You can never hit your head on the overhead compartment in an airplane and play it cool.
You look like an idiot.
You always, always look like an idiot.
What’s worse than that is that you feel even more like one. Of course, everyone’s eyes are on you on that very moment you decide to stand up too quickly in your seat or make your way to your designated row while staring at your smartphone.
I know this because this happens to me on most plane rides in some way, shape, or form. I can’t even use the excuse that I’m simply too tall (I stand at a monstrous 5’2”); I’m just clumsy. My best method when this happens is to laugh it off and keep moving as if nothing ever happened.
Tonight, it happened to the lady in seat 16E.
I was in 16D. Which meant that she had the window seat and I was in the aisle. I was already sitting my seat, deep into the book I was reading (Choose Yourself by James Altucher) when she came stomping toward me.
“Excuse me,” she grumbled. I looked up. She was staring at her Android phone and gesticulating toward my area. “I need to get in.”
I was swift in my movements as I moved out of the way to let her in. I didn’t want to keep her waiting, after all. She moved slowly, her giant purse clutched tightly to her well-endowed chest.
And then it happened.
She smashed her head on the overhead cabin. Hard.
“Are you alright?” I asked without skipping a beat. I knew her pain. At that moment, she looked up and for a brief moment, we locked eyes. She smiled, laughed nervously, and nodded. We then sat down and she returned to her texting.
I was on a flight from Savannah, Georgia to Atlanta, Georgia, so it wasn’t a very long commute. A smidge over an hour long, I had just enough time to finish the book I was reading and contemplate catching a nap. I had my first speaking engagement the next evening, and I was feeling anxious about doing well.
As we neared the end of the hour, the pilot piped up over the speakers. Our flight had left thirty minutes later than planned, so naturally, people were antsy. He asked that those of us not in a hurry stay seated while those who had a layover to catch de-plane could first. My second leg to St. Louis wasn’t for another two hours, so I decided to wait.
The lady next to me in the meantime had spent the past sixty minutes mostly staring out the window, and she was quick to whip her phone out as soon as the plane hit the ground. She was back to her texting ways, quickly and deftly flying her well-manicured thumbs across the screen.
I couldn’t help but glance over at what she was up to. You can’t blame me; I was bored.
Just landed! she texted to someone named Margaret.
I’ll see you in baggage claim! Can’t wait.
As soon as the seatbelt light went off, five dozen people jumped up in their seats. You could tell who had another plane leaving in minutes by the speed with which they moved. I watched as they shuffled out, all in a hurry to get somewhere.
I stayed seated. I was in no rush. I had nowhere I needed to be at that moment.
“Get up,” she mumbled next to me. I looked to my right to see my fellow passenger sitting at the edge of her seat, her purse once again held in a death-grip. I blinked.
“Stand up,” she said again.
“We’re waiting for the people with layovers to get off first,” I explained to her. I assumed that she hadn’t heard when the pilot had explained a few minutes prior. And because I knew that this was her final destination, I saw no reason to move.
“Well if you’re not gonna get up, then let me out,” she snapped. She stood up and practically stomped over me, shoving people out of the way.
I watched her walk away, toward the front of the plane, and then disappear.
I felt nothing.
I could have chosen to get upset by her behavior. I had been perfectly kind to her and she’d been brusque and cold in return. In a word, she was rude.
But actually, it made me smile. Not because I love when people treat me like crap, but because of the realization that her actions did not affect me.
Why? Because nothing that she does is personal.
[Tweet “Nothing that anyone *ever* does is personal.”]
Think about it. If I’d allowed myself to get angry or hurt, I would have spent the remainder of the evening asking myself, What did I do wrong? and dissecting every millimeter of my movement during that hour-long flight. I would have analyzed my behavior down to the point of exhaustion, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. What had I done to offend her?
Meanwhile, that lady has moved on with her life and she’s completely forgotten about me.
Meanwhile, she was probably just eager to see her friend.
Meanwhile, she might have been claustrophobic and she needed to get out of that plane ASAP to get some air.
Meanwhile, she had to pee. Badly.
You may never quite understand the reasons behind someone’s actions. But more importantly, you don’t have to know because it’s never about you.
Do you get that? If I’m having a bad day, my sour mood will likely be projected onto others. I’ll sneer at other people, I’ll snap at them when they’ve done nothing wrong, and my negativity may in turn make them wonder, What did I do wrong? when this whole time, the problem was with me.
If I tell you that your intelligence is subpar and you have no potential to succeed in this world whatsoever, that’s a reflection of my own insecurities. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with you. So don’t eat up my words and allow it to fester inside of you.
On the flipside, if I worship you, kiss your feet, and tell you that you’re the most inspirational person in the world, keep your ego in check. It’s not actually about you; I just need someone to cling onto and idolize.
Once you realize this, everyday life will become much less abrasive. You will become much more humble. You will feel at peace.
The lady on the plane next to me had no idea what she was doing. She was likely only thinking about herself. And I don’t blame her for it one bit; we are all the same way.
[Tweet “Whatever you do and say is because of your own self, not others. “]
Take absolutely nothing personally.