If you’ve never flown into Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial airport, it’s safe to say that you haven’t landed there. If you have flown into Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial airport, it’s also safe to say that you haven’t landed there.
Let me explain.
The airport rests at the foot of the Wood River Valley with a north-south facing runway sandwiched between the parallel foothills of the Smoky and Pioneer Mountains. Because of said mountains, and the towns at their bases, flights can only land from the southern mouth of the valley. Add the limitation of a single entrance with shifting valley and mountain breezes, a few feet of snow, a dash of low-hanging fog, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for flight diversion.
Despite mostly perfect conditions, sometimes you can’t see the runway. Sometimes you just can’t land.
Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when I was heading home on an inter-state commute. As we began our descent and prepared for landing, the plane started shifting from left to right, which feels altogether unnatural for a thing in flight. We bounced back to Salt Lake City. We would try again tomorrow.
As we pulled up and turned around, I thought about my descent of a different kind. About a year ago, flying high after years on the road, chasing athletics and education, I put decided to put down the landing gear. Time to settle, I thought. Time to get a job, make a plan, maybe even get health insurance. Time to “figure it out.” Time to land.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t land. At least not the way I thought I would.
Instead, my landing has been bumpy, unpredictable, and often diverted. It has involved risk, levity, and close-your-eyes-plug-your-nose-and-jump-in kind of faith. Moreover, it’s taking several tries, many iterations, and constant revision of what I want and who I am.
I was reminded of that ride when I spoke to my friend Lauryn for her podcast, Worth Listening. Lauryn is a financial planner (also casually a four-time Olympian and 3-time Olympic medalist), who records the money memoirs of former and current professional athletes in their 20s and 30s. As I told my story, I recalled a few bumps in the road I had nearly forgotten–the diversions that eventually brought me here.
I used to think of growing up like it was a singular event: You get a job, pay a mortgage, find a mate and boom! You’re a grown up! Cut to credits. Happy ending.
Turns out, growing up is more cyclical. When you manage to land, a wondrous contentment lasts only for a moment before you get an ache in your heart, a yearning to grow more, and you take off again. You take off toward career, education, family. And I’m starting to understand that cycle will never stop.
I suppose the difference, though, between the flights of my past and those I have now is that, now, each flight has a return trip. I still have a landing plan. And, much like my local airport, it’s not always predictable. But if, and when, I eventually do touch down, it’s well worth the journey.
A lot has happened in the past year. From bylines, to job titles, to altogether unexpected events, and I’m finding that the “real world” is anything but the stagnant, stable experience I’d expected it to be. And every time I rediscover that, the happier I am that it’s not.
Cheers to the ride,