Friday, March 20, 2015 – St. Louis University / St. Louis, Missouri
I was nervous as we waited for takeoff. With heavy snow pounding the runway’s pavement and gusting winds causing our Southwest Airlines airplane to tremor, feelings of anxiety and vulnerability were conjuring up inside of me. This was the worst weather we had experienced on the runway in my four years at Fordham, and I thought for sure that we were destined for an about-face and a short trip back to the safety of the airport. But, our pilot had other ideas and decided to brave the elements. A mistake, I thought, for sure.
As the several tons of steel we occupied accelerated along the runway, I braced my armrest in fear of what I could not control; feeling small and powerless amid something as big and daunting as an airplane and its irrevocable takeoff. The plane was going to take flight, no matter what the intensity of my trepidation was. I had to just trust that our plane and its operators were prepared to lead us through the storm, and that ultimately, God was in control of it all.
When the wheels left the ground, the airplane emerged from the pavement with uncertainty, struggling initially to find its balance and straighten its path for the first few seconds of its ascendance. As we loomed higher and higher above the East River with each passing moment, we abruptly became captivated by a sea of grey. The very storm clouds that were the sources of my anxiety had engulfed us in their rage and shaded any comforting colors and sights of onward progress from view. It was as though we were moving at rapid speeds, but not really headed anywhere, or at least anywhere promising.
Then, in a matter of minutes (which felt like hours, nonetheless), we emerged into what appeared to be a different stratosphere. Our ascension through the clouds had carried us above the storm, and in the midst of the brightest blue sky and sunshine I had ever seen. Below us, feathery clouds gave the impression that they were cradling our aircraft and softening its weight, along with the burden of my fears.
We had literally traveled out of the darkness and into the light.
Following the short time of fear and uncertainty I had endured at the beginning of our flight, the rest of the journey was as smooth as one could imagine, with rays of sunlight illuminating the cabin and never-ending horizons stretching further than my eyes could see. The polar opposite of what our trip was looking like at its start.
Our flying experience today somewhat mirrors what we have experienced since the first week of February. Although it may appear differently to outsiders, this season has been a stormy one at times, as rough experiences and bad days during our tough pre-conference stretch of traveling and playing sometimes left us with fears and doubts about the remainder of our time together in uniform. For me personally, things have often felt grey this season like they did amongst those storm clouds today; like my senior season has been passing me by at rapid speeds, but I’ve been unable to see any color along the way to brighten my journey because of several instances that have, at times, clouded its enjoyment.
But, the metaphor that our most recent flying experience created has given me great hope for all that lies ahead. In trusting that, like our Southwest airplane, we have already braved the grey and stormy elements of our season and are destined for beautiful forecasts ahead, I am optimistic.
It is ironic that today is the official start of spring because tomorrow is the onset of another season for our team; it is the beginning of Atlantic 10 Conference play and the dawn of our real season, the one that will determine our seeding in the conference tournament and position to win a championship in May.
As we begin our conference slate against a very tough St. Louis team this weekend, it is important for me to remember all that was realized and experienced today aboard Southwest Airlines flight 395. No matter how uncertain or daunting things may have seemed at times during these past six weeks, I firmly believe that every struggle has served as a test of our durability and ability to trust in the process and the greater plan for our season. And ultimately, it is crucial to know that on an airplane, in softball, and in life, it is often the time spent in darkness that allows one to truly appreciate the light.
I know the light lies ahead.