Monday, September 17, 2012

Compassion is patient

Unrelated side note: Walked along the Thames at night. So pretty.

Looking back at where I was a day ago is really strange. Getting on an airplane is a whirlwind experience in itself, but flying for nearly 10 hours trapped in a cramped seat next to a window that you have to keep closed, keeping your eyes open so that you don't have to remove your contact lenses for which you forgot the case that keeps them safe for us, is absolutely ridiculous.

I felt like I was on some ridiculous sitcom where Murphy's Law became reality. All that could go wrong most certainly seemed to go wrong.

While I got through security without a hitch, when I got on the plane I was almost instantly reminded that seating in airplanes is not made for human use, but rather for people the size of babies or the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. I am a tiny 5'3" and I still couldn't fit my legs comfortably in front of me. Throughout the flight I had to constantly adjust.

And it was no help that the man sitting next to me literally looked like he could've been related to Hawaiian singer Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, also known as "IZ." His arm took over about three inches of the minimal space I had in economy and his body heat made the already uncomfortable high-70s temperature in the aircraft feel more like an unreasonable 85.

Throughout the experience I just kept thinking how unhappy I was. How unlucky I was that I had been pushed into this seating arrangement for 10 hours. Going to London is supposed to be a fun, comforting experience for me. But the first time I leave without my dad by my side, I sit next to the one man on the plane who is over 6'4.

About three or four hours into the flight, though, I was reminded how I can be pretty selfish sometimes.

The man who was sitting next to me got up in the same innocuous way that anyone retreats from their seat when they need to use the restroom or stretch their legs. But minutes passed. And continued to pass. And so on. Until I realized that he hadn't been back to his seat for at least a half an hour.

I asked the girl sitting on the aisle seat whether he was okay. I thought maybe he'd taken a spill or something and the news hadn't traveled to the front of Economy class yet.

Then she explained to me what the real problem was. He was feeling claustrophobic. He felt bad about taking up so much space. He felt uncomfortable.

Suddenly my discomfort meant nothing. The girl who was sitting on the aisle went up to the man and offered that he take her seat instead and the rest of the experience was cool and comfortable. But it wasn't lacking in guilt. Because for the next several hours all I could think about was how I had been so terrible to this man - treating him like he was an inconvenience to me when he deserved my kindness.

These have nothing to do with the blog, but Westminster Abbey at night.
The thing about London is that it gives me this expectation of perfection. I expect my seats going into the country to be wonderful. I expect my experience once I arrive at the gate to be simple and worry-free. I expect to get through the public transportation to my hotel without any problems. If one of those things goes wrong, I feel like my whole dream of perfection is unraveling and I feel sad.

But I don't feel as sad as I feel terrible for being so self-centered.

When I did land, I tried to be as cordial as I could to the man who switched his seat. When we made our way to the hotel where our program participants would stay before going to their respective schools in the United Kingdom, even if things were bothering me in any way, I sucked up my discontent and tried to be a good person.

It's been a long plane ride. A long wait for a bus. A long bus ride. A long orientation. A long few days. But it's been filled with reminders of compassion and patience. If I have those two things, then I'll be settling in in no time.

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