In real life, we almost never get to see an actual finish line. Change comes slowly, instead — it creeps up on us little by little, in incremental motions and movements, until we realize just how much we’ve been overwhelmed.

Change hit me early on Sunday morning as I packed — all of my finely-laid plans over the last few months went out the window as soon as I tried to fit four days’ worth of clothes into the Brain Bag. There just wasn’t enough room — even without all of my tech, I was just trying to do too much with too little.

In the end, I ended up using a different Tom Bihn bag, and after much frustrating discussion with myself, I decided to go ahead and also bring the usual laptop bag I use at conventions. In the end, the decision to bring that one was strangely calming: Of course I would bring the bag I always use. Why wouldn’t I? Why did I even think, over all these months, that I wouldn’t?

And of course I did bring my iPad. After all that, after all the back and forth about whether I would use it or whether I wanted to carry it around or not, I brought it along anyway.

After the frustration of packing (Did I remember everything? What disastrous decisions did I make? I drove my friend Dan crazy with worried questions while he, in return, drove me to the airport), the journey itself was fairly mundane. There was a line at the terminal to check in, another line for security, and another line to board. I’ve been to LAX many times before, and though I did hear a few English accents board the plane with me, I’d done all of this before.

The TVs on board showed The Artist and Friends with Benefits, and I read The Art of Fielding (well written, though I had trouble caring about the characters) on my iPad and listened to music. As we flew east, night fell. Of course, it fell a few hours faster than usual, but it didn’t seem like it — one moment we were flying back over Los Angeles, the next the sun was setting as we flew over the Rockies, and the next it was dark outside. I’ve seen that all going back and forth from Chicago before.

I played Fairway Solitaire and Civ Revolution. I tried to get some sleep. My back was injured in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and while it’s mostly OK now, the plane seats didn’t do any favors. My silent seat mate slept like a log somehow, and I had to bend my leg uncomfortably to keep it from rubbing against him.

The flight crew (all English) served chicken or steak, cooked up in little boxes all branded with Virgin Atlantic’s logo. I got a kick out of them offering me tea afterwards — I forgot how much England likes its tea. I’ll have to have tea while here for sure.

And then, at some point during the night, maybe about 1am Los Angeles time and 5am local time, I looked out of the plane window next to me. I was hoping to maybe see the ocean, see what it was like to have just water spanning the world below.

Instead, I saw the sun rise over Greenland. It was just beautiful — the pink light reflected off of countless ranges of mountains below, no sign of civilization in sight. Just endless snow without a footprint to be seen. It was surreal, to say the least.

And I was struck by how I’d gotten there. I’d driven with a friend to LAX — that’s no big deal, I’ve been there plenty of times now, either to pick people up or leave or arrive myself. I’d checked in to a plane, and flown for six hours or so, all things I’ve done before. But just following those usual tasks had taken me to a place I’d never been before, shown me something I didn’t even think I’d see.

Those mountains were so big — the world we live in is so big. I’m so wrapped up in the day-to-day; picking which computer bag to bring, or whether I should carry my iPad or not, that I forget, or just plain don’t know that there are endless, uninhabited mountain ranges out there, an entire world that exists and has existed for much longer than anyone reading this has ever been alive.

Change doesn’t show up all in a hurry — it sneaks into our lives piece by piece, and when those pieces arrive, we don’t even see them as change. They’re just minute parts of our day to day, usually just written off as coincidences or even challenged as frustrations. But even the mundane and the boring can lead the way to something surprising, a whole world that you’ve never seen before.

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012 at 9:42 am. Filed under general.
You are reading, a collection of work by Mike Schramm.

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