Quitting my Flight Attendant job
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
So, as most of you know, I was a flight attendant for twelve years. Some may not realize that I was burned out most of the time I did it. The burnout would come and go at first, but a few years into flying it became pretty constant. I don't want to complain, there were cool things about it too-- I got to use my Italian language abilities, I got to go to Africa multiple times (I didn't think I'd ever get to do that before I flew), I got to meet some really great flight attendants and pilots. But it wasn't ever the thing that I was meant to do or be. I happened into the job because the company I worked for happened to need people who spoke Italian at the same time as I was looking for work that would get me to Italy more often. It was luck and timing.
Over time, as I did the job I got less healthy, less motivated, more apathetic, I even struggled with anxiety for a while (which I ultimately realized was a physiological result of some of the health strains of flying). The weird sleep schedule, exposure to radiation at the high altitudes, exposure to all the communicable diseases of the world etc. eventually gave me a slow thyroid and painful inflammation in my metatarsals and other joints. (I suspect the inflammation had to do with the constant changes of pressure -- that is based on my personal experiences and no science whatsoever. Please bear that in mind.) I started to dread going to work.
Incidentally, none of this seemed to be as big a problem for those crew members who dreamed of flying their entire lives. Being intentional about what you're doing makes a huge difference.
I have always been compulsively creative. At different points in my life I've been a dancer, choreographer, artist, writer -- I have to make stuff and communicate ideas and I love the discipline that these things require. I couldn't dance at a high skill level anymore with my painful metatarsals -- but I could still draw and write. Then, on a nine hour layover in Bogota, Colombia I was struck with an idea for a children's book. I had been using a gratitude practice (and a gluten elimination, herbal supplements, and an extra sleep schedule...) to fix my thyroid and reverse the anxiety and it had really improved every aspect of my life. I thought that if I had known how powerful it was when I was five I could've navigated the difficulties of life so much more effectively. As a result, gratitude inspired my first children's book, Lucy Cate and her Gratitude Attitude.
And there it was -- the beginning of being intentional with my life, my work, my goals. I found something that I would do whether I was being paid for it or not. The next big thing I found was investing -- I won't go too deeply into it because I don't want to lose the readers who want to see more about the creative life -- but I will say this, it is more creative than I knew, and it changed my life. I was getting closer to not financially needing to fly anymore. But I still wasn't ready to quit yet -- well, I wasn't brave enough to quit yet and I needed a little more faith in myself as a writer, illustrator, bookseller, and investor... and everything else too -- before I could bring myself to quit. I'd still drag myself to work and end the day limping to my hotel room. I would try to recover with yoga, hydration, sleep, veggies, yada yada... between trips. I'd squeeze in some writing, illustrating and investing in between trips and trudge miserably back to the airport and put on my happy, customer service face.
Then the universe slapped me. My Dad died on one of my airline's planes. This was one of those moments that makes you wonder how big a slap you need before you finally do what you're meant to do. This was a big slap -- right in the heart. He had been on vacation with my step mother. They had had a wonderful time on a cruise and a few days traveling around Europe afterward. He wasn't feeling at all well by the end of the trip, but they were about to go home. They got halfway over the Atlantic when his heart stopped beating. Flight attendants, and off duty military personel did CPR and used the AED on him for an hour and a half -- but it was clear that he was gone. He was eighty years old and I know it was his time. I also know that the location of his death -- on an aircraft that I worked to Italy regularly -- slapped me awake. Life is short -- too short to do something that is taking you away from your purpose. My Dad had been asking me when I was going to quit for a few years up to this point. He knew it wasn't right for me. Finally, about a year later (sometimes I'm a slow learner), I finally quit.
Since that time, I have been doing what I love to do -- writing and illustrating books, and investing. I am making more than I did flying. I have been actively tweaking my diet, exercise, sleep and stress maintenance. My feet are vastly better -- I may even get them back to being as strong and flexible as they were when I danced every day. My thyroid is in normal ranges and I never took medicine for it. I do yoga to get stronger, not to recover. I feel good -- good in surplus. I'm able to give some time and money to things I believe in and I hope and believe that this is an augmenting trend. My Dad is somewhere out there, happy that I made the change he knew I needed to make, and he's probably saying, "See! I told you."
PS -- Luck and timing are part of just about everything. I have to point out that it was a flight attendant who showed me how to get my first book published. I was so lucky to get a trip with her!
(Thank you, Emilia! I'm forever grateful for you.)
I also want to express gratitude for my friend Hope, who went with me and my husband to our first investing course. She introduced me to the value investing style that I practice and has been such a blessing in my life.
*Daniella Bozzone is an author and illustrator of uplifting children's books and daily practice journals. Click the links below to check out her books: