Rochester Science

Kodak, uncertainty and the next step: sometimes, you have nowhere to go but up

They say we fear what we don’t understand, the unknown. Well, I don’t really know who ‘they’ are but I do know that I’ve heard it enough to consider it a ‘they say…’ notion.  ‘They’ also say flying is the safest method of transportation. Given these two accredited ‘they’ facts, I would have to agree with ‘them’.

I wouldn’t say I had a fear of flying, but more that I had a fear of not knowing if I was afraid of flying or not. I grew up in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, a tiny Americana town in the middle of the state with a minimum 3 hour driving distance from any city. Montoursville’s only real notoriety happened during the summer of 1996 when I was 11. On July 17, my small hometown gained worldwide attention when TWA Flight 800 exploded off East Moriches, New York, killing all 230 people on board – including my future high school’s entire French Club, French teacher, and chaperones in attendance. I’m not sure if it’s changed since then, but as of my high school graduation in 2003, all field trips were still strictly prohibited – flying, driving, or otherwise.  It’s not an event I dwell on or anything that’s caused me to dodge flying, but when my boss approached me about a conference in Houston that he wanted me to attend, it was definitely one of the multitude of thoughts that began spinning through my brain.

That was January 16, last Monday, when I took my first flight. It was uneventful, borderline boring, and as everyone assured me it would be, completely safe and sound. Sure, statistics and experience both had the upper hand here, but I didn’t have that experience to grant myself peace of mind. However, by the day I flew home on January 18, I did, and it was much less stressful. The next day, Kodak went public with its announcement of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and I can’t help but notice a correlation between my possible flight fears and Rochester’s reaction to possibly losing Kodak.

Just because a plane crashed many years ago did not mean my plane to Houston would crash. Likewise, just because Kodak has filed for Chapter 11 does not mean it will indefinitely  go under- it’s just seeking some extra protection and security. Still, knowing the likelihood of success doesn’t always put our minds at ease. It’s that state of anxiety and despair that we already have all the needed information to predict a future of dread that leads us to that fear of the unknown. If knowing is half the batlle, how can we prepare to go up against anything without that necessary foundation?

I’m still trying to find an answer to that, and I’m not sure if anyone truly has one. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have sought a plane ride out on my own. I needed that push to see that I was bigger than that impending fear and ultimately enhance my experiences and open more doors for myself. Going back to ‘they’ (‘they’ sure are smart, aren’t ‘they’?), ‘they’ also say sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can go upwards. Maybe hitting the Chapter 11 rock was Kodak’s push.

I don’t think anyone in Rochester was shocked by Kodak’s announcement, but it was definitely a turning point for Rochester as a whole. What happens next when a significant part of your city’s roots faces extinction? Yes, Chapter 11 could mean the end – but it doesn’t have to. Chapter 11 is a second chance, a time to evaluate the next steps, and hopefully build up into better days. Undoubtedly, Rochester would not have made a mark in history the same way without Kodak. It’s time to look past that anticipatory angst of what may or may not happen and trust in the right precuation to ensure a smooth flight into clearer skies.