I was scared because learning to fly was incredibly challenging, time-consuming, and expensive... I think I spent two months just learning how to land. If I forgot all that, I didn't see how I'd be able to re-learn it all.
Well good news... it comes back! I had an instructor with me but he only did two things:
1) Stopped me before I called clearance on the wrong frequency. I would have figured it out when no one responded with a clearance for me, but he said he had to feel useful somehow.
2) On one of my takeoffs at Newton, I did a left turn and started a radio call to announce that I was on left... oh crap what am I on? CROSSWIND. I hardly ever call crosswind, that's probably why I forgot.
But he never took the controls, never told me to watch airspeed. I did attempt to fly a pattern with the flaps down but realized it myself about 1/3 of the way through, he said he'd noticed it but loves to let his students do stuff like that. Nothing bad happens, you just get to a point where you're like "Why's it taking so much power to hold altitude at 90 knots?"
I remember how to land! That's the important part.
He said he could really "see the gears turning" when I was trying to do more than one thing at a time, like dial in a frequency and climb. He reminded me that I could always use autopilot. Autopilot's a funny thing... my boss always has sort of a "kids these days" attitude about autopilot because 0% of his flight training was in an airplane with one. He also joked once in a meeting about how I was probably great at programming an autopilot and I was like, "Hey now, you saying I can't hand fly?"
So on my "real pilot" flights, I've decided to try and reserve autopilot for 1) very long cross countries or 2) weird multi-tasking times when I really need to be watching for some traffic. I engaged autopilot on that one flight with Marc back from hutch where the world looked suddenly very hazy and I was worried we were in a cloud or something (we weren't).
Anyway I'm very excited now to go on some flying adventures. And I have some goals for the future... although I don't think I'll have time for an instrument rating in this decade, in the near future I would like to:
1) Get night current again
2) Fly a 182
3) Land on a grass runway
I think I'll leave my goals there for now. I'm happy to just to have them, honestly... it feels really good to know I'm still a pilot.