I have to be frank with you, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off. I dreamed, I hoped, I prayed; but I wasn’t entirely sure.
A little over a year ago, I finally gave in to a pressing upon my heart to make a difference in a community of which I am a part – the aviation community. My longing came from a place of frustration and broken heartedness with so much of the things that I saw out there. All I wanted was a place to find encouragement in this life, gain advice from those who had been there, and love my pilot out loud while still laughing together about the craziness that this life also encompasses.
What I repeatedly found, however, was a well of negativity and bitterness – bashing of spouses and their careers, demeaning of one another, and attacks on those women who dared to admit that they loved their pilots or their lives as aviation spouses. I found that instead of feeling built up or encouraged after visiting these sites, I felt even lonelier and a bit like I had shot a syringe of negativity straight into my veins.
I began to wonder if we could do this better.
For a long time, I wrote off pilot wife groups altogether. However, I truly needed the camaraderie of others who understood the struggles and nuances of this lifestyle but still wanted to do it well. I couldn’t believe there were not others out there that wanted the same thing I did in a community, but they were either being drowned out by the noise or had slowly, like myself, just given up and decided they were on their own because it wasn’t worth the toxicity to their lives.
And that is why I birthed #thepilotwifelife. I set different expectations and laid out firm parameters. Trolling, demeaning, and bashing would not be tolerated. It was a place where I hoped to give those who wished to love their spouses better a voice and for those who were struggling a place to find encouragement and positive advice. I wanted to create a strong, positive community where we could encourage one another, learn to F.L.Y., and strengthen our marriages.
I wasn’t sure we could pull it off, however, because looking across the internet, there is a very real culture of negativity, trolling, unkindness, bullying. There is nary a blog or article or even personal thread that you encounter anymore where the comments are not nasty, derogatory, full of hate and derision. I knew I was asking something huge of the pilot wife community – to rise above the social media culture as well as aviation culture and create something very different, something beautiful. But could it be done?
In the beginning, we were only a couple of hundred strong, and I pretty much knew them all personally in one respect or another and knew it would be okay. But then something incredible and unexpected happened. This community exploded. It went from a few hundred to over 10k in a matter of days. And with that kind of growth, inevitably comes the dark side of social media. However, I also realized something else. People were longing for this! There was a desperate need in our circles for exactly what was being created here. They were hungry to find a community where they could share their struggles but still love their spouses.
So through the firestorm, I trudged forward. I stood firm in my expectations for this site and the rules by which we would abide here, not wavering under the scrutiny of general public pressure.
While there were a few early incidents of ugliness that were swiftly dealt with, most were not actually aviation men and women at all. I did not budge. In fact, what I have experienced over the last year has been nothing short of breathtaking. Our numbers are continuing to grow at an astounding rate, and yet the culture of kindness and positivity that this page was created to encompass has remained firm, if not stronger. I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am of you!
Sometimes I post things and I cringe slightly because I am waiting for the inevitable outflow of demeaning comments, bashing, or negativity. On the posts that I consider somewhat ‘iffy’, I check the comments frequently expecting that I will be dealing with some unsavory behavior…
And yet, it simply is not happening here! I have not actually had to admonish or remove comments or people in…well, months. And even then, there have only been a very small handful. You cannot begin to fathom how amazing and unconventional that is for a group of this size to continue to uphold a scroll don’t troll mentality and treat each other with utmost kindness and respect! It is, in fact, virtually unheard of, anywhere. My heart is full!
You have not only embraced this community and what I hoped for it to represent, but you have ran with it and made it so much more! You continually love each other unabashedly, pour out heartfelt positive advice, commiserate together about the struggles without demeaning your spouses, and agree to disagree respectfully when it is so required. To say that I am proud of each and every one of you would not encompass the scope of how I feel for you. Time and time again, you make my heart swell with love. You give me hope that this world can be a better place. You exemplify what kindness can accomplish.
You, my beautiful aviation brothers and sisters, are a shining example to the whole world of how people of different backgrounds, beliefs, nationalities, colors, religions, etc…can love each other and do it well! Don’t ever stop. The world is taking notice! You are lighting the way to a different path, and it is incredible!
This is what I have discovered through this entire endeavor. We do not have to settle for hatred! We can and should take a stand against bullying and by our own actions, words, and refusal to take part in it, create a better place for everyone. Responding to trolling does not ‘fix’ the problem, but rather refusing to be manipulated or dragged into the fight. A fire without fuel quickly burns itself out.
We do not have to accept anything lesser. It’s not intolerant to refuse to play part to hatred. Perhaps the world has been tolerant of those things too long!
And maybe, just maybe, one person taking a stand for love can make a difference in this world after all.
I love you, aviation family. I am so incredibly proud of what we have built here. I am looking forward to seeing where this next year takes us. Where ever that might be I know it will be filled with encouragement, laughter, and hope, because that is what you stand for. I have a plethora of ideas and aspirations for this upcoming year, probably more than I can even begin to fit in my own little hangar, but who am I to put God in a tiny me-sized box? He’s already proven over the last year that greater things than we could even begin to imagine can and will happen if we only take that first step out in faith.
From the bottom of my heart, friends, thank you. Keep it positive.
Angelia (a proud fellow pilot wife)