Yesterday I got on a Black Hawk helicopter piloted by what very well might have been the oldest pilot in uniform on that given day. It was for his final flight. After 42 years of service (!!), at age 62, he retired. He’d been in since Vietnam, had spent thousands and thousands of hours in the air. He met his wife after Vietnam and his daughter said all she’s ever known is her father as a helicopter pilot. The only reason he retired is because the Army said he had too.
I wonder if I’ve ever loved doing something so much that I would want to do it for 42 years. I can’t even begin to imagine what four decades must feel like, having not even lived through three yet. Sure, things changed to keep things interesting, and yes, flying helicopters is super bad ass and it’s probably really hard to get tired of doing something so fucking awesome, but still.
This pilot had another job, his civilian job doing something totally different from the flying he does for the National Guard, but still. To keep the uniform on for that long, to keep serving, to keep learning and training – it’s amazing to me. I’m awed and inspired.
I try to relate it to my own life, and I can’t. There’s nothing I can think of, short of rolling in a field with puppies, that I would want to do for 42 years.
I love and enjoy my job. It’s challenging. It’s fun. I get to see and do some really wonderful and amazing things. But could I do it forever?
It makes me wonder if attention spans are shorter than they used to be. I mean, why not? We’ve got the internet now. I don’t need to focus. I need to multi-task and flit back and forth and do 16 things at once because I’m got the internet, man. I wonder, when I’m 62, if I’ll know someone who’s done something, one great amazing thing, for 42 years. Better yet, I wonder if it’ll be me. I wonder if, after serving my first decade in the Army, I’ll just keep going. I like it. It’s not for everyone. It’s a special sort of crazy, but I like it.
Is there anything you could do for 42 years?