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Women’s History Month Essay: Channeling Amelia

Photo of Amelia Earhart courtesy of NASA's Great Images in NASA archive.

Photo of Amelia Earhart courtesy of NASA’s Great Images in NASA archive.

I am loathe to make the following confession, fearing it will diminish me in your mind. Because those of you that know me may think of me as fearless and unstoppable, whether or not that’s true. You see me as an independent business owner, brand consultant, writer, publisher, and artist. All those things are true.

But I am not fearless. Far from it.

Particularly, it’s this one fear that takes my breath away, and leaves my heart racing to admit it:

I am afraid to fly.

It wasn’t always so. As a young child of immigrants with family overseas in Europe, I sat in jumbo jets on transatlantic flights without the slightest care on the world.

But something happened as I aged. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was that one flight where I was caught in a storm along the Eastern seaboard. The one that caused the plane to dip and shake violently. The young man sitting next to me and I agreed that while we both had significant others waiting for us at home, the only thing we had left in that moment was a very palpable fear of death, and a need for comfort. We held hands tightly, trying to console each other against what seemed imminent.

We both very much thought, This is the end.

Soon, the storm passed, and the plane righted itself, and we untangled our palms and laughed it off. At least I did then.

But I have since never gotten on a plane without imagining the worst.

Now let’s talk about Amelia Earhart. You know, the first woman to cross the Atlantic— an achievement that other women died trying for. She pretty much started flying as a hobby, taking lessons in her free time, and eventually saving up enough money to buy her own plane.

Amelia soon broke a women’s altitude record, and was on to bigger and better things, like transatlantic flights.

Her first attempt at flying solo across the Atlantic was so plagued by problems and danger that she had to make an emergency landing in a location she hadn’t actually planned on. But she did it. And she kept going, setting more records for altitude and distance, inspiring people everywhere, woman and man.

Amelia then set her sights on one last trip: to become the first woman to fly around the world. After a failed first attempt, she and a partner tried again on June 1, 1937, and made it most of the way, but not without difficulties. The last leg of the trip, resumed almost a month later on July 2 in the mid-Pacific, was especially difficult, bedeviled by weather challenges that made navigation precarious.

We all know the rest of the story.

On July 19, 1937, after weeks of searching, the largest rescue operation in the history of the U.S. Navy was called off. No one had any idea of the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart.

But I do know where Amelia Earhart is.

She’s in our hearts.

She challenges women and men every day to be brave. People like you and me.

To try something new. To push harder. To go further.

To go where no one has gone before.

Do I keep flying?

Yes.

On planes. In my life. In my work. Pushing myself to do things I’ve never done before. No matter how much fear it strikes in my soul.

Like Amelia, I just keep flying.

 


Thank you to the official Amelia Earhart website and family estate for biographical info that was helpful in writing this essay.