Up in the Air

The LIRR train hummed through Queens on the sunny Sunday morning. I sat in a busy car towards the back of the train, a middle-aged guy in my row with a seat between us. On my left a young couple didn’t have a care in the world, simply excited to spend their Sunday afternoon in New York City. Directly in front of me, a small Emergency Exit sign hung from the ceiling with an arrow pointed to the left.

A few minutes before, I’d left her at the security checkpoint at the JetBlue terminal at JFK. Both of us bravely kept it together, choosing to focus on my visit in a couple of weeks instead of the choice we were making, our ambitions keeping the weight of reality from pinning us to the ground.

I turned and walked away, up the escalator and off to the train. She probably went through security, stopped for something to eat or drink or take on the plane, sat at the gate for a few minutes, boarded the Airbus A320, found a seat and buckled her seat belt. Or maybe that wasn’t the order – maybe there were other steps. I couldn’t know now.

There’s no app for the big decisions in life. I can’t plug this data set into a recommendation algorithm or have some prediction engine tell me what the right decision is or how either path will turn out. Sometimes, oftentimes, one path turns into two and you can only pick one, and those that pretend as if there’s a formula to these questions haven’t ever truly faced them.

Sometimes we come across things in life that are worth pursuing, and sometimes we’re lucky enough to come across more than one of these at once. But the limits of time and space mean we can’t do it all. So we try to do as much as we can for as long as we can, and we pour ourselves into our dreams with the hope that we can fight off the alternatives for as long as we can.

The train pulled into Penn Station. The young couple stepped out – a bright, sunny, summer Manhattan day in front of them. I walked out onto 34th street, as quiet as I’d ever seen it on this beautiful Sunday morning. I walked two long blocks, past Macy’s and past the Empire State Building. A plane flew by in the distance. I flashed my keycard by the glass doors to the office, I took the elevator to the 6th floor and I sat down at my desk.

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