Categorized | Art & Life

A Desire for Change: Former Flight Attendant lands at STLCC

Posted on 12 February 2016 by admin

After earning a living at 30,000 feet for eight years, student drafts a new plan



Heather Lemon did not spend her teenage years at parties or social gatherings, but up in the clouds. At 19, she became a flight attendant and continued to do so for eight years. Flying has led her across the country until she decided to land and pursue a career as an interior designer at STLCC.

Lemon’s parents were pastors and her father was a traveling minister, so they went on some missionary trips to China, Hong Kong, London and traveled all around the United States, Lemon said.

“We traveled a lot so it really gets in your system, you kind of become a gypsy and you’re always wanting to move,” Lemon said.

Lemon’s favorite part of traveling was getting to see different cultures and people, she said.

“Getting out of the same 1-mile radius that we live in,” Lemon said. “I really liked that feeling of knowing that I got to go out and see a lot of different stuff and being not so sheltered. It’s the fear that holds people back.”

You know a good area and a bad area, Lemon said. You are not going to go down a dark alley anywhere. If a place looks like one where you can get in trouble, you probably should not be there, she said.

After these travels and before she decided to become a flight attendant, Lemon studied at St. Charles Community College for a year.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was flunking out of all my classes and I was wasting my parents’ money,” Lemon said. “I found the job in the paper and I was just like – I’m gonna do that.”

Lemon said her parents were very supportive of her decision and she could not have done it without them.

She was the youngest flight attendant in the group, she said, and to become one she had to go through six weeks of training.

“You had to get 100 percent on every single test and you get tests daily,” Lemon said.

Tests involved CPR training, having to know FAA rules and procedures such as emergency exit training. One test was to get all passengers off the plane in 60 seconds, Lemon said.

After six weeks of training was finished, the last part of training took place on an actual plane, Lemon said.

“So you spend six weeks in a book and doing all these things and pretending, and then you get on a plane and some of the trainers are really hard core and not helpful,” Lemon said. “You get out there and it’s like, okay – go.”

During this trip, flight attendants were graded and if they did not pass, they did not receive their certification, Lemon said.

Lemon received her certification and was eventually able to build her schedule however she wanted to, typically working four day trips and being off two or three days at a time, she said. She was based in Chicago so not being home was hard at times. Lemon would try to get standby flights home that were free and fly an open seat.

Although she missed home, she loved to fly, she said. Her favorite part about flying was that her environment was always changing.

“I wasn’t sitting looking out at the same window at the same tree all day long,” Lemon said. “Out my window was always different, if it was snowing and cold and disgusting in Chicago – in an hour or two hours I could be in Florida where it would be hot and sunny.”

If passengers were difficult, that was okay.

“In a couple of hours they would all be gone and you would never see them again, that was your saving grace,” Lemon said as she laughed.

There may have been some dreadful passengers, but there were also good ones. Lemon reflected on one passenger that had acted strange, she said.

“She had a cast on her arm and she was trying to put her bags away – she was making these faces as if she was in pain,” Lemon said.

Lemon offered to help put her bags away. The passenger then sat down and began to cry, she said. Her sister had died of cancer and she was on her way to the funeral.

During the flight, the woman shared pictures and memories of her sister, Lemon said.

“I feel like that was a cool situation – just being able to be there and hopefully make her experience a little bit better,” Lemon said.

If passengers were scared to fly, Lemon would try to help them as well.

“I know it can be really scary when you think about it but I don’t think about it, it’s something I do every day. I believe in God and I believe if something were to happen I know that I’m going to a better place,” Lemon said. “It’s like driving to work every day, it’s my job. We sit there, we take off and we land. I have faith in our pilots and I have faith in myself too,” Lemon said.

There is a difference between fear and real issues that we should think about so that we do not get hurt or make the wrong move, Lemon said.

“I feel like when thoughts are coming at you in waves – you can’t do this or you can’t do that or what if this happens – all these what-ifs, I feel like that’s fear and I feel like most of the time those are our insecurities,” Lemon said. “But I do think when it’s a very small voice inside, kind of like a scratchy feeling, a red flag feeling, a feeling that just stops you – ‘no, not right now this isn’t right’ – I believe that’s the feeling to follow. Because if we let our insecurities AKA-fear- govern our lives, we would never get anywhere. So I try not to listen to those thoughts saying ‘I can’t do something, or what-if’ and instead I try my hardest to listen to that quiet voice on the inside that guides me in the right direction.”

Lemon enjoyed her job until about the age of 23 or 24, she said. She bought a house and thought – why am I paying this house payment when I am only there two days a week? You get tired of not sleeping in your own bed, she said.

“I really loved it and I loved traveling and I loved the people I worked with,” Lemon said. “But it wasn’t fulfilling. I felt like I was really sitting in limbo, you know? I saw my life being a lot different than it was, I felt like I was just waiting around for something to happen that wasn’t happening yet.”

Lemon thought that she would be married and have kids by the time she was 30, she is now going on 28, she said, as she wondered if she got it right.

“I was in a 2-year relationship with this guy that I was madly in love with; I was going to marry him,” Lemon said. “That completely fell through and it was devastating,”

Lemon went through a bad depressive period because of this.

“It’s frustrating because you’re like ‘well I don’t want to put this on him – he doesn’t deserve me to be depressed over him,’ but unfortunately that’s what happened.”

Lemon’s ex-boyfriend was a pilot, so she stayed an extra two years because she wanted to be with him, she said.

“So then I started planning my life around him and being like – ‘well I’m going to do what he wants to do even though I’ve been wanting to leave here and start doing something else,’” Lemon said.

After that, a ‘light bulb moment’ came, she said.

“‘You’re just going to keep putting your life on hold and in limbo until what? Until you’re 40? You’re 50?’” Lemon said. “Screw that.”

She had been waiting around for a good five years with her life on hold, she said.

“I know that the right person is out there for me and I know that he wouldn’t want me to sit and wait around for this long,” Lemon said. “I said no, I’m going to go to school and do some things that I like.”

This was a scary decision to make, Lemon said, after having been away from school for almost ten years.

“I think that it was scary – but just being a flight attendant and going to make that choice, it was something to be scared of because it was the unknown, but I didn’t have that red flag feeling of –‘this isn’t right’ – I just dove right in and that’s the same thing I did with this.”

Lemon is very happy with her decision, she said.

Lemon’s favorite aspect of interior design is to be able to create a lovable space, she said. A space that reflects who you are and how you want to feel in that space.

“It became such a big deal to me because, you know, I wasn’t in my own space traveling so much, I was in hotel after hotel after hotel with other people staying in these generic furnishings and sometimes they were very depressing, and [had] gross stock photos that are stupid that nobody should ever ____ (37:20),” Lemon said as she laughed.

Something that she has gained from her job as a flight attendant is confidence, Lemon said. Confidence in herself, her personality and who she is as a person.

“When I started this job I was way more shy and almost introverted so it really pushed me out of the nest to be like – ‘now you have to talk to people and you have to stand in front of people. This is your plane, you’re in control of it and if something happens you’re the person everybody looks to,’” Lemon said.

If she did not have her job as a flight attendant, she does not know if she would have matured as fast as she did, Lemon said.

“The job I’m in now, I’m the lowest man on the totem pole and I used to be head honcho so it’s weird – that shift – but it’s humbling,” Lemon said.

She is now more confident in herself and her new career choice, she said.

“I’m not going to live my life [through] fear. I would rather go out and live life,” Lemon said.


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