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Happiest in the Clouds This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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

I’ve never been nervous when on a plane. In fact, my experiences in the air have been nothing short of spectacular. The moment I step on board, I am able to give up control to the captains; I can let go. Responsibility fades with every second take-off draws nearer. Simply 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 upon landing dissolve into the loud hum of the engines and the crying babies that seem to be on each flight regardless.

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. It is only when I close my eyes that I can once again see the crumbling stones of Masada and the glint of the stone constructing 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 shopping bags I carried down Oxford Circus. Traces of macrons, peking duck, and ceviche still remain on my tongue, as I wonder if the fried scorpion I finally had the courage to bite into is digesting 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 throughout the cabin.

If I’m fortunate 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 Terra-cotta Soldiers, starring in the silent films of Old Hollywood, and helping Da Vinci mix the very 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 Tiamenen Square. Just as I am able to hit the replay on my iPod, it is in the air that I can rewind the events that have made the world so overwhelming beautiful and insightful.

Most importantly, it is on a plane where I find closure. I am not embarrassed to admit that I’ve cried on more than one occasion when departing cities and countries I have surely come to love. While my thoughts and heart flood and overflow with these vivid emotions, I can finally appreciate the all cultures I’ve surrendered myself to. Although I won’t protest to re-visiting many of 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; it has all shaped me into the curious, imaginative teenager that 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, yet I still have so much to learn.

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