We’ve all been there. Settling in for another flight and the flight attendant starts their safety instruction routine. I’m usually fiddling on my phone pretending it’s been put on airplane mode to get a in a few more last minute emails and texts, because like most of us, I've heard the drill many times before. As I took a quick glance up, the flight attendant was pulling down the air-mask and showing how to put it on. When I’ve seen this in the past, my mind usually goes down the path of how uncomfortable that elastic band would be and how much hair I would manage to pull out when I adjust it for the 25th time, and it would usually end with me rubbing the back of my head and seeing if there was a mark from the imaginary rubber band I placed on my head. Phew…my hair didn’t fall out. This isn’t usually met with the same relief when I look at the person sitting next to me and give them the “Phew…another close call” look. They immediately avoid eye contact and look down at their empty lap, showing off that they play by the rules and turned their phone off 10 minutes ago.

Anyways, back to the life saving oxygen mask. On this occasion, I was hit by the importance of putting on your oxygen mask first before trying to help the small child beside you. Junior can wait the 6 seconds for you to put on your mask so you can be alive and breathing to help with their mask. I’m sure I’ve heard this analogy previously and many others have heard it before but it really resonated for me this time. Which is strange because the flight attendant’s instructions were spoken in Spanish and I understood very little of what she said. But I didn’t need to understand the words but more so the theory of putting yourself first.

In a world of selfies (I’m a new member to this crew as you can see by some of my photos in Colombia) and “me first” thinking, someone could see our world going down a more selfish path. But I think there is a large part of the population that still puts other people’s needs ahead of their own. I call them the “Professional People Pleasers’”. I’m a recovering member of the PPP. I was raised, as a proud member of this society, and for most of my life I’ve tried to put others needs ahead of my own because that’s the polite thing to do. But what I’ve discovered is that by putting others needs ahead of my own, I’ve ended up not knowing what the heck I want for myself.

So how does one start to put their own needs/wants first if they don’t know what they want in the first place? Well…for me I’ve started taking myself out on dates. I’ve courted the shit out of myself down here in Colombia! I’ve sat in coffee shops by myself with a Chai Tea Latte and written in my journal (thanks Kris!) about silly things that I haven’t thought about in years. I’ve learned that the word “No” is a complete sentence. I’ve enjoyed experiences I didn’t think would necessarily be “up my alley”. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to know myself again. Like going for dinner with an old friend that you haven’t stayed in touch with but immediately can pick up like you haven’t missed a day.

And by helping myself, by putting myself first, my hope is through that process I will be more available to help others. If I’m secure in who I am, I will be grounded and present for when it’s time to listen to what others have going on in their life and how I may assist them. This is my wish. I feel really good helping other people but it can’t be done at the expense of my own well being. I’m zero help to anyone else if I die with the oxygen mask in my hand trying to give it to someone else.

Who knew the airline industry was full of such life wisdom! Maybe I’ll turn my phone to airplane mode more often…who knows what other little secrets I’m missing out on!

Chat soon,

Zach

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