It started furtively – I would spend secret Saturday afternoons near the airport, standing under the ILS towers, head thrown back, watching the lineup coming in to land, staring at the bellies of 737s and 767s and little regional jets as they roared overhead; would crane my neck every time I passed Boeing field, hoping for a glimpse of one of the flagship planes; would skulk around the backside of Boeing, on Marginal Way, tramping around the parking lots, seeking better views, closer contact. I lurked on professional pilot message boards – never having anything to add to the discussion, but loving all that airplane talk.
I’m not sure why I was so secretive about it – I wasn’t buying porn, or conducting drug deals. Maybe it was because it was so far from anything I had ever been interested in before, or because it’s the purview of young men and boys, and middle-aged men, and some women, but not usually women like me – not middle-aged desk jockeys.
But, the thing is, I never dreamed of being a desk jockey. It was what happened when I followed the money, which was the right thing to do, given how little of it I used to have. That said, for me the main reason to make a lot of money was to broaden my range of choices. The money wasn’t the end in itself, and the things money can buy stopped being exciting after the first rush of new wore off.
It was the freedom I was after and after a while I had it – not whole lifetime’s worth, but enough to step back and assess and go in a new direction. When I realized I had some freedom, I started thinking – what do I do when no one is paying me? I write, I ride my bike, I play music and I obsess about airplanes. Of these interests, what could be a living?
Someday I might be paid to write. No one will ever pay me to perform music or mountain bike (really, I’m just being practical here). And then there are the airplanes. What living can be made with airplanes? Well, for one, they need to be maintained and repaired. And, sometimes they have mishaps, which need to be investigated.
So, I am making a big career shift. I am leaving Microsoft, where I have worked for 12 years, and enrolling in aircraft mechanic school. My last day of Microsoft will be March 22. (Yes, THIS March 22!) I’ll start school at the beginning of April and plan to complete the two year program and pass the FAA exams that will enable me to work on any aircraft.
From there, I will go find an airline to work for. But, that’s all a ways away – for now, I am saying goodbye to a great run at Microsoft and getting excited about school. Auspiciously the first day of class is my birthday – and it’s the best birthday present ever!
I will continue working on my fiction, and I promise, if school yields up any interesting stories, I will share them here.