I Taught Myself How To Fly

I don’t have a fear of flying; I have a fear of Phil.

Who’s Phil? Phil is the guy who tightens the bolts that hold the wings onto the plane, the critical ones that keep them from ripping off in mid-flight, sending it hurtling to the ground in a pirouette death spiral.

Some time ago, Phil got distracted and left one of those wing bolts about a quarter-less tightened than he should. Normally Phil doesn’t do that; he’s good at his job, takes a lot of pride in it. Maybe he received an ill-timed text from his wife, irritated that he left his wet towel on the bed after his shower. Or one of his work buddies was ribbing him because Phil’s favorite team ate a huge shit sandwich in the big game over the weekend.

Whatever it was, it was enough to make Phil forget to give that bolt one last torque before moving onto the next. Tight enough to pass inspection, but a little too loose to withstand the bumps and vibrations that a plane experiences during takeoffs, landings, and heavy bouts of turbulence. Not just any plane; this plane, the one I was about to get on.

Over time, those vibrations have spun the bolt backwards, working its way out with each shimmy and shudder. By now it’s hanging by its last thread, and one more good hard bump is all it’s going to take before it falls out and-

“ID and ticket, ma’am?”

The TSA Agent’s voice roused me from my Rube Goldberg death scenario.

I had reached the front of the security queue, mentally elsewhere as I worked my way through the line. The Agent’s face scrunched with irritation because I didn’t have my ID and ticket ready per the intercom’s instructions. Not following the rules must be a great annoyance to them, enough of a distraction to allow someone with a gun or a knife to slip right on through the line undetect-

“If you don’t have your ticket you’ll need to go back to the ticketing kiosk,” the Agent said.

The man behind me exhaled a deep sigh that reeked of black coffee and cigarettes. His rumpled brown suit gave him the look of a life long traveling salesman. Probably wasn’t his first airport of the day, nor would it be his last. He looked like he could sleep through the heaviest of turbulence only to be annoyed when the flight attendant woke him to remind him to fasten his seatbelt.

I stepped aside with a meek “sorry” that no one but me heard. The line reformed behind the frumpy brown-suited businessman with his weathered suitcase filled with brochures for aluminum siding and definitely wasn’t a bomb.

The line moved with steady procession as I stood to the side searching through my purse for my identification. After I had my ID, I briefly searched for my ticket before remembering that I had it in the app on my phone. By the time I had both pulled up, the line had moved so far along I wasn’t sure if I could step back in without causing a disruption.

I made eye contact with the dad of a family who was a few paces back from the Agent. Should I say something, or step in front of him? If I say something, what should I say? Sorry, I’m not a good flyer, throwing in an offhand chuckle to make it less awkward?

He looked away before I could initiate my move. I can’t hop back in now, I’d look like a line jumper. Do I go to the back of the line? Should I ask the Agent, the one who is already annoyed with me? But if I keep standing here, they’ll think I’m acting suspicious. Who am I kidding? I am acting suspicious. I need to move, otherwise I’m going to end up in some backroom interrogation.

“The universe is sending you a sign,” the voice in my head chimed in. “You should change flights. Go back to ticketing and see if they can bump you to a different flight later today.”

As if that would go any differently. This was my third attempt to fly in my life, and like the two previous attempts, it was going the same way. I thought that this time, with an interview for my dream job in Seattle, the city I always saw myself living in, I’d be able to keep those thoughts from overtaking my mind.

Perhaps my job was to blame. I performed failure mode and effects analysis on programming software. My job was to find all the ways a process could fail, then design solutions to fix those issues. I’m damn good at my job; one of the best in my field. It was the reason I was going to Seattle, a major software company sought me out to head up their quality improvement team.

A downside to finding all ways a process could fail is that I applied it to things outside of my job. That’s why I never went to restaurants, used public transportation, or took part in any activity where my safety relied on the attentiveness of another individual. I cooked all my meals at home and drove myself everywhere. I avoided highways as much as possible and did my own maintenance on my car – oil changes, brake pads, and even checked the tire pressure and oil levels before I left home each day.

The voice in my head chimed in again. “Call the company and say there was a family emergency; see if you can interview remotely. When you get the job you can drive out with the moving van. You won’t ever need to fly.”

I looked at the ticket on my phone, then the line of people, then the TSA Agent. The Agent leaned his head to the microphone clipped to his shirt collar. He looked my way and said something quickly into it before returning to checking ID’s and tickets.

“He’s calling for backup,” the voice in my head continued. “Why are you still here? Move, Molly. Move!”

I turned away and headed to the exit of the terminal. As I did, the wave of fear that had crashed over me receded and rolled back. The heartbeat I felt in my temples calmed to a steady low rhythm. I wiped the back of my neck, now cold and covered with sweat. As I stepped on the escalator back to the ticketing kiosks, I closed my eyes and took some deep, calming breaths.

Once the fear subsided, guilt and shame moved in to tear me down further. The first pang hit my stomach as I waited for the shuttle to the short term parking lot, when I received an email from the hiring manager with some last minute itinerary details and well wishes for safe travel.

He closed his email with “See you in about three hours!” My eyes welled up as I read it over and over on the way to the parking lot. No. No you won’t.

I sat in my car as I watched the sky over the airport, waiting for my flight to take off. I wasn’t hoping the plane would crash, but a small part of me wanted something to show that my overreaction wasn’t for nothing. Hell, even a delay for maintenance would’ve been a win. But the flight took off on schedule. When it did, it was nothing special. It looked routine, perhaps boring; a regular occurrence that happened at least a thousand or more times every day in airports around the world.

When I pulled up to the ticket window of the parking lot, the attendant looked at the date on my stub, looked at me, then waved me through. My tears earned me two free hours of airport parking.

I tracked the flight on the app as I drove home, keeping tabs the rest of the afternoon until it landed safely in Seattle. My instincts, though helpful for my job, were wrong. If I had just gotten on the plane I would’ve been in Seattle prepping for my big life changing interview.

Fucking Phil and his goddamn wing bolts.

Blaming hypothetical Phil was a cop out; the problem was me. I let my fear run wild, creating a scenario in my head that I couldn’t ignore because ignoring meant death.

I called the company with the fake family emergency story and asked if I would be able to interview remotely. My shaky voice sold the performance as earnest, even if the only real emergency was my brain’s overactive ability to orchestrate hypothetical failure scenarios. The same brain that was certain the company would deny my request, and I would be on the hook for the cost of the flight.

“These things happen,” the hiring manager told me over the phone, the vocal equivalent of a shrug. “We could reschedule for next week if that works?”

I chewed the inside of my lip. “Do you mean a remote interview or-?”

“This position code requires an on site interview,” he said. His words felt like a punch to the gut. “Will you be available? Don’t worry about your ticket, we can get it switched, easy peasy.”

Easy peasy.

“I…”

The words stuck in my throat, unsure what to say, whether I should just tell them I couldn’t make it or if I should say yes and figure out how I was going to do it later. I really wanted that job, and to move to Seattle.

“It will be the same plane,” the voice in my head chimed in. “Those wing bolts were already loose, a few extra days of wiggling will have them to the point of catastrophic failure.”

A knot formed in my stomach at the thought of going through this again. The airport, the plane, the TSA agent, even Mr. BrownRumpleSuit, all parts of a broken process that was destined to fail.

My chin fell to my chest when I finally spoke. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

I hung up the phone before he could reply, turning it off as tears flooded my face. I felt like slapping myself; instead I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and asked “Why are you like this?”

I spent the rest of the day wallowing in self-loathing as my dream job slipped through my fingers. Even as the voice in my head tried to spin it as a win, that my current job wasn’t that bad and maybe I wouldn’t even like living in Seattle, I knew it was a sidestep of the issue that my fear was holding me back.

It was after midnight as I lay in bed, not sleeping because my brain wouldn’t shut down for the day, that I felt a rush of energy to do something about it. I was tired of giving in to my fear, so I resolved that I wouldn’t sleep until I found a way to fix my fear of flying.

I approached my fear as a failure mode problem, something I was adept at solving. If I wanted to eliminate the chance of failure, I needed to improve the process and remove the elements most prone to fail. It seemed silly, but I knew it would work because my processes were the only ones I trusted not to fail.

When doing these investigations people often make the mistake of favoring what looks like an obvious fix before evaluating all potential solutions. Jumping at an answer too quickly might create two new problems by fixing one. This can turn into a neverending ‘swallow the spider to catch the fly’ series of hotfixes rather than an actual solution to the problem. So to do it right, I had to map out every possible way the process could fail. Fix it once, fix it forever.

I took a marker and wrote down all the potential failure points on the wall in my bedroom. The pilot, mechanical issues, birds, even Phil and his distracted bolt turning. After mapping all of the potential ways the plane could fail, I turned my critical mind on myself, on my own failures. Anxiety, overactive brain, inability to trust others, stubbornness, and so on. From there, I mapped out potential solutions for each failure mode.

Getting help through psychiatry or even prescription drugs was out of the question. An SSRI might help me cope with the fear of flying, but it also might unplug the part of my brain that I needed to be good at my job. As hampering as my condition was, I was convinced that I needed it. Since my reaction to prescription drugs was a variable I couldn’t control, it was eliminated as a potential solution.

Getting blackout drunk to sleep through the flight was the other quickly eliminated solution. Like anxiety meds, alcohol sidestepped the problem by inhibiting my fear of the situation, and while the effects were less permanent it also did nothing to prevent failure. The plane still crashes, I just sleep through it. And that’s without considering that booze had its own tangential subset of unfavorable outcomes that I didn’t want to graph out.

I plotted all of the failure points, searching for a solution to the process that fixed them all. When the morning sun poked through the curtains of my bedroom, I shot a quick email to the office requesting a few extra days of leave. I couldn’t stop now; the more I dug the closer I was getting to discovering the final answer.

When the second sunset without sleep passed, I had used up two markers and covered three walls of my bedroom with notes, fishbone diagrams, and flow charts. I had been awake for thirty nine hours when I circled those three words on my wall, a singular conclusion that solved all of the failure mode issues: learn to fly.

Not how to fly an airplane; how to fly myself.

I read the words again. Then I laughed.

Maybe it was lack of sleep. Or the utter insanity of reaching a conclusion so ridiculous. Or both. But still, of all the solutions I found, it was the only one that solved all of the failure issues.

I slept after that, a much needed respite after staying awake so long. I half-expected my fascination to wane after getting some rest, but I awoke rejuvenated and more focused on solving the problem. Unlike the day that began with the dread of the airport, I woke up with a goal, a path forward.

I was going to learn how to fly.

I researched evidence of levitation online, both human and other kinds. I found videos of objects levitating on beams of gas, sound waves, even magnetic repulsion. It was heartening to find others had been working on this problem before me, but my search for evidence of human flight or levitation was anecdotal at best. Most examples were the illusion of levitation through wires or fixed viewing angles, baggy pants, and showmanship.

I didn’t want to trick people into believing I was flying; I wanted to fly.

The evidence I found of unaided human flight were centuries old stories. Stories like St. Joseph of Cupertino – the patron saint of air travel, flying gurus in India, and Tibetan monks who achieved levitation as the result of spiritual attunement through meditation. Since they happened so long ago, the only proof was verified through eyewitness accounts. A shaky start, eyewitnesses aren’t the most reliable forms of measurements, but it’s still data.

I shifted my research outside of conventional science towards the metaphysical and spiritual. Limiting my search to what proven science could show me was like trying to buy apples at a shoe store. They’ll look at you funny, and think you’re fucking crazy.

I searched for commonalities to see how religions took different paths to the same goal. Stripping away the different gods and rules, each religion held a belief that a person’s life force was a form of spiritual energy. Prana, ka, chi, even the Holy Spirit. People who were said to tap into this life force as an energy source have accomplished amazing feats of superhuman ability. Flight, bilocation, unnatural strength. If I could tap into my own spirit and harness that energy, I could use it to propel myself off the ground.

It was my eureka moment. I had found the key.

The fact that religion might be the answer to tap into this power concerned me at first. I wasn’t religious or spiritual in any manner of speaking. I went to Sunday school a few times as a child but the only time since I’ve stepped foot inside a church was for weddings or funerals. But as my research pointed out, the phenomena occurred in multiple religions and weren’t limited to a single faith. If this proved that life force energy was real, it also proved that there were multiple pathways to accessing it. I just needed to find the path that worked for me.

I began with basic meditation, five minutes of focusing on my breath as I calmed my mind. I gradually worked my way up to longer sessions, moving from breathing focus to manifestation techniques. I harnessed my focus, blocking out external interference, like the many calls and emails from my job when I hadn’t been to work in over a week.

I visualized myself in my mind sitting cross-legged in a vast open field as I repeated my mantra, “Rise. Rise. Rise.” On days when I could maintain focus, I would see myself rising up off the ground in my mind’s eye. I would rise higher and higher as I chanted, and when I stopped I would hold position up there, floating over the field. I could see for miles in every direction as the warm summer breeze fluttered through my hair.

Although I felt a floating sensation through my body during these sessions, every time I opened my eyes I would find myself on my bedroom floor, firmly planted on the ground.

As I was meditating one day, floating high above the field in my mind, I could make out a tall row of closely grouped trees in the distance to the east, forming a barrier. I felt myself drawn to them, wanting to see what was beyond. I pitched my head forward, willing my body to propel itself towards the trees.

It took all of my concentration to maintain focus as I flew towards them, curious to see what was on the other side. Before I could reach them, my focus would break. Over and over I tried, first settling my mind to get in the meditative state, then visualizing myself floating over the field, and finally flying towards the great green wall of trees. Each time I tried, my focus would give out before I could reach them.

I found myself pressing, frustrated by my inability to reach the treeline in my mind, not to mention lift off the ground in reality. I was getting nowhere, both literally and figuratively.

The regret of missing out on my dream job was a distant memory, overwritten by the frustration of my lack of progress. I realized that I was so focused on the spiritual self I’d forgotten to take care of the physical one. I hadn’t left the house, hadn’t showered, and hardly eaten anything.

I was pressing too hard, I needed a break.

I took a day to check in with the real world, checking in with family and returning calls to the office. I apologized for my absence, blaming it on a panic attack (which wasn’t a lie) and formally requested a leave of absence. Then I picked up some groceries, made myself my favorite comfort meal and ended the night with a long hot shower.

My eyes drifted closed as I stood in the cascade of water, letting it massage my skin. My mind wandered, and I let it go. I detached from my thoughts, letting them come and go without giving any more than a moment’s focus of recognition.

An image appeared in my mind of the wall of trees, but unlike my previous meditations I was on the ground, standing beside them. Not just beside them, on the other side of them. What I had perceived as a wall was actually the perimeter of a hedge maze labyrinth. I was surrounded by long rows of green branches that stretched up towards a swirl of grey clouds against a purple sky.

I was naked, still wet from the shower. Droplets of water glistened against my skin in the moonlight as it poked through the clouds. Cool air fluttered through the branches, sending shivers through the dampness of my arms and legs. The silence was deafening; not even the sound of water from the shower head penetrated the dense foliage.

My bare feet felt cold against the dirt path as I wandered, exploring. I was unsure if I was searching for the exit or a treasure hidden somewhere deep in the maze. Or maybe that wasn’t the point of it at all. Like a mother dropping a toddler off at the playground, I gave my mind free reign to wander as I stood aside as an observer, cajoling it. “Go on, go play.”

My pace quickened as I raced through the hedge maze, twisting and turning with each opportunity to go in a new direction, doubling back when I hit a dead end, allowing myself to explore. Was I getting more lost, or closer to the exit? I had no way of knowing. The moon offered no answers as I looked up to find it fully revealed by the clouds, illuminating me in yellow light.

As I looked up, a guttural roar cut through the oppressing silence of the hedge maze. I hunched down, covering my ears. That’s when I remembered what labyrinths were for, and that I wasn’t alone.

I ran, now desperate to get away from the creature the labyrinth was designed to keep trapped, hidden away from the world. Every time it roared, my mind was bombarded with oppressive thoughts – I was an intruder, an interloper, messing with things I did not understand in search of power I could not wield. The roar of the beast grew closer, its heavy footfalls vibrating the pebbles on the path.

My heartbeat quickened as I stumbled, tripping and face-planting in the dirt. I sat up and flipped the hair away from my eyes just as the cloven hooves of the beast rounded the corner of the maze, bearing down on me as it lowered the spiked tips of its horns to run my body through-

I awoke with a gasp. I was still in the shower, the hot water now cold after running for so long. My heart thumped like a hummingbird in my chest, still amped up by the vividness of the experience. It felt so real, but what did it mean? Was it a dream? A vision? A warning?

I stopped meditating, now certain that my manifestation technique wasn’t going to work until I figured out how to connect to my source of spiritual power. I couldn’t manifest access to this power, I had to unlock it by connecting to my unconscious self. It was like putting bread in an unplugged toaster and chanting “Toast. Toast. Toast.”

The more I thought about my vision, the more I realized that it was not a warning, but the answer. The power I was searching for was not easy to reach. It was locked away, hidden, like the creature of the labyrinth. The only way I could reach it was if I had a map.

I had a theory that, like religion, the map could be anything as long as I believed it led me to the answer. Another thing all religions had in common – faith. My faith was in organization and logic, everything divided and sorted into columns and rows, categorized and correctly coded.

I put my faith in the grid. It would be my map.

On the last wall of my bedroom, I drew a representation of my brain as a grid made up of differently colored blocks: red, green, blue and white. The bottom row was filled with red boxes that represented the autonomous functions of my brain – breathing, regulating blood pressure, everything my body handled that didn’t require my focus. This row was locked, unmovable, and unavailable for access. At the top of the grid was a row of blue blocks which represented controls for sensory and motor. These were also locked and unmovable, but unlike the red were available for access.

Scattered across the middle of the mind grid was a shifting pattern of green and white blocks. The green contained memories, data points I’d locked away for long term access. The white were open blocks for short term memory functions that would occasionally flash yellow when accessed.

The power I sought was locked away in the red blocks, and access to them was obstructed by the chaotic array of green, yellow, and white blocks of my conscious mind. If I wanted to reach them, I needed to declutter my mind and clear a path.

As I stared at the grid, I pictured my mind flashing colors as areas of my brain were accessed. Yellow flashes in the white areas when I recognized the hiss of water refilling the ice tray in my refrigerator. A blue block illuminated when I shifted my foot to scratch an itch. And down below, the red boxes pulsed in regular rhythm, the mystery of their true meaning locked hidden inside.

As I watched the visual machinations of my brain, I repeated to myself over and over, “This is me. This is my mind.”

For weeks I simply watched, noting which regions that lit up in response to external impulses. Flashes of green, yellow and blue illuminated my mind grid as the red blocks pulsed ominously. Over time I began to notice a change in my thought processes outside of these exercises. The voice in my head was gone. Instead of an internal monologue, I saw the logic grid of my brain represented by a vibrant array of flashing, glowing blocks, and I understood them. It was as if my mind had shifted into a state of perpetual meditation, a holistic form of prayer without ceasing.

With my logic grid locked in place, it was time to declutter. I focused on the green blocks, emptying and moving them to the rows below the blue, like defragmenting a hard drive. The act required constant focus without distractions as I remapped my brain. The slightest noise would flash yellow in the white regions, halting my progress.

I invested in noise cancelling headphones and disconnected the power to my house. Or maybe the city disconnected it, by that time it had been months since I last paid the bill. I turned off my phone, disconnecting myself from the outside world so I could connect to the one inside me, the one that held the answers I was seeking.

I meditated nonstop, three straight days without sleep or food. I locked myself inside my head, organizing and remapping the thoughts in my brain. At the bottom of the grid, the pulse of the red boxes quickened, glowing to a violent shade of rose madder. As my thoughts decluttered the path became clear. I could reach them, touch them, open them.

I started fiddling with the red boxes, unpacking them to see what was inside. One by one I tapped into their powers, taking control of my subconscious with my conscious mind. I started with my heart rate, ramping it up and down as if turning a dial. I sped it up, seeing yellow blips of anxiety glow brighter as I felt it thump in my eardrums. Then I slowed it down, gradually, like the beat of a single kettle drum, down to a few beats per minute, as slow as I was willing to go without accidentally killing myself.

I worked my way through my other unconscious processes – regulating my internal body temperature, churning my stomach with acid, releasing dopamine, every box I opened gave me unfettered access to all of my body’s systems. My body was a sandbox, and I was going to build a flying castle.

The final red box glowed bright the closer I got to it, as I attempted to unlock its secrets, knowing that inside it contained the ability to access my life’s energy.

As I poked and prodded at the box in my brain, it resisted more than the rest. In my mind I heard a low guttural growl, same as the one I had heard in the labyrinth, and with it came the flood of oppressive thoughts. Was the vision a warning that I misread? Had I pressed too far, meddled with powers I could not control? Was I an interloper in my own brain? My fear response kicked in as the red box representing my amygdala glowed brighter, primed and ready to release fear hormones coursing through my bloodstream.

And it would have, if I had let it. Instead, I shut the process down, turning it off like a switch. I was too close to my goal to allow my doubting mind to gain a new foothold in my logic grid. I was in control, not my fear.

I pushed on, willing my mind to open, revealing the final secrets it kept hidden.

I spoke the words out loud. “Show me.”

The red box vibrated, threatening to crack.

I spoke the words again, with more resolve. “Show me.”

As the box opened, a blinding white light washed over me. The logic grid disappeared from my mind’s eye, and I found myself in the middle of a stone circle surrounded by a tall evergreen hedgerow. Even though I didn’t recognize the clearing, I knew where I was. It was the center of the labyrinth.

And I wasn’t alone.

The minotaur sat on a stone at the center of the circle. Even seated he towered over me; his true height upwards of twelve to fifteen feet. He had the broad, muscular torso of a man with the legs and the face of a bull. His horns were pearlescent white with jewels encrusted tips I had previously mistaken for spikes. His eyes were the same glowing red as the boxes that represented my unconscious mind, but they were warm, offering no malice towards me.

His tail swished back and forth as he turned, beckoning me to join him. I walked across the clearing and sat on a stone across from him in the middle of the circle. He looked down at me and nodded.

“You are persistent, little one,” he said. His voice was calm and soothing. “What brings you to this place?”

Although I couldn’t visualize it, I felt the grid of my mind still working, lighting up and guiding my responses as I spoke to the minotaur.

“I wish to harness my spiritual energy,” I answered. “I want to fly.”

“That is a dangerous power to wield,” he said.

I nodded. “Even though, I still seek it.”

“And what if I refuse to grant you this knowledge?” he asked.

“You won’t,” I replied.

He chuckled at that. “Persistent, confident, and perhaps foolish. Tell me, little one, why are you certain that I will grant this request?”

“Because I created you,” I said.

At first he said nothing, just held his red eyes on me as I held mine to his.

“If you created me, what am I to you?” he asked.

“You are my Fear,” I answered. “I made you strong to keep me safe, even if it means holding me back from what I desire.”

The minotaur said nothing.

I continued, gesturing to our surroundings. “I created this place as well. It exists for me to connect to my life energy. I am certain of this because I designed the process to find it, and my processes are the only ones I trust not to fail.”

I don’t know how long we sat like that staring at one another. We were in a space that existed outside of time, one that I had created.

The minotaur nodded slowly as he smiled. “You are correct, little one. They do not fail.”

He stood, gesturing for me to join him. He pressed his thick thumb against my forehead as he spoke.

“If your desire is to fly, then you will fly.”

Heat radiated from his thumb, spreading throughout my body as it unlocked an untapped wellspring of energy from deep within. The energy coursed through me from the tips of my fingers down through my toes, filling me with a fizzy sensation of electricity.

I kissed the back of his hand as he pulled it from my forehead.

“Thank you,” I said.

The minotaur disappeared in a swirl of red light as I returned to my logic grid, which looked different from before. Below the red boxes were additional rows that were previously hidden from me. These boxes coursed with an orange energy I was yet to understand, but knew that with time and focus I would discover the secrets inside them as well.

As my consciousness returned to the physical world, I felt a pain in the top of my head, as if I had scraped against something sharp. When I opened my eyes, the floor was eight feet below me. The scrape I felt was my head rubbing against the textured pattern of the ceiling.

I was flying.

It took some time to learn how to get down from the ceiling. Once I did, I worked on controlling myself in the air, moving up and down, and propelling myself forward and backwards. I still feel the pull of gravity, and sadly the ability to fly didn’t come with the core strength necessary to hold a Superman pose longer than a few seconds. My body hangs vertically in the air, hovering off the ground as I fly about the house. Not quite how they do it in the comics, but this was real.

I haven’t flown outside yet, but that will change soon. When I checked my email, I saw a notification that the company I was supposed to interview with still hadn’t filled the position. I reached out to the hiring manager, apologizing for flaking on them earlier and asking if they’d be willing to give me another chance.

I don’t know how, but I knew he would say yes. Perhaps the answer to that was in my newly accessible spiritual mind that I was still unpacking.

The job felt small compared to what I had accomplished, but it was still meaningful, and I wanted to prove that I could do it. Besides, living in Seattle was always my dream, and now there was nothing standing in my way.

Not even Phil.