About a month ago, I had a pretty traumatic experience, and it's taken me this whole time to process it.
We spent a week in San Francisco on travel, but it was the trip home that really changed everything.
Plainly put, the trip home was travel hell. And having two small children, I am familiar with travel hell.
But this topped them all.
It started when we checked in for our flight home and I overheard one of the gate personnel casually mention that the tarmac was "on fire".
Knowing all the forest fires in Colorado, I assumed they were talking about Denver. My mind was mulling over my sadness in leaving the eucalyptus and pot fragranced air of San Francisco, so I wasn't really thinking about what they said.
We waited patiently through check in and an oddly long security check. Insanely long. And the security personnel were strangely tense, but again, I thought nothing of it.
We got to the airport super early, so we had a couple of hours to waste. I started people watching, and things got strange quickly. First, there was the guy running frantically back and forth, staring dazedly at the long bank of windows behind us.
I looked over my shoulder, but all I could see was a long streak of gray fog. This WAS San Francisco, so I didn't think anything of it.
The longer we sat there, the more people came over and looked out the window behind us. It was strange, and my curiosity was piqued.
Finally I heard someone say that you could see the crash better from a window down at the end of the terminal. I glanced up at the board of flights, and saw a long list of cancellations.
I asked one of the people looking at the window what was up, and they said a flight had crashed onto the runway.
At that moment, a voice came over the loud speaker and announced that all flights out of SFO were cancelled for the day. No mention of the crash. No suggestions for next steps.
Cell data service immediately became nonexistent as everyone in the airport suddenly went for their cell phones. Trying to check the Internet for details was almost impossible.
And I remembered a loud crash I had heard when we arrived at the airport, it had sounded like a large dump truck going over one of those metal plates they sometimes put on the road.
Realizing I had likely heard the moment of impact really shook me.
It was one of those surreal moments where it feels like you are simultaneously floating and slamming into a wall. An entire flight of people had been fighting of their lives as I had been reading my Cosmo, blissfully unaware.
We then spent the next few hours trying to recover our luggage as the airlines dumped the luggage of multiple flights onto the few luggage carosels that there were, tracking down a hotel room, and finding a ride back to the city.
We searched nearby airports to see if there were alternative routes home, but everything within a 6 hour drive was booked solid.
Several exhausting hours later, we sat in a hotel room, staring dazedly at one another.
The entire day had a dreamlike quality, and somewhere along the way I started to think about how lucky I was to have this day.
As more and more details came in and the casualties were reported, I was reminded again and again of how lucky I was to draw in each breath.
Travel home the next day was hellacious. We left the hotel at 8 a.m. to get to the airport early, just in case. Our gates repeatedly changed, our flights danced back and forth between dramatically delayed and arriving on time, we ran through airports to catch the next leg, and each step in the route was a struggle.
But a struggle I was grateful to be able to engage in.
We arrived back in Maryland at 3 a.m. and dazedly dragged our exhausted selves home.
Over the next few days, I tried to process the entire experience.
It was overwhelming.
What it did do was prompt me to REALLY look at my life. Examine what was working for me, and what needed to be addressed.
I told my friends how much I loved them, repaired some damaged friendships, hugged my babies especially tight, and made some major changes in my life.
The biggest thing that I realized is just how short, how tenuous life is. Each day is a gift, and nothing is guaranteed.
If you aren't living each day to its fullest, if your heart isn't full of joy, if your life isn't full of contentment, why isn't it?
What hard decisions have your been avoiding? What scary challenges are you shying away from? What changes should you make in your life TODAY to make sure that you are truly, honestly happy TOMORROW?
Because you only get one go at THIS life. And this moment is your only guarantee.
None of us know what tomorrow will bring, but if you are living your life focused on the future and not appreciating the current, then you are missing out.
So take the time today to look at your life. Really LOOK at it. What is working? What isn't? And what changes could you make today that might bring you even more happiness tomorrow?
Because every breath that you take which fuels unhappiness or discontentment is a wasted breath, a breath that those girls who died in the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 would be grateful for.