We all have a story about why we do what we do.
Some might be in a profession because their career counsellor told them they’d be a good fit, or because they follow their parents footsteps or simply for monetary reasons, having bills to pay.
I started out as an engineer because a teacher told me I’m good with numbers and I choose the textile industry because of my parents family business. Then life happened and I needed to re-evaluate, needed to change and re-orient.
One incident changed everything once again and made me take the path I’m on now.
This is my story on why and how I became a psychologist and coach. It is personal, uncomfortable and overwhelming at times, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I should have known when they cancelled our flight and put us on the next one. We should have taken the sign, gone back home and had a long and generous breakfast. But we didn’t, and this flight became one of the most memorable ones of my life.
The start was uneventful and so was most of the cruising but just as the seatbelt signs came on to alert us to our imminent landing approach, the plane took a deep plunge. I later read that a plane doesn't drop more than three to five metres during turbulence, but my stomach in that moment would beg to differ. The whole cabin let out one simultaneous cry, which turned to a whimper and then silence.
The plane plunged again, and shook left and right. I felt like a grain in a big bag of sand, or a boxer being soundly defeated – punched from all directions. I clutched my armrests, as if that would make a difference. I needed something to hold on to, something stable in a shaky metal tube thousands of feet above the ground.
I've read many times that people start to pray in such situations or that their life flashes by like a movie. My husband told me later that he was thinking of all the opportunities he’d missed and how much he still wanted to teach our children. My thoughts weren't that selfless though. In fact, they were quite the opposite. All I could think of was how much I abuse my body. Stuffing it with junk and poison. Yes, poison!
I made a deal then. With God, the universe, whoever was listening. "Let me land safely and I’ll never touch a cigarette again."
It went dark. Storm clouds amassed around us, immersing the cabin in a strange kind of twilight. It was not quite light and yet not fully dark. It engulfed us, teased us and breathed fear into some and bravery into others.
The mumbling got louder. Some were praying, I'm sure, some just nervously talking. I heard a cry here or there and a few swear words thrown in for good measure. People were falling back on their natural coping mechanisms I realised, and mine was calmness. Not the good kind, though. It was the stillness stemming from absolute terror. I was frightened like never before in my life. I wasn't even able to wipe away the tears running down my face or move my head to look around.
It wasn't over yet.
Shake left, shake right! My head hit the window. Then came an announcement. It was the captain telling us that he would try to land from a different angle. The engines roared and we gained height again.
There was a moment of stillness when we were out of the clouds but the relief I longed for didn't come. As the plane turned, my side lifted forcing me to look down to my left. My husband faced me, our eyes locked and our hands interlinked. No words were needed. He was as scared as I was and yet we were together. ‘Until death do...’ No, don't go there!
The shaking started again. Even heavier than before if that was even possible. I don't know how long it took for us to land. Five minutes? Ten? I started praying then, chanting the same phrase over and over again. I transported myself into a form of trance, still holding the armrest on one side and my husband’s hand on the other. I blanked out the noise and buried myself in a hidden place deep inside.
The force of the thrust slowing the plane brought me back to reality. We had made it. We had survived. But I still couldn't move. I still couldn't comprehend. We were safely on the ground and yet my throat felt as if a noose was tightly around it. I felt a squeeze of my hand and heard somebody talking to me, but I was frozen still.
It's then that I realised that my life had changed and would never be the same again.