Ending my career as a stewardess was perhaps the best decision I’ve made this year. Letting go of this comfort zone I had (unfortunately) sunk into for the past 2 years involved lots of anxiety, doubt, and inevitable thoughts of missing the globetrotting lifestyle. Nevertheless I made my decision quickly and set my heart for the big change when the opportunity to work as a media analyst came. There were spurts of excitement and also joy at finally stepping into an industry I might actually have a genuine interest in.
“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It wont happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
― Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential
Mixed feelings aside, one must always look ahead and move on in life. Thinking back, it was a whirlwind of fun & adventure being a cabin crew at one of the world’s ‘best airlines”. Work was hard, schedules could be crazy, rosters were sometimes bad, and there were months I went without meeting friends outside of the airlines industry… BUT I don’t and will never regret these two+ years with SIA. This insightful journey was exhilarating, at times excruciating, and came with many lessons to be learnt.
Things I already miss:
1. Job title: FLIGHT STEWARDESS.
Onboard, I’ve been called by many other names: Miss, Li, Darling, Sweetheart, Eh, Excuse Me, Hello, Auntie, Jiejie, and nonverbal gestures such passengers pulling my kebaya or waving their hands wildly in the air to get my attention.
2. The Singapore Girl hairdo.
Despite the strict grooming guide, there are as many variations as there are flight stewardesses in SIA. Seniority (on first impression) is based on the height of your hump (that height-enhancing bump on your head, derived from resemblances to camel humps). I actually miss this fuss-free chignon – when I mean fuss-free I refer to not having hair all over my face, not time taken to prepare.
3. Quintessentially, HEAVY DUTY MAKEUP.
For long flights we can wear them up to 18 hrs (14hr flight time + 2hr reporting time + 1 hr preparation at home + 1hr travelling from airport to hotel after touchdown). The worst thing is: falling asleep without removing them! This is why I grew so unaccustomed to my own bare face.
4. PARIS. LONDON. ZURICH. GREECE.
Oh the places you’ll go, without ever having to take any work home. Once we touchdown at the destination, HOLA FREEDOM until the wake-up call for your next flight sector. I’m happy to say I’ve touched all corners of the earth that SIA goes to, and have them all Instagram-Mapped.
Every flight was somewhat a vacay. Stepping into a freshly-laundered room with a hot bath and clean sheet (though sometimes tiny/musky-smelling less-than-4-star closet of a hotel room) after a tiring flight is the best feeling ever. Hence the perpetual reluctance to check out.
6. Hotel room selfies. Ha.
7. Living out of a suitcase – bursting or not, that bitch needs to be closed. It’s a woe for many stewardesses especially on long-haul.
8. Coffee in the morning, coffee in the noon and coffee any time of day, because jet lag demands to be fed with caffeine. Truth is, I can drink 2 shots and still sleep for forever.
9. “Bragging Rights”
Friend, at dinner: “So what did you have for breakfast this morning?”
Me, casually: “Injeolmi Bingsoo from this place in Hongdae, Korea.”
Trust me, I am not bragging. Just stating the facts, you asked for it.
Breakfast in another time zone, lunch 35000 feet in the skies, and dinner in Singapore.
10. The skies. And the familiar wings we see from our crew seats when we look out from the windows. The one below was taken out flying out from Singapore Changi Airport. The following three were taken enroute Houston from Moscow, so you can see Greenland.
12. Coming home.
The word ‘home’ takes on a whole new meaning, when it’s all you’re thinking of the moment you set foot on an aircraft bound for foreign territories.
A little over a month, people still ask if I miss flying. Well if you’ve been at it for 2 years, day in day out, you’re bound to feel a sense of loss. As it is for any kind of job and lifestyle. The only thing I actually really started to miss were the chirpy greetings I received from passengers when I greet them upon coming aboard, the genuine thank yous upon rendering assistance wherever I could, the adrenaline rush when we had a ton of duties we needed to complete and the eventual sweat-wiping relief when it’s all over. And the camaraderie over the years with a few colleagues. When we donned our kebaya, we were told to ‘smile at anything that moves’ – we would hold doors and lifts for people, greet people we don’t know, and talk to people we’ve never met – all without garnering weird looks. Try holding a door for someone in Singapore – you might get ‘thank you’ with an awkward look at best, or even ignored for your effort. Smile at a stranger, and be labelled a psycho. Greet someone in the lift, and end up taking the lift up alone. A well-mannered bunch we as stewards and stewardesses are – after all we are in the service industry. But we don’t always get the same respect and treatment in or out of the uniform.
Also, I was exposed to many kinds of teamwork & leadership (through observations, not actual leading), plus gained a kind of worldly experience that isn’t of the bragging sort. There’s never an end to how much of the world we can see. From big metropolitan cities with world-class airports to less-developed rural areas where drinking tap water gave me gastroenteritis for weeks, and where small girls on the streets wanted to take photos with a group of us just because our skin colour was different from theirs – they’ve never seen fair-skinned people in their lives.
I became a stewardess for the freedom, experience and a change of lifestyle. I never regretted, even as I was dying to leave the job. The job gave me loads of reasons to look back and smile. You’re meant to live your life in your 20s before youth slips away!
Once a Singapore Girl, Always a Singapore Girl. I still feel nostalgic at an SIA ad, or when I see an SIA aircraft landing or see ex-colleagues at the airport heading for flight or just coming back home.
Well, this is goodbye! I’ve clipped my wings and started a new chapter in life.