Up in the Air

george clooney up in the air

I'm not really sure what the final conclusion was, but what struck me most about the movie was how strongly I identified with the main character. I feel most at peace, most myself, when I am up in the air, frequently while traveling through the airport system. Suspended between the commitments of real life, unable and thus unaccountable for dealing with the issues associated with relationships, school, work, etc., I feel liberated, light, when I am in the midst of travel.

Ryan admits this, and is more than happy to avoid anything that might weight him down. He briefly contemplates otherwise. I'm kind of flipped. I think I want to be settled, and have always tried for it my whole life, trying to fit in and put down roots. Every time I try, though, I find I eventually succumb to wanderlust or boredom. Most places I've lived in have been for less than four years. My family moves or thinks about moving constantly. I never had a set community, and whenever I came close to developing one, it was time to move on. I've been left with friends scattered across the country, family all over the world, and no sense of home or belonging. Sometimes I think I should be sad about this, but I love it, and more than that, I get very uncomfortable with the concept of being trapped in a place for very long.

But, just like for Ryan, relationships are important. In fact, they kind of come to define us, and our connection to others follows us no matter where we are. But what are relationships without community? Can a community exist for one individual but not for the rest of the parts? My friends don't all know each other. Really there are very few friends of mine I could get into the same room without it being awkward. And when I do have community connections, it is always tentative and distant. For example, I am part of the camp community, but most of those people live in Minnesota, and can develop their relationships and continue their interactions outside of the summer. I am welcomed with open arms in the summer (and if I made it up at any other time of year), but I have always felt an outsider because of my inability to interact on a continuing basis.

I guess this kind of lifestyle has given me the sense that I can go anywhere. In fact, I've always taken great pride in my ability to move and be places quickly, to be comfortable living with very little and in constant transition. I like to think some of that comes from my Arab blood, but my ancestors were coastal, sedentary Arabs, not desert nomads... (though maybe I identify more with the latter). There are no expectations of me, since I don't really fit into any community role, so I can pursue anything I want. At the same time, I find it difficult to know what I want, since I have nobody to help me define myself.

You have no sense of up or down when your up in the air, so you can pick and choose your directions as you see fit, defining yourself by your own rules. At the same time, the lack of relation means you have nothing to measure yourself by. You're free, but you're also adrift. You're not responsible to anyone, but you're also lonely.

It sounds pretty isolated, not a state you'd want to be in for very long. But I'm starting to wonder if it's not what I want on some level. Airports have always had a strange appeal to me. Ironically, they make me calm. Scary stuff, especially when I know that I want to be part of a community, have a family, feel part of a place. Will I get those things and be unsatisfied, wanting eventually to wander off?Which side will win out I wonder, or is there a balance in there somewhere?