I have often thought to myself, my baby sister is up in the sky right now, above the clouds, FLYING A FREAKING AIRPLANE —> An airplane with passengers on board who are counting on her with their LIVES. They are counting on her to not make one silly little slip of the thumb, or miscalculation, or to be sleep deprived, or have a panic attack, or forget her tampons. They are counting on her to be BRAVE, focused, and have her shit together. I’m down here digging for my keys in the bottom of my purse, while she is soaring with purpose in the sky.
Now, mind you, my baby sister and I are wired a little differently. There’s a reason I’m down here trying to find one of my six chapsticks and she’s up there flying heavy machinery to exact elevations. But still, I think to myself, didn’t she ever question herself? Get scared? Want to throw in the towel and settle for land-bound machines or a nice admin job?
So, for the sake of other girls out there who may often wonder how others have accomplished something that seems oh so terrifying or impossible, I decided to ask her some questions…
Hey, Kimmy! How the heck did you decide to become a pilot?
Kim: I decided to be a pilot right after I tried every other profession. After High School, I made it my goal to find a profession that I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life. In college, I took classes in just about every field and looked into every and any career that I had interest in. It was a frustrating and lost journey. I took some time off from school and ended up stumbling into a college that trained pilots and was affordable. I always had an interest in flying but had no knowledge as to how. I honestly believed that the only way to be a pilot was through the military which I considered but was not ready to commit to. When I look back on this decision process and it makes me realize for my kids to expose them to as many things as possible in order to open their minds to all the possibilities. It makes you realize how limited our lack of knowledge can make us, and it makes us miss out on opportunities.
Did you ever feel like giving up? If so, how did you cope with this?
Kim: Well, I had no experience, knowledge, or background when I started training. Everyone in my grade grew up in aviation and had a lifetime of knowledge about it so you could say I was very scared and nervous. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be good at it or be able to do it and complete the process. I think my stubbornness to succeed kept me going. There were uncountable times where I wanted to give up thinking I wasn’t cut out for it but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I always tell people I got good at landing the airplane because I succeeded in trying all the ways that you should not land one. Landings were a long grueling lesson for me but in the long-run it made me good at them. I learned that you really do learn the best from failure. All it takes is very stubborn determination to keep failing and keep failing until you cannot fail any longer and the only option left is success. To this day I have times where I want to quit and give up but I just keep trying, that’s all you can do. I think that’s all any successful person does, they just keep doing and keep putting forth effort no matter if it’s right or wrong. Now that I look back on how I got here, it really was a path full of failure. Failing at finding a career field I liked and learning to fly was a constant stream of failure until you got it right. I think a huge strength a person could have is being comfortable with failure and failing.
Aviation is a pretty male-dominated field, correct? Did this ever discourage you?
Kim: I constantly struggle with feeling less competent than my male colleagues also my female colleagues though they are few. That drives me to keep learning though. Our culture is in a huge shift where more and more women are filling roles normally filled by men and men are filling roles normally filled by women. I try not to highlight my gender difference in the workplace. That doesn’t stop other people from highlighting it. I don’t want my gender to define me or my capabilities as a pilot so I don’t make it a point to set myself apart just because of my gender. It does happen on its own a lot but I brush it aside and keep going. I want to it be the norm to see all genders and races in this field. Those who still have a narrow mindset of only men as pilots I don’t waste my time on. They’re missing out on wasted opportunity and skill that can be found in the opposite sex.
What advice would you give to girls or mothers raising girls?
Kim: If I had a daughter of my own, I would make sure she knows without a doubt that she is capable of doing anything. She sets her own limits. Even the limits set by others and by culture, you still make the choice to accept them. I would try to make her aware of these things and get her to see how things unconsciously and unknowingly affect her. I will do this for my son also.
What advice would you give to girls who are interested in aviation?
Kim: I would advise them to keep going and don’t stop no matter how many times you fail. You will get there. Becoming a pilot is a hard long road and all you really need is unrelenting determination.
So, what can we take from all this? Noooo this is not just for females who are considering being pilots, or what I like to call pilotry 🙂 Here are a few things that I am walking away with courtesy of Captian Kimmy…
- One of the greatest gifts we have in life is the opportunity to learn from other people!! Have questions? ASK!! We are all in this thing together! Gosh, I wish I did this more when I was younger. I intend to do this with my blog. I will be asking away and sharing the answers with you (in hopes that my daughter will read them some-day) because Lord knows I don’t have them!
- EXPLORE the crap out of things before you settle! Encourage your daughters to do the same! Help them explore at ALL ages, not just when they are applying to colleges. We don’t do this enough in our society. We try to squeeze ourselves into these little white boxes too early, too young, and we miss out on exploring.
- After hearing my sister’s answers, I discovered that she actually had a lot of fears and doubts throughout her journey to becoming a pilot. She’s not some superhuman like I had been suspecting. And guess what, we ALL do, we ALL have fears that can stop us dead in our tracks. I’m not here to give you that same old speech “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. I’m saying FEAR IS NORMAL. Just like sadness, joy, loneliness, anger. It does not have to STOP US.
Thanks a million for reading 😉