Lessons From Being An SQ Stewardess
*This is part 4 of a 5-part series of my journey as an SQ girl.
During my flying stint with SQ, I’ve grown a lot as a person. Every flight I’ve operated on was unique, and presented me with many new learning opportunities and life lessons.
1. Time is a gift
Work often saw me being away on many festive and celebratory occasions.
One New Year’s day, I quietly stood by my hotel room’s window in Brisbane, trying to catch a glimpse of the fireworks. Another Valentine’s Day, I wandered the streets of Shinjuku, a lonesome party of one. I’ve also spent my birthday alone in wintry Munich, binge-watching movies while curled up in bed.
I also spent too little time with the people I knew back home. I often had to postpone dates with my friends when activated for a flight during a standby shift. My loved ones had to work with my erratic roster to make family gatherings happen.
In my second year of flying, a close friend pointed out l rarely made time to hang out anymore. I felt guilty for neglecting my social life and resolved to manage my time better.
Being constantly away from home made me better appreciate and cherish the time spent with my nearest and dearest ones.
2. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Travelling taught me a lot about respecting every country’s unique customs and culture.
For instance, while tipping in America is expected, it’s considered rude in Japan. Siesta is a concept widely embraced by restaurants in European cities, but not in Asian ones.
In London, people walk on the left and stand on the right of the escalator. In countries such as Singapore and Australia, you do the reverse.
Needless to say, because I was unfamiliar with the different habits of each country, I would sometimes only discover them after being met with an angry glare or receiving an unexpected tirade from the locals.
Flying has definitely broadened my perspectives on the human race: I’ve seen the prettiest and ugliest sides of people I never thought I’d cross paths with.
3. It is impossible to please everyone
The best advice I’ve received from a colleague was to take nothing personally.
At work, I have been ignored, bullied and yelled at by rude passengers and bossy colleagues. Initially, I was affected by their obnoxious behaviours as I wanted to be treated as well as how I treated others.
It took a toll on my emotional well-being as I held in a lot of pent-up anger—I couldn’t vent, especially not with so many pairs of eyes fixated on me in the cabin.
Sometimes, my best efforts would fall short of others’ expectations. To cope with these disparaging comments, I often pretended to be unbothered by verbal insults which were thinly-veiled as ‘constructive’ feedback.
But rather than react to their anger with an outburst of my own, I chose to empathise with and understand the source of their anger. Through dealing with unpleasant experiences, I learnt to develop a sense of compassion.
I made peace with myself when I figured out it was fine not to be in everyone’s good books.
4. Some opinions do NOT matter
When I first started flying, I felt like I was being thrown into the deep end.
Imagine a bitchy working environment where you’ll get ‘zapped’ when your lipstick doesn’t match your nails, or reprimanded when you are a probationary crew and forget to email your senior colleagues to ‘seek their guidance’ before a flight.
Cabin crew make for judgmental colleagues. Often, we’d size each other up in the briefing room, based on how one looks, acts and speaks.
Once, I was asked if I was a polytechnic graduate when a ranking crew highlighted that I spoke too quickly, as if being a poly student was a ‘bad thing’.
On another occasion, I was ‘advised’ to remove a mole on my face as “the mole served no purpose and was a distraction”. Another time, I was told to wear a more fitting uniform after losing some weight.
Over time, I realised many of the comments I received from my colleagues were born of malicious intent. Thus, I made a pact to remain true to myself, regardless of what others thought of me.
5. Home is where the heart is
At the start of my flying career, I was determined to make the most of my nomadic lifestyle. Thus, I made a mental note to accomplish many things on my bucket list during my overseas travel.
Skydiving in Houston? Checked. Rolling in the snow on the Swiss Alps? Checked. Enjoying a chi-chi high tea date at a famous tea room in London? Checked.
While my social media feed boasted of breathtaking views and exotic locations, it did not make me feel complete. There was always a nagging thought at the back of my head that I wasn’t truly happy.
Though I collected many wonderful memories along the way, I did not share them with my loved ones. My heart constantly yearned for home.
My only comforting thought whenever I left Singapore on a long haul flight, was the string of days off that followed after I returned.
It’s Important To Follow Your Heart
I might not have been able to brag about drawing a high salary or scaling the corporate ladder, but flying made me realise my self-worth and priorities in life.
Every mistake made and every lesson learnt made me who I am today.
Cover image: Source