Typically, I write this column from an office in my home.
My writing space used to be a single-car garage. But since single-car garages are generally too narrow and shallow to actually park a car in them, I converted mine into two rooms. The larger of the two is my office. The other is a laundry room.
You see, anything can be converted, rearranged, redesigned, or repaired. Anything.
Even a single-car garage can be reborn as something new, more practical, and genuinely useful.
So can you. So can anyone, frankly. You just have to make a break from the regular routine.Routine is a wonderful thing. It brings us comfort, fills our day with a sense of predictability, and it provides us with a benchmark to measure our productivity.
Then again, routine runs very near and on a parallel course to a debilitating rut.
As in, “I’m in a rut.” Nobody ever says that with pride, incidentally.
While establishing a routine can be helpful, getting stuck in a rut never is. Never.
Avoid the rut
I share this because I’m writing this piece from a basement apartment on Waverly Place in the great city of New York. Tucked away in my temporary west Village writer’s den, bolstered by a large coffee from Joe, an ultra-hip and oh-so pricey shop on the corner of Waverly and Gay Street, I can be happy here even though it’s far removed from my normal routine existence on the big ol’ sandbar I call home.
New York City is a world famous destination that people long to see in person. Yet, it’s also a place I have no desire to visit. None. But I have family here. So I come to see them, to embrace the next generations of my family line, and to make memories that my children and grandchildren will hold dear (hopefully) even many years after I’m gone.
This Greenwich Village section of New York is also where I made the decision to become a pilot. And a less hospitable environment would be hard to find, let me tell you.
I had long hair back then. A lot of it. I also wore earrings in both ears, dressed like a young man with a unique perspective on life, and played guitar for a living.
Times change — and so do I.
Let me be clear. I had no intention of becoming a professional pilot when I started. In truth, I just wanted to find a way to get out of the city faster – to be able to move from the densely packed, always noisy, hustle-bustle of the big city into more pastoral settings without sitting for hours on a bus, or a train, or a car that was going nowhere thanks to city gridlock that seemed to be an unavoidable reality back then. That’s it.
I just wanted to be able to jump in a small airplane, hit the runway, and light out for greener pastures. Apparently, I overshot by a bit.
Learning to fly is not really a practical consideration when you live in lower Manhattan. The closest airports cater to the international crowd.
Large, multi-engine turbine powered aircraft are not the best choice when seeking primary training. Neither is operating a general aviation trainer out of an airport that would rather not wedge you between heavy iron arrivals and departures.
To get my initial training, I took a train, to another train, to a bus, followed by a rather long walk to the FBO in Islip, Long Island.
For me learning to fly wasn’t convenient, or inexpensive, or even all that much fun. And nobody I worked with or lived with had the slightest interest in taking part in my new hobby. Not in the least.
So why would I go to all the trouble of learning to fly? Considering I had no commercial application for those skills, or at least I hadn’t set that as a goal at that point, what good could come from it?
I had no idea. None. Not even a hint of a reason beyond this: I wanted to learn to fly. The technology existed. The skills could be taught. And, I figured, if I can manage to write songs, teach them to a band, record them, and get up on stage to perform them…the odds were good that I could adapt to something as apparently simple as sitting in a chair guiding a small aircraft through the sky.
How hard could it be?
For me it was simply a change in routine. Instead of sleeping in, I got up and schlepped out to the airport. Rather than buying a new guitar, I invested in a few hours of flight training.
Little by little, I got where I was going…and went well beyond that original goal…all because I made a conscious decision to become something I was not. To learn to do something I was almost totally ignorant of.
And now, nearly three decades later, I’m starting to get pretty good at it, I think.
I’ll bet your story isn’t all that much different. Not really. You made the decision to push yourself, too. Maybe you did it to scratch an itch. Perhaps it was an attempt to impress the old man, or someone special in your life.
It doesn’t matter, really. You did it. You were successful. And in the process you took a big hop skip and a jump away from that rut running on a perilously close parallel path to your routine.
Now, when people ask me, “Why did you decide to learn to fly?” I think I’ll be brutally honest with them.
I’ll smile and say, “It doesn’t matter why. I decided I wanted to fly, so I did. And you can too if you want to.”
Because when you get right down to it, the reason that inspires you to make an occasional break to your routine doesn’t make any difference at all. It only matters that you do it.