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We all need more leg room


We all need more leg room

Christa Hesselink

I’ve flown in first-class six times. That's right - six.

Now, before you roll your eyes and think I’m a spoiled brat, you should know that it wasn’t until just over a year ago, that I had my very first experience, “turning left” as I stepped on the aircraft and entered the other-wordly echelon we call first-class. Up until my 40th year of life I had only heard rumours of champagne, warm towels, real silverware, and leg room.

Oh yes, blessed leg-room.

I could easily write for days about this experience. I had no idea that on the other side of that flimsy curtain, a whole new world existed.

  • Of the warm roasted cashew nuts they bring you just as you’re settling in.
  • Or how they’ll greet you by name as they hand you the dinner menu where you’ll select your four course meal. ("I'll have the lamb please.")
  • Of the fine china and real silver ware, or linen napkins and quilted blankets.
  • And, have I mentioned the leg-room?! Seriously - it’s like you get to stake your claim on your own personal acreage in the plane as you cross the ocean where you can read, sleep, eat, watch movies, and dream of adventures to come and the ones that have just been explored. 

In truth, I still can’t believe the year I’ve had. These trips have come quite out of the blue and each time I pinch myself at my luck. My generous friend who flies all over the world seems to have a penchant for quick last minute trips to Europe and needs to use up the air miles. I know - rough life. So, I gladly join in the fun. Someone’s got to do the dirty work, don’t they? Poor me.

Here’s some thoughts from 30,000 feet— reflections about life and living it up large.

 Me, my champagne, and all the room I'd ever need!

Me, my champagne, and all the room I'd ever need!

1. Everybody’s the same, even though we treat them differently.

I’ve sat in the economy seats all my life. I’ve squeezed into those hard seats and endured long hours many times. I trust there will be many, many more flights like this to come.  And when I’m scrunched up in 32F along with hundreds of other cargo (I mean people), I’ll know that at the front of the plan there is a tranquil, serene pod of people eating brie and drinking the good wine. 

The truth is, first class passengers are treated differently. 

The other truth is that we really are all the same.

  • The guy in 2A who’s stretches out and falls asleep looks just as disheveled as the who’s woken up after a fitful nap at the back of the plane. 
  • I still laugh at the same spot in the movie when I sit in first class cushiness, than when I do a few rows back.
  • The people at the back of the plane are going to the same destination as the people in the front of the plane.
  • We all are putting our faith in the same pilot.
Just because we treat people differently, doesn’t mean we're not the same.

 It’s true in a cross Atlantic flight and it’s true in life. We all are on a journey, pilgrims in this life, hoping and striving for similar things - good health, meaningful work, trusted friends, and the love of family.

Sure, there are some very tangible differences we can’t ignore. I have more access to resources that 99% of the rest of the world. I live in freedom, have a good education, and am hopeful for my future. If anything, the differences between me and many others simply reminds me of my responsibility and opportunity to share what I’ve been given. 

What would happen if we really understood that we are much more alike with every other human on the planet than we are different?

2. Life is an adventure, but only if you treat it that way

Truth be told, my first time in first class was an education. I was mesmerized by how different it was to economy. I was stunned by the service. I was also incredibly curious of the 12 other people who occupied this opulent cabin with me. 

Who were these people? Why are they flying first class? How can they afford this? We couldn't all be possibly flying on someone else's points!  The young women and her infant child; the businessmen, clearly exhausted; the college students, and the grandma. And me. 

We were a hodge-podge of people with different stories and with different reasons for flying, all sitting side-by-side. And it struck me: each of us are soaking in this first-class experience differently. 

As the newbie, I was giddy and in awe. But the frequent-flyer businessmen were old pros. For them, this didn't feel like the same adventure I was experiencing. It's not their fault, but it reminded me that experiencing life as an adventure is always a choice and a matter of perspective. I vowed in those moments that if I ever got to fly first class again, I would always treat it like an adventure and work to soak it all in- every time.

I think all of life could be like this too.

What if we were grateful for our health on days when everything is great, rather than when we're just recovering from an ailment that's kept up down?  Could we still ourselves daily and take notice of the beauty around us, even in the most mundane things? How could I uncover a sense of adventure in my daily routine?  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

3. We all need more leg-room.

One of the most inhumane experiences I’ve ever had was flying sixteen hours from Toronto to Hong Kong in a seat that didn’t recline. And, for some reason, the heat was busted too. I was miserable, uncomfortable and cramped. I know it's a first-world problem. I know.

And when I look around today, I see a lot of people who seem miserable, uncomfortable and cramped. Our hurried, artificial, upside down culture is sucking the life out of people.  For many, day-to-day life feels quite inhumane. Life crimps and cramps our energy, creativity and joy. I’ve had many seasons in my life like this too. I still do.

I think we all need a little more leg room - space to stretch ourselves and see what we’re made of. Room to breath deep and the inspiration and margins to be bold and create something that matters.

These days, I’m trying to give myself more leg-room.

I’m paying attention to the things the cramp me and twist me and wear me out. I’m on the look out for things that make me laugh, energize me, and bring me to life. 

Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into colour.
— Rumi

Whether you're a regular first class flyer or you slum it in economy, you and I are the same. We need to be generous with ourselves and with each other. In this adventure we call life, we're all flying together and after the same type of abundance- of love, joy and peace.