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Certified Flight Instructor, Commercial Pilot, Training

The Hard Truth

October 5, 2014

Total Hours: 77.4

The weeks are running together lately and I don’t feel like I have a lot of new information to share. There wasn’t much flying this week, only a couple trips, and the real focus has been here at my computer. Not exactly what folks think of when they imagine flight school and becoming a pilot. But then again what are dreams if they aren’t optimistic?

My biggest revelation this week was not a particularly pleasant one. As I have shared numerous times I am finding this experience to be much more stressful than I anticipated. After completing my private certificate I decided that I had to make a change. I felt that this change would essentially be an internal one. Not push too hard, just enjoy the process, and really make the effort to relax. I can’t say that I really expected to have a stress free experience, but I certainly hoped to have a more enjoyable stressful experience! And I actually have lots of experience with good stressful experiences thanks to many years of climbing.

So what happened? Things seemed to be going pretty well until one day I couldn’t figure out a simple problem on one of my practice exams. Even after I had the answer I still couldn’t work out how they did it. Suddenly I was overwhelmed and my vision blurred in anger and frustration. I had the sudden urge to chuck everything off the lanai. Why such an adverse reaction to a simple bump in the road? Stress. How about that tight, distressing feeling in my chest? Hopefully I’m still too young for a heart attack, so how about stress? And that tossing and turning at night? Yup, I’m going with stress. It hit me something like the proverbial ton of bricks. Could it be that despite my solid resolution to reduce my stressful ways I was still stuck in the middle of this uncomfortable position?

I think I have to come to terms with the answer to this question despite how much it pains me to admit it. How badly I wanted to conquer my stress within a few simple weeks after resolving not to do it anymore, but I guess I didn’t really pull it off. And is it really so surprising? Here I am, living somewhere unfamiliar, far from my girlfriend and family, all alone to spend away my savings on a dream that I hope won’t turn into smoke. Was it really supposed to be easy? And I’m not talking about the flying and the studying. After all, these things are essentially academic and with enough time and effort almost anyone could achieve success. No, the real challenge seems to be the internal one.

Writing to my girlfriend I mused about being years younger. I’ve thought that being ten years younger would be great so I could have more time in the industry. But lately I’ve been thinking of a different reason that being young may have its advantages. In our youth we don’t have to appreciate the monumental scope of our efforts. Filled with enthusiasm and reckless abandon anything seems possible in youth. In fact, as I searched my memory for another event in my life that brought a similar kind of stress I could only come up with one.

When I turned eighteen my parents gave me a couple thousand dollars and told me to hit the road. In the nicest kind of way of course! To strike out on my own and see if I could make a life for myself somewhere new. My desire drove me far from south Florida all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Letting me go was one of the bravest things my parents could have done and looking back it was a remarkable decision on my part as well. I found a job, found a place to live, and with few exceptions began to take care of myself as an adult. A very young adult when I think about it. But I was terribly lonely. In a new place with no real connections…sound familiar? That first year was so hard I don’t really know how I made it through. Stubborn determination of youth I guess.

Are there other parallels between that early move to Colorado and my decision to move far away from all that is familiar and become a helicopter pilot? Probably, but I’m a totally different person now with many more years of experience to draw upon. Thank goodness! Because this is still pretty darn hard. And that is part of what really gets me. In all my years (all thirty-six of them) haven’t I figured out how to handle a little stress? Since my first bold move across the country I have traveled the world (at least some of it), climbed lots of big rocks and mountains, and even gone as far south as one can go. I’ve done most of these things of my own determination. Knowing what I wanted and fighting to make it happen. Only in the last five years have I really learned to ask for others to help me. Took a while, that one. So why, after all this time, am I stressing so hard over something that is going so well???

As I close this blog up I’ll tell you flat out that I don’t have an answer. All I can really say is that I will keep working to find relief from this feeling. And I know I’ll find it. If you made it this far through this week’s post you may be wondering what the heck any of this has to do with aviation and becoming a pilot. Well, if you are seriously considering this as a career I’m sure you’ve heard the advice that you should only move forward if you are absolutely driven to succeed. And I think that this post sheds light on why. Without that drive I would have packed my bags and gone back home to Colorado long ago. I guess I must still have some of that stubborn youth left!


About Orin Bakal-Molnar

Besides aviation my biggest passion is climbing. I love spending my free time on the side of something big! But I'm almost as happy doing anything outside in the wild. Travel, photography, and fly-fishing are a few of my other pursuits. And of course there's nothing like meeting new people and sharing good conversation.


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