I used to tell people all the time that my favorite place in the entire world is the airport.
Something in me just loves the feeling of walking up and down the terminal looking at people waiting to travel all around the world. It’s romantic and exciting and full of adventure. Add to it that each of those people at each of those different gates brings with them a different story, a different reason for sitting in that specific chair, waiting for that specific flight. Sometimes I even make up stories for people. Thinking specifically about the people waiting for them on the other end. Who are they and how long have they’ve known one another. The mom who’s been waiting for years for her son to come home. The wife who waits patiently for her husband who travels for a living to come home. The significant other who shows up with a bouquet full of flowers when it’s finally his sweet fiance’s turn to come home. Because people are it. I’ll say it until I can’t say it anymore. People matter most, so they get the starring role in stories, always. And they’re almost always just coming home.
But if I’m being honest, here’s why I really think I like airports…
Airports to me represent this crazy addicting feeling of and belief in being unrooted.
In a sense, the kind of way I envision living the majority of my twenties. Like I simply don’t need to have my feet settled anywhere, just yet. Like I can just pick up and leave and go wherever I want. Like I have all the options laid out before me, and all I have to choose is which plane to get on. Like I can choose whatever destination I want, and once I’m in the air, I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.
Sometimes, though, I think I convince myself that I’m the girl who belongs in the airport.
The independent, restless one who likes knowing another adventure is always just one gate away. The girl who likes knowing that she can do anything and everything she wants. That she’s got the world at her fingertips. That she’s got all the freedom to live by her own terms chase all the adventures she wants to.
Which sounds great, in theory.
But remember that piece about people I mentioned earlier?
The truth is, that it’s really hard to love people when you’re the girl who feels like she belongs in the airport. Or to let them love you.
When your feet are always off the ground. When people realize they can’t, or don’t want to, keep up with you. And they let you go off on crazy awesome adventures and chase dreams and do things you probably couldn’t do if you were married or had a family of your own. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. And so right for this time of life. And most of them smile and cheer you on from a distance, but some of them start to get married and buy houses and then you start to question if you can really love people well from above the clouds.
Can you invest in people when you’ve only got one foot on the ground or you’re not home enough to let home actually mean something?
It’s funny… I think I strategically, but without really knowing it, booked myself a full travel schedule for this fall, thinking that it might help cure this deep sense of lonely I’ve been feeling lately. It’s not the usual kind of lonely that I know pretty well… the kind that all my friends have heard about in relation to boys and dating. Oh yes, I know that kind. And this isn’t it.
To me, it’s starting to feel like the kind of lonely that comes from the numbness of social media.
And the hollowness that is “likes” and “comments” and all the other crap we think is going to fill us up but actually leaves us feeling really empty. And comparing ourselves and our lives and our timelines to everyone around us.
For some reason, I’ve developed this belief that my worth is somehow dependent on what people think I am or think I do based on my social media profiles. I’m starting to feel it more and more, and the weight it carries on my self-esteem and self-acceptance. It’s almost like a false belief that people love me simply because I’m always “up to something” or “traveling somewhere fun” or “doing or accomplishing something cool.” Not because of who I am.
And so I thought by traveling all fall, I could somehow make that sense of lonely disappear. But here’s the hard truth I’ve already learned (just two trips in). It’s not going to. In fact, it’s already hard to see my friends at home doing life without me there. All the travel is just a band-aid on a bigger issue.
The fact that I’m lonely and it’s really hard and I can’t fix it myself.
But here’s the cool part… when we take that stuff to the Lord, our direct and honest thoughts unfiltered by what we post on social media or the image we think we want to portray to people, He brings us back to what’s most important. People. So because He knew I was trying to distract myself from the lonely, He managed to work the important people in my life into my trips. All the family and friends and places I love deeply. People and cities he knew would be life giving.
People and places I don’t have to “show off” for. People who loved me far before I ever started posting on Instagram and people who would love me just as much if I shut down all my profiles today.
He orchestrated all those trips and all those people to remind me how much I’m loved outside the stuff online. How much that stuff pales in comparison to having people. He did that for me, and now I’m just sitting back and thinking about how lucky I am to have a God that loves me that much. Who knows me that deeply to know exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.
All to remind me that at the end of the day, the plane tickets don’t mean anything if you don’t recognize or appreciate who’s waiting for you at the airport.
I sometimes laugh when I think about how ironic it’d be if I ever got engaged in an airport one day. First, because everyone has seen all those crazy cliché proposal videos in the middle of airport terminals where the guy is waiting at the end with roses and sappy music… And I bet you’ve cried during a lot more than you’d be willing to admit (because I definitely have). But second, because I know and believe deep down, that one day, some guy’s going to come along and convince me that keeping my feet on the ground can be worth it, too. That being rooted isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That, for once, I don’t need to be scared of sitting still. That it doesn’t mean I can’t take adventures, but that it might be fun to do that with someone next to me, too.
Because in all honesty, I think the thought of sitting still and being rooted somewhere kind of scares me to death.
Deep down, I think a lot of us have that piece inside ourselves. That desire to feel like you’re free enough to travel to Seattle one day and then London the next. The belief that you can fill up your life with crazy travel and plane tickets and adventures to this place and the next. That if you’re lonely, you can fix it by keeping yourself busy. By locking yourself in the plane and hoping it’s delayed in the air a couple more hours. Just so you don’t have to face the reality of what lonely really feels like down on the ground.
Because as much as you’d like to believe it, “busy” doesn’t cure loneliness. It’s a band-aid for the bigger issue.
Here’s the thing. Airports are a nice place to visit. And they’re fun and they really are full of promise and stories and exciting adventures. But you weren’t built to live life entirely in the airport. You were meant to live it with people you love and places you decide to invest in.
Hear that again… you weren’t built to live life entirely in the airport. You were meant to live it with people. The ones who loved you before and will love you far after the screen shuts off.
Those people? They’ll make you way happier than any plane ticket ever could.