Miscellaneous

15 Months Ago, a Delta Pilot Left This Note In the Cockpit For the Next Crew. It’s a Reminder of How Far We’ve Come

March 2020 will one of those points in time that separates our lives into before and after. If, for no other reason, because very little that we remember about life before March 2020 is the same as it is now. 

In many ways, it’s like September 11, 2001 for those who were old enough to remember. Of course, the difference is that the world changed for literally everyone last March as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe and governments told their citizens to stay home.

In a blog post, Delta Airlines shared a note written by a pilot in what we might now think of as the before time. It’s an almost eerie reminder of how little we knew then about how much and how quickly the world was about to change. It’s also an important lesson about being optimistic about the future. We’ll get to that part in a minute.

The pilots had just arrived at Victorville Airport, also known as Southern California Logistics Airport. The name isn’t important. What matters is that it’s in the California desert, which is where you take planes you aren’t planning to use for a while. 

That reality had started to set in for the pilot who wrote the note.

Hey Pilots,
It’s March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP. Very chilling to see so much of our fleet here in the desert. 

If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel. Amazing how fast it changed. Have a safe flight bringing it out of storage.

At the time, everyone thought it would only be a few weeks. That turned into a few more weeks, and then months. Now, 15 months later, pilots returned to Victorville to pick up the Airbus 321 that had been parked for 435 days. What a surreal feeling that must have been. What a surprise to find that note.

And yet, what a relief. The fact that we’re all reading the note means that things are returning to whatever normal looks like after 15 months of what can only generously be described as the most challenging period any of us are likely to live through. “If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel,” the note says, and I think that’s an important reminder to all of us.

I had what I suspect was a similar feeling just the other day when I entered our oldest daughter’s school for a choir concert, something we haven’t been able to do for almost a year and a half. Parents hadn’t been allowed in the school for anything since last March, not that there was any reason as students attended classes on Zoom, then gradually back to class in person this spring. 

Walking into that building felt overwhelming in a way. It felt like there might be a light at the end of this tunnel.

We often don’t have the ability to see very far down the road in front of us, but humanity has an extraordinary capacity to press forward, to persevere. The tunnel has been longer than anyone anticipated, but it’s important to consider that we are closer to the end than we are the beginning, and that’s certainly good news.

The pilot who left that note had no idea how long it would be before someone would read it, but I think it’s telling that it apparently never crossed his mind that it might be possible no one would. He assumed they would. He assumed that humans would do what they’ve always done, which is to walk through the tunnel one step at a time until they reached the end.

Even if he had no idea how long it would be, he believed that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly, he believed the tunnel had an end. 

Don’t underestimate how much that can change the way you look at things. And how you look at the things in front of you can change everything.

By the way, if the tunnel has seemed especially dark, that’s understandable. It’s also okay to feel like you haven’t reached the end. Still, optimism is a superpower, and reminding yourself that there is an end can often be the thing you need to be able to take the next step. It can be the thing that helps you show up, turn on the lights, and keep doing the thing you do.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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