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Ashley Kelsch on Staying the Course to Reach Your Destination

After a disappointing flight experience, the podcast host is reminded of the value in not wavering from your set goals

It was a rainy day in August at the Newark Airport. People were everywhere, but not in the usual, ‘you’re at the airport, people are coming and going, moving to and from their gates, exiting and entering’ way. This was the opposite of that. People were coming to the airport and none of them were leaving.

Flights were being rerouted due to weather and other delays. The people on those flights, in addition to the people who were there to get on their flights, were all stuck, and I was one of them.

People were sprawled out across multiple seats and on the floor staring at their phones or sleeping; huddled up in corners with more phones and heads hanging; drinking at the bar; waiting in lines demanding to know more. Babies were crying while their parents tried to console them with a look of desperation that this was happening. “Help me,” their eyes begged as their children sobbed. Food lines were long and options were limited.

Not new to the realities of travel, I’m always fairly prepared with the mindset that I’m going to make it to my destination, I just don’t know what could happen between starting that journey and arriving. I try to take my brain to a place of auto-pilot and remain neutral and as unemotional as possible — a practice that I’ve also learned to use when dating.

I was pleasantly surprised to run into a friend, almost literally, when I was turned away from the United Club. It was full from flights of people that had been grounded throughout the day. My friend was one of those people and was looking for a space to sit and work. We had the same idea. I felt bad being the bearer of bad news, saying, “We can’t go in,” but I followed up with a somewhat cheerful, “At least we have each other to be with! Let’s go sit and eat.”

MORE: Ashley Kelsch Navigates the Highs and Lows of Co-Parenting

She turned her luggage around and joined me. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “I can’t believe I’ve been here all day. I’m over it. All I’ve done is eat all day. I’ll sit while you eat.”

Ashley Kelsch

“Perfect,” I said. “If worse comes to worse, we can bail and get a hotel together.”

“Nope.” My friend firmly told me she was holding out and not leaving unless it was on a flight back to Austin. I had to hand it to her — she was committed, whereas I was a little more easy come, easy go.

As we weaved our luggage through the airport, she asked, “So what’s new with dating?” I responded, “Oh, you know,” and we both laughed.

“I will say this,” I said as I looked at her. “I saw a few couples this weekend walking the streets in Brooklyn, arms around each other, leaning in and laughing. They were talking like they were the only people in the world. I remember that feeling. It’s been a long long time. Nothing tops it and very few experiences come close to the emotional state of bliss you are in at the beginning. It made me miss it a little. That feeling of knowing this is my person. You believe wholly in that moment that you can — and will — take on life and all it presents together happily, as long as you have one another.”

I could almost feel the sensation describing it. That’s when I remembered and shifted the conversation to her. “Wait, the last time we talked, you mentioned being ready to find a partner and companion. Is that still on the agenda?” I asked.

She laughed before responding, “I was. And you know what? I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m not opposed to monogamy. It’s the monotony that I can’t stand. It gets so boring and predictable.”

There’s that moment you realize the laugh that once turned your world upside down is the noise making you cringe while you watch Netflix from opposite sides of the couch. We talked of couples that we knew and loved, but had been together so long that they hated each other.

“Do you think it’s just getting through that seven year itch that may last two or three years where you despise the person, but if you break through that threshold, you are stronger and more in love for it?” I wondered.

She laughed, “I have no idea.” We had finally found a table, and I realized that I’ve never made it past the seven year mark in a relationship. I’ve been married twice and my exit was almost perfectly aligned each time at that mile marker.

I have left during the moments of not being able to see the light or ending of living another second with myself or that person. Sometimes, I fantasize about getting to that place with someone, but sticking it out and learning to stay until I love them or the relationship again.

Our conversation turned to business and she reminded me to stay the course on what I was doing.

MORE: Ashley Kelsch Has a PSA for Casual Daters

Our phones chimed every 20 minutes with another delay. We decided to head to our gate for more information. It was absolute chaos. The associate working the counter was answering the same questions of “When will it happen? How long do I have to wait? Can you tell me more? How could this be happening?”

She repeated, “Your guess is as good as mine. They are working to figure this out but I can’t say for sure. No one is canceling but the time is unknown for now.” She remained cool, but her look was firm. “I can offer you a voucher and the option of another flight. That is all. Would you like that, or would you like to wait?”

My thoughts circled back to planning and strategy — do I feel like waiting it out or or calling it? Should I retreat to a hotel for the evening and try again tomorrow?

I oscillated between calling it before any onset of discomfort, but I was not confident enough to make the decision on my own. I texted my friend, who is a pilot for the same airline, to ask what he thought. After some reconnaissance, he got back to me. There were weather patterns, flights rerouted and a traffic jam of planes on the tarmac.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Your plane has landed and is trying to get to the gate. The only thing that would prevent you from not flying out tonight is if the pilots have maxed out their fly time, but you’re at a base airport. Trust me. They need to get these planes off the ground. Otherwise, tomorrow will be a nightmare. Don’t book a hotel. Wait it out.”

Or, as my friend had said earlier, “Stay the course.”

So we had some news — “You’ll leave, but not sure when. Your plane is out there, but not sure where.”

I waited and after observing more people canceling and claiming their vouchers and no plane heading to the gate, my hopes began deflating. My friend left for the restroom and I opened up my app to look at flights for the following day and then searched for the nearest hotel solution within a mile. I booked it. Just like that. Everything in me felt it was the right decision. And honestly, I felt like a self-sufficient adult. I know how to make decisions. See? It’s no big deal.

Just then, my app timed out saying the booking didn’t go through. Simultaneously, the agent at the desk said our plane was approaching the gate. I looked up and watched as she finished saying, “They only need to let the passengers off and clean it.”

We were all set. We would arrive in Austin around 1 a.m., but we would arrive.

My friend came back and heard the good news. We sighed at the mindgame it had been for us — especially her — as she had been one of the ones dropped off eight hours earlier and watched how her flight became another flight and then another flight and so on.

But, she stayed the course and didn’t show any signs of wavering, despite it being a total mess.

Ashley Kelsch, former owner of Teddies for Bettys, a lingerie and well-being store, is a top-certified coach who works with parents and caregivers of teenagers and young adults who are struggling to understand their child’s gender identity and sexual preferences. She helps guide her clients from confusion and conflict to curiosity and connection by teaching them how to manage their thoughts and emotions. She also has a weekly podcast called House of Other: a modern update and sex-positive education about human sexuality, gender sexual diversity, intimate justice, trauma healing, consent and loving relationships. Ashley continues to explore “your brain on dating, love and relationships” through her writing and with her private clients. You can follow her on Instagram @house_of_other and read more of her Tribeza columns here.