So as I mentioned briefly in yesterday’s blog post, yesterday I passed my checkride with an FAA Examiner and I am officially a licensed Private Pilot. My license allows me to fly a single-engine, land based aircraft (vs a seaplane) in VFR, or Visual Flight Rules conditions. Basically, I have to stay out of clouds. I can go above clouds, as long as I can get back under the clouds without passing through clouds to do so. I can also fly at night and I can carry non-paying passengers.

I think I’ve had some amped up, self-inflicted stress during my whole flight training experience, with the stress levels being especially high since I passed my oral exam in November. Normally, the oral exam and the checkride go hand-in-hand, but flying in Central New York at this time of year is a roll of the dice when it comes to weather. Thankfully, yesterday turned out to be a good, yet challenging enough day, to keep me on my toes with the examiner.

I’m still struggling with the idea that I have my license, because honestly, for the past 46 years I have dreamed of becoming a pilot and it seemed unobtainable at times. Flying airplanes is a thing that great people do, at least in my understanding of the world, and I feared I wouldn’t be great enough. This added to my stress. This was a needless addition.

I hadn’t slept very much between the oral exam and checkride so I thought for sure that I would sleep like a rock last night. Surprisingly, I didn’t. I would startle myself awake, probably from my body just letting go of some of the stress I had piled onto my psyche. I have a headache this morning and I know it’s from my mind trying to relax; I’ve felt this way only a couple of times before: after nailing a particularly challenging exam in college and after getting through my first role with speaking parts in one of my high school musicals. It’s a high and a crash at the same time.

So now that the realization sets in that I can fly the airplane when I want, with whom I want and wherever the airplane will take me, I’m starting to daydream about some things that I want to do as a pilot. I’ll be starting up classes again next year so that I can fly in the clouds if I need to. I want to get my commercial license so I can fly around aerial photographers or whatever. But more importantly, I want to get in the sky and enjoy doing what I have learned how to do and to continue to share that joy with as many people as possible.

And for that reason, the stress melts away and the smile lines are reappearing.