Words and story by Yana Papaya.
Edited by Maryana Kirakovskaya.
Photos made by Katherine Brook.
Sit back. Relax. Enjoy your flight. You are up in the air. Now you feel that the time slows down and you don’t have to rush anywhere. No need to check facebook statuses, no disturbing calls. You are officially allowed to spend this time according to your pure intentions and needs. Many people follow one of their own well-established routines when they mix up to a certain extent eating and drinking habits, sleeping time while watching a movie on the background, waking up in between to satisfy another physical need and rushing into the toilet. There are also people who complain about being up in the air as they can get sick on the plain, afraid of flights (and I was the same when I was a kid) or just get tired as it’s a part of lifestyle, job and etc. I feel really sorry for these people… I don’t belong to that category of people yet who consider flights as a part of their life routine. Every time I am packing my small or large back no matter if I travel within one country or going overseas I am getting very excited and definitely looking forward to the journey time. How do you entertain yourself during the flight? Do you watch a thriller? Laugh with Jim Carrey? Listen to a long-awaited album of your favourite band? Are you keen on daydreaming while gazing at the clouds’ dance and slow movements when they form different fluffy shapes? Or thinking of getting lucky and having an interesting conversation to the person sitting next to you?
Some time ago there was a social network that allowed those passengers who were on the same flight to find each other online, get in touch and meet in person beforehand, so after a while they might decide to book seats next to each other on the plane and enjoy each other company. For some business reason, that social media project disappeared from the web-space leaving destiny with a right to decide who should sit next to each other.
I feel lucky enough that my destiny sets me up with incredible interesting people on the plain. How likely it is that you would end up sitting next to a young good-looking American who serves in the navy, had been deployed for operations in Spain and looking forward to his adventures in Greece, Germany or Italy? I met Bryan Sheridan on his way back from Tonga to California – the place that he calls his home now. He spent 6 months on Tonga while living, working and serving for local communities and turning their lives for better.
Our eyes met and I thought to myself: “What a handsome young guy!” We started the conversation accidently when something big fell down from the hand luggage area and hit his head. I asked him if he was alright, he replied: “I’m fine, it’s just my head.” I was surprised and said: “It’s not only your head, it’s the storage for your brains, creativity and all important knowledge gained.” But then Bryan acknowledged: “Brains are important, but not as important as the heart.” Once he said that I realised that my neighbour is much more than just a handsome human being, he might have beautiful thoughts, wisdom experiences that I would be keen to hear about. I asked him what happened to his leg and how he got this injury. Bryan told me a story about him falling down during one of the climbing sessions on Tonga island and how thankful he was that he hurt only his leg not the whole himself. He realised just how lucky he was, as it could turn out worse and he might not be sitting beside me on the plane.
Sometimes it takes a while, maybe even a whole life to get to a certain assumption don’t take anything for granted and live every day as the last day. Once assumption is accepted, it takes another while to understand how to live your life according to this simple wisdom. Life teaches us daily and gives us the signals how not to miss miracles by observing and seeing the beauty in ordinary and routine things. However, when everything is alright in your life, it’s hard to notice simple treasures that surround you. Staying positive and open to them is a new challenge for the human being. Some of the profound lessons are coming from the hardest things and life challenges. Nothing pushes you better to this life wisdom than going through tough personal experiences, life dramas or physical injuries. Bryan found a beautiful wise explanation to what happened to him on the island. He was sitting close to me with his leg broken but not his heart. He somehow was even thankful for that experience, as he began to appreciate life even more.
I was grasped by his green-eyed, besides he had a very persistent and thoughtful look that I could partly understand where it was coming from. He inherited Irish roots and that makes him like to stand up on his point quite firmly. He was moving along the country while being a kid and it definitely made him open to further explorations around the world and himself. And finally his intention to serve in the USA navy tells a lot about his personality. Philosophical conversations we had together on the plane made me 100% realise that he wasn’t a typical American navy guy. At his young age he managed to gain profound wisdom, which is coming up from his life experiences. And there is something else that I like about this American guy – his old-fashioned manner of speaking and treat a woman as a real gentleman. He is the Great Gatsby of the modern age who is waking up with first ray of lights and listening to the blues or soul tunes, who is careful with this clothing style and manners while being in the society. Bryan definitely knows how to win woman’s heart and make her feel on the top of the world. I am really looking forward to seeing where Bryan would find his happiness, his soulmate and end up living, building a house of his dreams… At the moment he shares thoughts on what’s like to be an American, what his american dream is like, what it is like to serve in the navy and what sort of magic experiences and self-discoveries in Tonga brought in his life.
Growing up I loved living in Georgia, I had many of friends and I lived right near the beach. But looking back it was not such a great place for children, I was constantly surrounded by drugs and crime, at the time I just thought it was normal but now not so much. It’s a great place to live, a beautiful place with really friendly people and gorgeous weather so if you can steer clear of all the bad things it is a wonderful place to live, but perhaps not raise children. And the same can be said for Chicago, as a 22 year old single man I love this city it has everything my heart could desire, but I would never raise my children here. Now California really has it all, it has wonderful weather wonderful people and in the right spots it’s even a wonderful place to raise children. I would say California is the best overall place I have lived thus far.
The navy is a wonderful career, I travel all over the world helping those less fortunate than myself and I get paid to do it. I don’t see how I couldn’t enjoy that. Granted there are the politics of the navy that brings me down at times but I do my best to stay positive and see the big picture.
The navy has definitely changed me for the better. These past years spent in the navy have shed so much light on what it really means to “live” for me. When I joined I was 19 I had the whole world figured out, I knew everything there was to know about anything and boy, I was wrong. Meeting all the different people I have met over the years and hearing their ideals and their dreams have really helped me “home in” on whom I am and what I want out of life. And if I had not joined the navy I would most certainly not be the man I am today.
Tonga had such an enormous impact on my life! I saw poverty and well not really familiar, but just the greatest disparity that I had ever seen. When I first heard of this orphanage I didn’t think much of it, and then I was told the little children live outside with no electricity and no running water I couldn’t help, but want to do something about it. So I organised a little fundraiser for the kids so they could have a real Christmas for once. We raised about 900$ American and that is nearly doubled in Tonga. We had a grand feast for these kids we bought nearly 30 kilos of chicken, a hundred hot dogs, chips and juice and of course a whole bunch of candy! Because what child doesn’t want candy? And with the rest of the money we bought all of the kids presents, coloring books, crayons, marbles, soccer balls, rugby balls, all sorts of things! When I got there the morning of the feast and saw with my eyes the horrible conditions these poor kids were living in I was devastated. Keeping it together only barely I began to set up the grill, and that’s when I lost it, the most precious little girl began crying and to this day I don’t know what it was about but I couldn’t contain myself any longer, I broke down and just wept. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen. I spent the next 8 hours cooking for the kids and laughing and playing with them as the food cooked. Those little kids were so beautiful! They had absolutely nothing, and yet they were happy and joyous and so just full of life!
Knowing that I made just one of those little kids life’s a little brighter is an indescribable feeling. I may have given those kids’ food and presents, but those children gave something in return that I will never forget. I love those kids with all my heart and they have truly changed my life.
I want to travel all over the world, I want to cliff dive every continent! But I would have to say at this point in my life my main passion is helping others, I’m doing pretty well in life and I thank God I am in a position to be able to reach out to others and lend a hand. I am very excited to get back to California and start this charity for the little ones in Tonga, along with that I am going to try and volunteer at a local high school as a diving coach.
I am a people person, it seems everywhere I go I meet new and interesting people. I’’m not sure what it is but I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone and that has really helped me out in life.
My key weakness correlates with my strength – I am a little too trusting of people, I have a big heart and from time to time people have taken advantage of that.
So who am I… I am me, I simply strive to be the best “me” I can be.
“It goes on”… whether we like it or not life goes on, we can’t stop it and we can’t slow it down. So why spend time dwelling on the past. Life life to the fullest and take nothing for granted. Live your life, if you don’t it will pass you by.