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Happiest in the Clouds This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Flying anxiety? That is a term I will never be able to comprehend.

I've never been nervous on a plane. In fact, my experiences in the air have been spectacular. The moment I step on board, I give up control to the pilots; I let go. Responsibility fades with every second as take-off draws nearer. The concept of my life being scattered throughout the dozens of buttons and switches and levers necessary to keep an aircraft 30,000 feet off the ground can be dizzying, but I find comfort in knowing that the hours to follow are reserved for my uncensored thoughts. Worries and stress that are sure to greet me again upon landing dissolve amidst the loud hum of the engines and the cries of the babies that seem to be on each flight.

My “happy place” may forever be found on flights returning from global adventures. It is only there that I can fully absorb and recollect the incredible places I've explored. When I close my eyes I can once again see the crumbling stones of Masada and the glint of the Arc de Triomphe. I can feel my legs aching from the dozens of steps I took to cross the Great Wall, and my wrists throbbing from all the shopping bags I carried around Oxford Circus. Traces of macaroons, Peking duck, and ceviche remain on my tongue as I wonder if the fried scorpion I finally had the courage to bite into is being digested in my stomach. Sometimes, when I'm really focused, the salty air of the Dead Sea or the fresh scent of the Dominican forests replaces the odor of the “gourmet” meal the flight crew is distributing.

If I'm lucky enough to have a window seat, I can look out at the clouds and watch centuries of history unfold before my eyes. In the amorphous puffs, I see myself in combat against the Terracotta Army, starring in the silent films of Old Hollywood, and helping Da Vinci mix the oil paints he used to create the “Mona Lisa.” I witness the execution of Anne Boleyn at the Tower of London in the same hour I am introduced to Mao Zedong in the chaos of Tiananmen Square. Just as I can hit replay on my iPod, in the air I can rewind the events that have made the world so overwhelmingly beautiful.

Most importantly, on a plane, I find closure. I am not embarrassed to admit that I've cried on more than one occasion when leaving cities and countries I have come to love. While my thoughts and heart overflow with these vivid emotions, I can finally appreciate all the cultures I've surrendered myself to. Although I wouldn't protest revisiting many of the places I've seen, I would much rather begin a new chapter in my understanding of the globe.

Flying has allowed me to proceed from the past without forgetting it. What I've done, where I've been has all shaped me into the curious, imaginative teenager I am. However, I am always eager to tackle the future head-on. I have yet to tango in Buenos Aires or take one of those silly pictures holding up the Tower of Pisa. I have yet to taste a genuine Philly cheese steak or cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, I have already learned so much, but I still have so much to learn.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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