Thirty years ago today I started my career with TWA. I was 21 years old. Having completed the required 6-week travel academy, I stepped out onto that reservation sales floor ready to take my first phone call. It was terrifying, but I was also determined, trained, and ready. Those wings were in reach now and there was no way I was walking away a second time.
My journey to TWA actually started 2 years earlier. I wanted to work for the airline, so Tim drove me to an open call for flight attendants being held at the Renaissance Hotel at the edge of the St. Louis airport. Surrounded by what seemed like masses of beautiful and tall young ladies, fear and self-doubt immediately set in. After listening to part of the orientation I walked out, climbed into our car, and retreated home. Once I learned that all new hires would be based out of the JFK New York hub and not the St. Louis hub, I found my safe excuse for retreat. Other than my husband I didn’t tell anyone else why I gave up on my dream. I simply said, “I can’t move to New York.” That was that.
Instead of facing my insecurities about appearance or age, I leaned into an easy excuse that wasn’t even the real issue. It was a path I couldn’t even see myself on, so I gave up on the dream without even trying. But God. He has such a funny way to get us lined up for where we need to be even when we run away. He just changes the particulars sometimes, and oh, also lets us wander around the wilderness for a little bit to get ready again.
After my flight attendant “interview”, I took a customer service job for a wholesaler in downtown St. Louis. Professionally, I was never more miserable in my entire life. I was stuck in a box with no creativity, no flexibility, and no relationships. I was also exposed to workplace sexual abuse. The day I reported the abuse I was asked to leave because in the late ’80s the voice of the male national sales manager was more influential and powerful than mine.
At 20 years old I was married, starting our infertility journey, reeling from the abuse, and unemployed – I was lost without a direction for the future. I spent the next 9 months working on our little house, taking a few classes, and volunteering at church. One day I discovered hardwood under our carpet, so I decided to refinish the floors. Tim came home to find all of our carpet in the front yard. My patient, never-has-an-opinion husband said 4 words that changed my life forever: “Dawn, get a job.”
Literally, the next day I found an ad that TWA was hiring reservation sales agents at an open interview. I got dressed, drove to the interview alone, walked in, and was hired on the spot. Finally, I was starting to see that fear was a liar. I was starting to reverse the lies that kept me from beginning my airline career 2 years before. The rest, as they say, is history. For the next 10 years, I was part of a large, beautiful, diverse, exciting adventure that took me all over the world. Coworkers became like family as we faced many thrilling and painful experiences together, from weddings and babies to bankruptcy (twice) and the crash of Flight 800.
Funny enough, I did end up moving to New York! In 1994, I accepted a position in our company that was ultimately moving to St. Louis. I spent six months commuting from New York to St. Louis until our headquarters finished relocating. This time it was all my choice; I applied, interviewed, and accepted the relocation without fear or hesitation. Not long after, I accepted the Sales and Marketing Annual Award of Excellence. Interestingly, the award dinner was held at the very hotel I had run out years before in fear.
Although it escapes my understanding, the details of our stories matter to God. Redemption of our perspectives and the reversal of fear is so important. We are empowered for our future when can look back and see God’s presence at work in our past. Today, on this 30thanniversary date that falls in this professional space when I’m once again stepping into the unknown, I am grateful that God cares about our journey. He will make sure we are always on track. It’s also a powerful reminder to me to “fear not” about what’s ahead. God’s got this, indeed, he always has.