Hoping everyone had a very Merry Christmas/Happy Kwanza/Happy Hanukkah and wishing you a Happy New Years. May 2014 be filled with joy and new opportunities for all of us.
This year has been an interesting one for me but a time of personal growth as well. When I made the decision to take off of work on temporary disability four months ago I did not know if I was making the right decision or not. I have always been a bit of a “workaholic” so to speak and didn’t know what I would do with myself if I was not constantly at the office day in and day out. I used to think I would have too much time on my hands and not do anything productive with it however it has been quite the contrary.
This time has given my leg a chance to heal further, gave me the opportunity to go on a wonderful cruise with almost 300 other HIV+ folks, as well as take a big step towards one of the biggest dreams I had in my mind but never thought would actually take place. It has also given me time to cope mentally and emotionally further with this virus as after my diagnosis I kind of put HIV towards the back of my mind, working through the pain. However I realized after taking this time I just needed some well needed “me time” to fully process everything and see where I would be going with my future.
I have always been involved in activism since the beginning and accepted my diagnosis but never gave myself the chance to fully comprehend my new life. This time off has given me that opportunity and I am very thankful for it.
The title of this blog is “The Sky Is The Limit” and for very good reason. One of my biggest dreams in life has been aviation and having the freedom to fly an aircraft. I remember when I was a little kid having been invited to the front flight deck by the Captain and seeing all the buttons, looking out the window, and having the breathtaking experience to see things from the point of view of the cockpit. The last couple of months I have been contemplating what I would like to do for a full time career. I wanted something that would be enjoyable, make my family proud, make sufficient money to live on, and something I could do long-term. That is when pilot kept popping into my head and the more that I thought about it the more I wanted to do it. I never knew how I would start my journey towards this dream until yesterday.
I called the Big Bear City Airport and set up an appointment/demo flight with a flight instructor today at 12:00 PM. Driving up the mountain I had no clue what to expect or what I was in for. I thought it would be a very short flight and it would be nothing hands on, all visual, but I was still willing to try because I wanted to get the general feel if it is something I would truly enjoy.
When I got to the airport I went over some paperwork with the instructor about the costs for becoming a pilot, granted not cheap however doable, and from there we took off. The instructor was very sociable, patient, knowledgeable, and has been flying since 1994. He taught me the basics of the aircraft and we proceeded to enter a Cessna 182.
When we got in the airplane he allowed me to sit in the PIC (Pilot in Command) seat on the left hand side of the cockpit ! I was amazed at this as I figured he would be sitting there however it is a dual control aircraft so each side has equal control of the plane. It was then that he showed me how to move about the airport by taxiing and using my feet to guide the plane to either the left or right. I would akin it taxiing to driving a boat, same concept.
From that point he then told me that I would be doing a lot more hands on training than I had anticipated. He told me I would actually be the one to take off, cruise/fly the plane, and land. My eye balls were about as big as the sun at this point, filled with excitement, however nervous at the same time. Obviously he had the same controls on his side so if anything went wrong he could always take control of the plane and continue on from there which did give me some comfort.
We then proceeded to taxi on the runway and I took off !!!!! It was an exhilarating experience better than any drug that is our there or even more pleasurable than sex. Feeling that plane lift off when I pulled back on the yoke was an indescribable feeling. We flew over the mountains of Big Bear and then towards the desert which was also very breathtaking. I was so scared however he was very patient and walked me through every step making me feel very comfortable. He proceeded to show me what it would feel like in an engine failure, actually making the plane come to an abrupt halt in mid air, which scared the *#$@#$ out of me to say the least lol ! We were fine of course and the propellers were still moving so we got on our way again in no time. It was then he showed me what it would be like to fly with no visibility because you have to learn that when learning to fly in clouds. You have to rely purely off your instruments otherwise within seconds you could be tumbling towards earth at a very fast rate. He had me close my eyes and put my head in my lap, he was watching to make sure we did not crash but the whole point of the exercise was to show how humans are not like birds. I thought I was controlling the plane and flying straight just as I had been however when I looked up I realized we were at a very steep angle heading downwards very quickly. With a quick correction we continued back up and increased in altitude once again.
After another 30 minutes or so of flying over the desert and practicing turns we headed back towards Big Bear. It was the most beautiful site seeing the desert and mountains meet, something out of the movies. I got to see the lake from a whole other perspective as well as the ski slopes, mountain ranges, etc.
The winds were very strong and he said it was not a good day to practice landing because of how the winds were but said “What the hell, lets give it a whirl.” He demonstrated landing one time so I would know how to land and then we took off once more. After during a quick turnaround it was my turn and I ended up landing the aircraft safely.
This flight today has sparked my interest in aviation even more and has made me want to begin the journey in pursuing my Private Pilots License (PPL). I am going to start working on it at the beginning of the year as well as continuing my college degree. I am hoping to get all the necessary hours in and have my PPL within one year.
It was a terrific experience that I am still in disbelief even happened. It all seemed so surreal however it really did happen and I found out that I LOVE flying. It has always been a dream of mine however to get out there and actually do it, words can’t describe it.
I wanted to share this with everyone so you can see that this virus does not have to stop us from doing everything that we want in life. It is only a stepping stone in life however there are many other major life events that will continue to happen to us. I have said before that this virus is simply a new beginning and it is so true because we are still humans with dreams and aspirations. My dream has been to fly so I went out and did it ! I found out I loved it and will continue to pursue it.
We don’t know how far we can go in life unless we try. So if you are thinking about doing something but a little voice in the back of your head keeps telling you that you can’t do it or what are you thinking, you’re positive. Expel all that negativity from your mind and when you yourself or someone else says to you “You won’t be able to do that” tell them “Watch me” and show them !!! The sky is the limit !!! Follow you dreams and never look back, we are SO MUCH MORE than HIV.
Take care and have a very blessed night. Thank you for reading
Joshua D Middleton
This article previously appeared on pozitivehope.com here.