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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Frerich

Background (as a Prelude to "Decisions")



I have been faced with window, but now two open doors.


Let me back up...


After my parents accident (a story for still another time), I took a more serious look at what I really wanted for my future, and what I wanted my life to look like. It's the decision that inevitably led to my leaving teaching, but it also prompted my return to aviation. I've had my Airframe and Powerplant certification now for over 10 years, and I've never utilized it. I started the Aviation Maintenance Technology program back in my junior year of high school, back when I was in AFJROTC and I spent some time legitimately thinking that I might pursue a career in the military. I remember the first time I really knew I loved aviation was when I got to take a trip with my ROTC program to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, home of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, affectionately known as the "Hurricane Hunters." I'd always been super nerdy into weather (still am honestly lol), so I was excited to get to see the modded C-130s they used for their missions. We took the trip over the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, so that upcoming school year would be when I would start my A&P training. So, going into this trip, I already knew that I'd be doing aircraft maintenance stuff in the near future, but it was super kewl to get to walk into the hangar and see the Hurricane Hunter birds all gutted and several mechanics (including many female mechanics, which was really kewl to me) actively working. I remember standing there, in the Mississippi heat of the hangar, thinking how awesome it would be to get to do that everyday.


Somewhere along the lines I guess...well, I don't want to say I lost that, because I don't think I ever really did lose that desire. I just think that I have a lot of competing interests, and there for a while, academics were a huge interest for me. I did finish the A&P program the year after I graduated high school. But I still had my head up in the clouds, and I wanted to pursue meteorology. It's funny to me how I flow in and out of interest in things. I always come back to the same things, but I can't seem to tie myself down to one particular pursuit.


So, with meteorology on my mind, I went off to the University of Oklahoma to study meteorology. I finished my A&P program in July 2013, and was in college at OU in Norman, OK by August 2013. Stuff moved really quickly. That would section of my life did really. I graduated high school in May 2012, finished A&P training in July 2013, started at OU in August 2013, sorority house fire (where I lived while attending OU) in January of 2014, engaged to my now spouse in February 2014, dropped out of OU in (I think) March of 2014, married my now spouse in June 2014, had first kid in January 2015, got pregnant with our second kid in like December of 2015, then lost our second kid in January or February 2016, almost immediately after the D&C found out we were pregnant with our third kiddo, started school at Western Governors University online in March 2016, had our third kiddo in September 2016, and I think things finally started to slow down for a bit after that, but then quickly ramped up again once they got going. I finally graduated with my bachelor's in June 2018, started a new job in August of 2018, started my master's coursework in September 2018, did okay for a while, but slowly got overwhelmed after my spouse had emergency kidney surgery in October of 2019. I took a term break shortly there after, but returned to WGU in August 2020 to finish my master's under a new major, graduating with my master's in January 2021.


Obviously by that time COVID happened, which I obviously don't need to explain the impact of. While many employers laid off, my husband was never laid off, and as a teacher, both my spouse and I were considered "essential workers." As things kicked back up in aviation when we started to dig out from under COVID's thumb, my husband started to explore the options he had. He ended up applying for a job with Southwest Airlines in a few different places, but in November of 2021, my husband got an interview and eventually the job with Southwest in Phoenix, Arizona. December 2021 was spent packing and 2022 was the year of constant transitions.


End of December, we moved my husband to Phoenix, but the kids and I had opted to stay in Oklahoma City for the remainder of the school year. I had (and still do have, really) this insane amount of loyalty for the team that supported me through my first four years as a teacher. I had finally gotten to become the 8th grade team lead, and I couldn't just walk away from that or my team. So, I didn't. Instead, somewhat stupidly, I split up my family for the first six months of my husband's new job, the time that he was in the probationary stage of his new employment anyway, but still, it really sucked. So, January 2022, my husband starts his new job in Phoenix, while I'm still moving us out of the old house in OKC. We split the house move into three parts: part of our stuff went to Phoenix with my husband (although that amount was minimal, since he'd have a studio apartment in Phoenix and it was just him there), part of our stuff went to a new, smaller apartment in OKC, where the children and I were to live, and about half maybe of our stuff went to storage in OKC, where we planned to, at some point, move it to Phoenix.


February of 2022, we were fully out of the "Preakness House" (our first house house together in Oklahoma City) and moved into our respective apartments. The school year concludes in May 2022, June is spent packing once again (the OKC apartment), and we split the OKC apartment into two moves as well: almost everything to a new storage unit in OKC and one small U-Haul traveling across country to Phoenix, where our family of 4 united in a 400 square foot studio apartment because we just couldn't manage to get a house rental to save our lives throughout the first half of the year. (Like, seriously, we must've looked at 10-15 different places, and just kept losing out of them to other people. It was ridiculous!)


July of 2022, we are all living together in the studio apartment. Mid-July, I interview and get a job as a math teacher at a local high school, and school starts for us newcomers in August 2022. The lease on the studio apartment ends in December, and in Arizona (Phoenix at least), most places require you to give two months notice, so we're still actively looking for a bigger place throughout the next couple of months. We finally manage to get a house, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1751 square foot house in a gated community right in the foothills of South Mountain. Beautiful place. October 2022 marks the lease-signing for the new place and the hectic moving begins once more. Fortunately, it's super easy to move a studio apartment into a 3 bedroom house. It looked like we didn't own anything for the longest time lol over Thanksgiving break (November 2022), our family took a trip to OKC to get some stuff out of storage to bring to the new place. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner provided by Cracker Barrel in an Oklahoma City hotel room lol


December 2022 is when crap starts to hit the fan a bit, but it's only a prelude for hell of a year that is about to rain down on us in 2023. The day after Christmas, I get a call that my grandmother is in the hospital and that I should highly consider an emergency trip to Kansas, where my "upper" family lives. She'd had a hemorrhagic stroke, and they weren't sure what was going to happen to her. Unfortunately, this was the Christmas travel season when Southwest's systems crashed, so it was literally impossible to get a flight, standby or otherwise. We ended up driving halfway across the country, which cost us a pretty penny, more than we were planning on spending after the 4 moves wiped our savings during the preceding year. She ended up being okay, and I'm glad we went, but it was not a great way to ring in the new year.


At some point in January 2023, we return home and begin the new semester of school. February 2023, I get an update that my fur-sister of 17 years made her way to the big dog park in the sky. After my grandmother's stroke, it hit my mom really hard. And while Copper Doodle Dog loved all the grandkids, I'm sure she loved my son the best, and he loved her almost as much as his blankie best friend (which means the most to him of almost anything in this world), so it him just as hard, too. But as if this weren't already enough, especially for my poor mother, then March 2023 rolls around.


I don't have the mental or emotional capacity even now, exactly 4 months later (wow, to the day. That fact alone, when I realized it just now, made my stomach clench...), to go in depth with the events that befell the end of March 2023. Suffice it to say that it was tough. March 21st, 2023, my parents were in a car crash that killed my father, and critically injured my mother. She spent two weeks in ICU and was intubated for about half that time.


I honestly can't type about it, even still. I might be able to one day, but I just can't right now. In those days, I was so on top of my shit, documenting everything and almost dissociating myself into an objective viewpoint. I did nightly posts for those two weeks while she was in the hospital, updating everyone on a blow-by-blow of the day, and keeping a solid record for me of the events as they unfolded. It's honestly as if I spent all that effort, fully feeling and understanding everything as it happened, that I don't feel like I can give anymore of my self to that timeframe. Again, maybe some day I'll explore that again, but for right now, I'm letting it rest, only dredging up the pieces as they come up with my mother as she has finally been able to start processing those events from her perspective as she heals.


The end of April 2023 saw the memorial service for my father. In some crazy humor of God, I lost my voice the week of the service, crazy in that I had volunteered to lead praise and sing a MercyMe piece at the service. I ended up gaining some of it back leading up to the day, and was able to struggle through the praise songs on the day of the service with the help of family voices, but still had to drop the special music to the recorded original as my voice still wasn't up to the more complex delivery. It might've been better that way anyway. I was able to spend that time with family instead, so I suppose that must have been the way it was meant to be anyway.


For the sake of finishing up my timeline recap (which, at this point is more for me than any reader, as I have long since realized that this post has become more of a reflection on the last 10 years than it is about laying some background for the, now future, post about my difficulty in decision making. I have decided to go ahead and make that a separate post to spare you all an any longer read), I will leave it at that. Again, I'm sure at some point I'm going to have to make a post about all the events related to my parents' accident, but at present point, the thought of dragging all of that back out just leaves me feeling exhausted.


So, to more forward, after my father's funeral at the end of April 2023, I returned back to work for a short amount of time, right as the school year was coming to an end. At this point, I felt like the end of the year was in shambles. I had been gone for roughly 5-6 weeks out of the 9-weeks in Quarter 4. I wrapped things up as best as I could, but in truth, my heart just wasn't in it anymore. I had a huge struggle, financially, being gone from work for as long as I was, and being new to the school district I worked in only made things worse. I didn't have any sick or personal days when this whole thing occurred, and my pay was cut for essentially the entire duration. My district doesn't offer paid bereavement leave, so I didn't even have that to help me out. I didn't have FMLA either, being that it was my first year in the district, but my district didn't fire me, so I suppose that's a blessing, although at the time I felt as though they might as well have. I may have had a job, but I was paid merely a few hundred dollars the whole time, and that's only because I got guilt-tripped into going home for a week so that we could have some extra funding coming in (in addition to that of my spouse, who was perfectly taken care of by Southwest throughout all the time we had to take off.*)

 

*Note: Honestly, I will never not be a Southwest Airlines person. The company treated my family with such grace throughout this experience that I can overlook a lot of things that some people might not (like the Great System Crash of Holiday Season 2022). My husband took the entire 5-6 weeks off, the exact same amount as I did, but he was paid for all of it. No PTO used. No sick days. Straight up paid him as if he had been there working. They didn't guilt trip him. In fact, they made sure we knew that he could take as much time as he needed.


They offered us MUST FLY tickets (for both the first emergency flight to Kansas on March 22nd and for my father's funeral at the end of April), although we had already booked with my husband's standby benefits, so we didn't use them. Just the thought of being offered though meant so much. And again, this was because something happened to his in-laws, not even his actual immediate family.


Southwest Airlines was a God-send to us throughout this process, so I want to say thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We aren't being paid for this glowing review or anything, just so we're clear. I just really appreciate what they did for our family, and feel like others need to know that that is what this company is about. I genuinely believe in the Southwest Heart 💙❤️💛

 

I just felt wronged in so many capacities. I will admit that with some distance, I do understand a lot of it, but it doesn't change the fact that compared with the stellar treatment my husband received from Southwest, for someone that most companies wouldn't spare you even bereavement leave for (being an in-law and not his parent), the contrast was just so shocking to me that it genuinely hurt my feels a little bit.


After the treatment that I received, coupled with some shady-feeling stuff I'd been pushed to during the year, and my overall disheartening with the education profession and system in general, and with student behavior and disinterest in learning and thinking, I just...I couldn't do it anymore.


On May 16th, 2023, I landed an interview for an Aviation Maintenance Technician job with American Airlines (yes, I know I just gave that whole shpeal about Southwest up there^^^, but...Southwest won't take me because I don't have any experience lol). Things went really well. Like...really well. Far better than I thought for someone with little experience who hadn't touched a plane in 10 years. I do have an awesome friend to thank for a lot of that success, but that's a tale for a different day.


By the next week, I had been put on the waitlist for a job. I said my goodbyes to teaching on May 26th, and haven't really looked back. (I can feel a tangent on that come on, but I will do my best to curb it lol)


There has been a lot of panic, ending my previous job without really having a new one yet. In fact, on the day I left my school for the last time, I made a Facebook post in which I mentioned knowing that I would at some point in the foreseeable future be freaking out about that very fact, and, sure enough, true to form, it didn't take long for the waves of panic and depression to hit. To give myself the space and grace I deserve for those feelings, I won't dwell on them here, but it's definitely been a hole I've had to dig myself out of. Fortunately, I had a bit of help.


I was supposed to go back to Kansas to visit and help my mom during the summer. Initially, the thought was that I would come almost as soon as the school year ended, but honestly, I didn't have the mental health needed to be a positive force in my mother's recovery, so I kinda of avoided leaving for numerous, albeit important, reasons. Excuses, but necessary things: getting my car registered in my new state (my tag expired at the end of June, so I needed to get it done, and yes, I didn't do it when we first moved because I had just gotten my tag renewed in Oklahoma the month before we moved), getting a new driver's license, waiting on my last paycheck (I'd been paid by paper checks all year due to some issues setting up direct deposit with my school, yet another annoyance of mine about them lol). All the things just kept dragging it out until it didn't feel as important anymore. My mental health bounced around a bit during those first several weeks of summer, largely due to not hearing back from American, but I seemed to stable out a little, trying to find other things to occupy my mind.


I applied to a Ph.D. program at Arizona State University, but was told that, as they pick candidates from a crop of applications that are due in December of the previous year, the program was already full, so they could only push my application to the Fall 2024 cohort, which I went ahead and let them do with the saltiest professional attitude I could muster.


As I finally started to even out a little bit, I received word about a wedding that my mom was hosting for her cousin, and that I would be needed to help, so I did eventually end up heading to Kansas here at the beginning of July for that. I had this weird feeling that things would finally resolve with the American Airlines job if I would just do what God calls us to do and go help the widows lol but in all seriousness, I'm really not sure why I somehow thought everything was going to fall in place and move forward, just because I went to Kansas. On second thought though, it almost did, so I guess maybe I'll give myself some grace on that, too.


So, I went to Kansas and helped with the wedding on July 8th, and heard from my husband (who had to stay behind in Phoenix for work) that it was time for the annual float trip with some of his close buddies, and we actually ended up swinging that, which was super kewl. They take a week every year to go float the Illinois River in Tahlequah, OK, and rent a cabin there and everything, so we got to spend some time with them for a few days, and ironically enough, I did at that time finally hear back from American.


 

Some background to the background: When I applied for the job with American, I only applied for Phoenix, as at present time, our family has no intentions of moving again. However, at the interview, they gave us a piece of paper with all of the places that American has maintenance bases and had us rank our top three choices. I ranked PHX as first choice, TUL as second choice, and DFW as third choice. In retrospect, I might've just listed PHX as number one only and left everything else blank, but at the time I didn't think about it, as I never expected that I would be offered a job I didn't really apply for.

 

The job offer that I received for American was for their maintenance base in Tulsa, OK. I got whiplash from all my feels when I got the email. At first, I didn't see that it was for TUL, so I initially just felt overwhelming relief. There were definitely some tears as my heart raced. I was so excited. I sent a screenshot of the email to my husband and immediately opened the offer letter in the email. I read through the whole thing, but as I got to the bottom I saw the "Tulsa Int'l Airport," and my heart sank. The intense feelings of resentment came right back up. I had faced so much rejection after applying to job after job in aviation with no solid results; I felt as if another door had just been slammed in my face.


After that came the many days of trying to figure out how to make Tulsa work. I grew up in Tulsa and have many friends there. That was an exciting aspect for me honestly. I don't have any actual friends here in Phoenix, so the idea of finally having people again was a huge selling point for me. It honestly convinced me for a bit that I could actually make Tulsa work, as long as I had their help. After a few days of this blissful denial though, I began to acknowledge the truth skating beneath the surface of my carefully fabricated falsehood: our family had already done a split, and it sucked. Tulsa was never going to work. Southwest has no maintenance bases in Oklahoma; that's what caused us to move in the first place, and after a prodding email to the American Airlines recruiter that offered me the job, I was told that Phoenix wasn't likely to happen either, as there were no more vacancies in Phoenix by the time they got to my name on the list. I was told that they offered me TUL because it was my second choice.


It was a hard pill to swallow: declining a job offer after spending so long panicking about not having one. I knew that it would never work, but that didn't stop my heart from hoping and my head from scheming. Eventually though, logic won out.


I received the job offer on the Thursday before the Friday that we left to return to Phoenix. I requested the weekend to think it over, and spent the next two days scheming. Reality came to roost on Saturday night when we finally made it home, and I spent all evening manic applying to a ton of aviation jobs with little discretion or discernment. I applied for several jobs I thought sure would take one look at my zero experience and laugh as they chucked my resume in the digital bin. And many did. But two did not.


On the heels of my officially declining American's offer on that Sunday, I was asked to two different interviews in the upcoming week.


And that's where I will leave the timeline for this post, as I lead into my next post entitled "Decisions." The real post that I was intending to make this evening before I delved into my entire life's story lol but in all honesty, I think it was good for me to rehash everything. I feel like it was probably needed before I get down into the logic that I needed to work out, and was hoping to work out by writing about it. But that might all make better sense in the next post.


For now, I'll say goodbye.

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