I can still smell the scent of hamburgers on the grill from last night and the faint smell of dryer sheets from the neighbors yard. The wind is calm in the back yard and I can faintly hear an airplane-flying overhead as I practice my yoga in the still Oklahoma morning. My mind was challenging to settle at first as I woke with a fog of uncertainly as to what I was suppose to be doing today. Here rises my central question for myself as I prepare my day for another drive into the unknown experiences from which I desire to learn. I am leaning and embracing the discomfort of not knowing and being calm within that experience. I have finally calmed the monkey in my mind and put her back into the cage for a while. I can sense a soft feeling of being more present with myself, allowing myself to just be, not try to do, worry, or plan what has to happen next. The sweet family that I stayed with last night have been a joy to hang out with, as they opened their home to me with such generosity. Last night I shot archery in the back yard with two cool kids, enjoyed great conversation with Dena, and was gifted time, space, and respect to just be still. Reflecting upon why I am taking this journey in the first place I imagined this grand voyage to amazing sites around the country perhaps practicing yoga on some beautiful mountain. However, here I am this morning comfortably sitting in a back yard in Oklahoma on my crappy yoga mat with the scent of a cold BBQ grill and the neighbor’s dryer vent. My laptop is propped on top of an archery target and I have made a make shift desk on my yoga mat. At this moment I am totally content to just sit here, be still, write for an hour or so, and just breathe. For me just being present with the moment is where I need to be and let any expectations of where or what I should be doing next just roll in and out of my head like the waves coming ashore.
Yesterday as I entered the outskirts of OKC I was reminiscing about the hundreds of trips I have made to this city over the past 30 years of my life. I moved here when I was 18 years old and attended a few colleges on my search to find myself as young woman in this big world. I grew up as a child loving aviation and anything with wings has forever fascinated me beyond belief. After bouncing around between 18-21, I attended a local air show here at the Will Rogers International Airport. I stumbled upon a trade show vendor advertising aviation careers in the maintenance industry and was I was immediately drawn to the runway in my heart. I remember being in college and broke all the time had grown very old for me. I specifically viewed this new career as an incredible opportunity to make great money, travel, and be challenged, self sufficient, bold, and an independent woman. Never did I imagine at 20 years old how important those early decisions would provide the foundation for me in later life. I graduated from the aviation academy here in Oklahoma City in 1992 and moved to Chicago where I started my career as mechanic for American Eagle Airline. Today I close my eyes and the memories roll into my presence of standing on the runway at Chicago O’Hare at 5am with a cup of coffee, my mechanics flight line toolbox, and the smell of jet fumes and hot kerosene burning in the brisk morning sunrise. Even today when I drive by an airport, I roll down the window like a golden retriever in the wind with my nose pressed to the sky trying to pick up the scent of JP4. As I continue to intensely study the brain and especially mine, I appreciate that our emotions are closely tied to smells and specific experiences in our life. When I was a young woman in my early 20’s aviation firmly cemented my foundational mark of a strong confident woman with a free spirit and the courage to take on any challenge. The memories of my time here in Oklahoma City in the 90’s are fond and filled with never ending excitement, good times, a once great love, friends, heartache, and many important lessons. Yesterday as I entered the city I unexpectedly had a strong urge to visit the old aviation school that I graduated from in 1992. I was not sure if I could even find this place, as OKC has grown up and changed a lot over the past 25 years. I headed toward the airport and looked for any signs of familiarity to help guide me to the aviation campus. I remembered the building was located at the end of the runway by the FAA building, but as I continued to drive through the city everything looked so different. Despite that, in one split second I looked up at a sign and it read, “Metro Tech Aviation.” Holy crap it just appeared in front of me and I immediately exited off the interstate. I pulled off the exit at Meridian and Portland and out of the blue I was 20 years old and instantly had a flashback of pulling into school every morning at 0730.
I was always one of the first students to arrive at school, as I wanted the shade tree parking spot by the edge of the road. I turned left into the parking lot and drove to the area where I always parked my car under a shade tree. There it was, my tree and my parking spot still there, but just a little bigger. Everything looked perfectly set in time for the past 25 years. My heart started to race as I parked the car with anticipation of walking through those front doors once again. As I snapped the door open to the building I suddenly noticed a security guard at a massive front desk that said, “airport security.” The security guard instantly gave me the, “can I help you look.” I pounced up to the front desk like a giddy child and said, “Hi, I am Deb Walter and I graduated from this school in the early 90’s and I want to tour the school!” The security guard at the desk frowned at me and said, “well we don’t have anyone here who can do that for you and you’ll need to make an appointment.” I tried to explain to Barney 5 that I was just passing through town on my way out west and really needed to see the school today. I said to Mr. Barney 5, “hey who is in the office that I can chat with to help me out here?” Irritated with my enthusiasm the security guard told me to go see Kim. I spun around like a top hat on fire and bee lined it straight towards Kim’s office just off to my right. She spotted me coming and greeted me at the door and said, “Can I help you.” I immediately gave her the firm X-mechanic handshake looked her in the eyes and said, “ Kim, my name is Deb Walter and I graduated from this school in the early 90’s and I was one of the first women through your program. It would mean the world to me if you could give me a quick tour of the old building. I spent a lot of time here in an important part of my life as a young woman.” I think my passion and gentle prodding perplexed her, as I truly needed her to agree to take me on my memory tour. This conversation only took about 30 seconds and Kim graciously agreed to give me a quick walk around the school. Kim instructed Barney 5 to give me a badge and I could tell from the frown on his face that he was totally annoyed that I had even walked through the door. Then again things have changed with airport security since 9/11 and I understand that people cannot have unauthorized access to the airport areas. As Kim and I started to walk down the hall into the main portion of the building I was struck with enormous emotion, pride, and feelings of I have been here before. Kim and I quickly found the A&P graduate wall showcasing the past 25 years of Airframe & Power plant mechanics who had successfully graduated from the school. Suddenly there is was, my graduating class of 1992 with my friends Jim, Steve, Rudd, Tim, and many more amazing guys who were not only my classmates, but also my friends.
We all endured some pretty intense coursework as the curriculum consisted of 1840 classroom hours, three practicum exams, and three written tests with the FAA. Even years later with a master’s degree and national board teacher certification, this program was the most intense and difficult curriculum I have ever studied and accomplished. For me, this was Harvard medical school of aviation. Mechanics make life and death decisions with the quality of work they perform on airplanes. I told Kim that I was the only person who graduated with perfect attendance in my class, as I was terrified if I missed anything I would most certainly fail. Looking back at the situation now it was silly of me to think I would fail or mess up if I missed one day of lecture. However, I was and still am a pretty serious student. Back then as a woman in the aviation field I was always forced to compete with men for jobs and I knew I had to be the very best in my class. As Kim and I continued to chat at the graduate wall I shared a story with her about how my friend Jim and I competed everyday for top scores. I am proud that he only beat me by 2 points at the Oklahoma state aviation VICA competition, Jim took 1st and I brought home the silver. Why does this all matter for me today? I feel these emotions are directly tied to important experiences in my life where passion, intention, and purpose were directly correlated to feelings that now are resonating in my soul. Kim and I spent an hour together as she introduced me to the instructors, tool room managers, and several students. I sense Kim was getting as much out of this experience as I was, as she continued to ask me more questions while we walked the shop area. One of the most mesmerizing aspects of the entire occurrence was walking in the shop with the same airplanes and tail numbers I remember working on at 21. Now at 48-years-old, my mind and I celebrated vibrant memories of 22. I had an entirely different perspective, as I closed my eyes and snapped back to 1992. I experienced emotions that completely caught me off guard as I stood in the hanger door with the smell the turbine oil, paint, welding machines, chemicals, grinders, and wrenches all clicking and cranking. I enjoyed a few moments sharing in the enthusiasm of new learners practicing in the shop preparing for their future careers. I am so grateful that I took the time and listened to the voice in my soul that said, “Deb get off the damm highway and go back and find the sign. It is there just open your eyes.” I am delighted that I spent a few moments yesterday going back and retracing these foundational steps in my past. This experience helps me immeasurably today, as I practice the power in being present and listening to the calming voice that says, “Deb you are on the right path!”
I am leaving the city for Albuquerque, NM 6 hours later than previously anticipated and will adjust my arrival to Tip’s house as the drive moves me today.
Let the journey begin with in you