What’s next?

“Some folks like to get away,
Take a holiday from the neighborhood,
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line,
I’m in a New York state of mind.”

Just as I was sitting down to write, I flipped on “The Voice” (my guilty pleasure) only to find Britton Buchanan kicking of Monday night’s “knock outs” with this Billy Joel classic. It struck a chord in me, because I feel like it all rings true. New York City has always held a special place in my heart, but lately, I’ve been that person who “likes to get away,” even from a neighborhood… a CITY I’ve only lived in for five months.

It’s not an easy (or cheap) way of thinking or living, but I’ve always wondered, “What’s next?” Honestly, as I’ve learned more about myself over the last several years, I almost can’t believe I only transferred colleges once. Here’s why:

Thinking back to the earliest years I can remember of my childhood, I remember wanting to become a *litigator* as soon as I found out what the word meant—probably because I’m a pretty solid arguer and I always get what I want. Pretty specific goal for a kid, huh?

A few years later, as I discovered my ear for music and taught myself to play every instrument I could get my hands on, I was set on becoming a professional musician. But somehow, as a young adult, the “real world” become even realer to me and with my love of math and chemistry, I entered college as a prepharmacy major—I mean, no one actually makes it in music, right?

Yeah, that lasted all of one year. I left St. Olaf, headed to the University of Minnesota and pursued journalism. Of course, I’ll add that I’m still a solid arguer and stubborn as heck, and I didn’t let the music die—throughout college I really got into writing, playing and recording with Goodbye Child.

But, today, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a recording artist. Get this: since graduating I’ve had NINE jobs. In all fairness, that includes Starbucks and two concurrent part time jobs before I landed my first full-time gig at KCTV in Kansas City… BUT, it’s nine jobs in nine years nonetheless. My job history itself is a perfect example of my “What’s next?” mentality. And I’m not suggesting that’s right for everyone, I made each career move for a very specific reason, knowing that “job hopping” could come back to bite me in the butt. Thank goodness it didn’t.

“What’s next?” made its way into my housing scene, too. In that same nine-year span since graduating college, I’ve lived in seven different apartments in three different states (four different cities). I’m not sure if it’s the joy of something new or the fear of being stuck that takes hold of me, but I’m always on the go.

Now, as a 30-year-old living on my own for the first time in my life, “What’s next?” has a different meaning. I snagged my dream job here in Chicago, so it’s safe to say I’m not going anywhere else anytime soon, but I still want to explore.

As many of you know, being without my other half has been sad and, at times, frustrating. However, I’m using this time to take advantage of the ability to “get up and go” whenever I please. It started with the desire to go plane spotting in a new city (even though it doesn’t get much better than Chicago O’Hare) coupled with my longing to be in the sky.

A couple months back I hopped on Google Flights and I saw that I could fly to Atlanta (there and back in one day) for $80 roundtrip on an American Basic Economy fare. That trip went swimmingly and thus, my new favorite hobby was born: pouncing on cheap airfares to anywhere. A few weeks later I hit Tampa, and following that, Boston.

These daytrips have, of course, set me back a few hundred bucks… but you know what? This is the first (and I sure hope last) time in my life that I’m living alone and have the freedom to go where I want, when I want. Of course, if I could choose, I’d have Scott here now and forgo these on-a-whim trips, but that’s simply not an option.

Lucky for me, he WILL be here from May till September… and I’m so excited to see what summer has in store for us. Knowing that, I did manage to squeeze in just one more adventure in the next couple weeks: Denver. I’ve been to the Mile High City once, but I was just passing through and didn’t have a chance to explore… so I’m really pumped.

Will this habit pick back up in the fall while Scott is finishing up his last semester of school? It’s hard to say, but oddly enough, that’s what I like about the way I’ve been living lately. My obsessive-compulsive, worry-wart ways have taken a backseat to the impulsive, fun-seeking girl I’ve grown to be. And it’s been pretty darn fun.

I was born a dreamer…

“All dreams start out small,

Sometimes you don’t know they’re there at all.

But I lay awake wishing on the stars,

All the while knowing in my heart.

I was born a dreamer,

A wide-eyed believer in things unseen.

I was born a dreamer,

Oh say you believe in me.”

Those lyrics are from one of my favorite songs of all time, “I Was Born a Dreamer” by Shel. And now more than ever I feel like those words ring so true.

I’ve always been a dreamer. As far back as I can remember, I’ve approached situations and ideas with the wide eyes, eagerness and often times naivety of a child. And to this day, nothing about that has changed.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been having a recurring dream that I, myself, can fly. Now, as an adult, that notion and those dreams are even more meaningful, because I know that it will simply never happen. Sounds like a total “Debbie Downer” reason to call something “meaningful,” right? It’s not though.

I mean… I’ll never be able to hold my hands straight above my head and launch into the sky the way I do in my dreams—but that’s what makes the dream so special. I love going to bed each night and hoping and praying that I might be so lucky to take a flight in those dark, quiet hours I lay in my bed.

The other night, however, I had a somewhat strange variation of that decades-old dream. Please, hold your applause—I mean… laughter—till the end. I dreamt that I was none other than a queen. No, I wasn’t wearing a crown… I wasn’t sitting on a throne… not THAT kind of queen.

I was a big, beautiful Boeing 747 and I was very obviously flying due East over the Atlantic. I climbed and I continued to climb. I was working so hard to stay airborne—for some reason it felt like everything was working against me, like gravity was even stronger than it already is.

The weird thing is, I’ve felt like that in “real life” lately. I feel like I am something big and beautiful… like it’s my time to shine… my time to fly—but I’m working really hard to make sure I keep it that way without crashing down.

Four months into my new job, I still love it so, so much. That doesn’t mean, however, that it hasn’t been hard. Being in a new city is fun and scary, starting a new job is exciting and stressful, and living alone is liberating and depressing.

I’m starting to think that the poor TSA folks at MSP think I’m completely bananas, as I usually show up with tears streaming down my face. It is really hard to bid farewell to my partner in crime and it never gets easier—never.

Lucky for me, Scott was recently brought on as an intern at an engineering firm in Chicago, which means he will live with me for roughly four months, before heading back to Minneapolis to tackle his final semester of school. I’m so proud of him and so excited to have someone to come home to once again.

I know there will always be both good days and bad days, just like there are always going to be both blue skies and grey, turbulent skies. The cool thing is that my intense love of aviation has not only made flight exciting, as opposed to utterly terrifying, for me… it has helped me to embrace and actually love hitting rough air. I love—and I mean LOVE—the chop.

All in all, I’m just hoping I can use what I’ve learned through flight (that everything will be OK despite the bumps) to help ease the pain of the tough times in everyday life. I’m not a religious person, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Tomorrow, and the next day, and even the day after that are going to happen… and I’m going to make the best of each and every one of those days.

I got a fever, and the only prescription… is more planes.

IMG_3980This past Monday, I went to flights.google.com. I typed in Chicago as my origin, I left the destination blank and I put Saturday, March 3 as both the departure and return date. I clicked “map” view and scoured the U.S. with a keen eye. Every city displayed roundtrip prices $150 and up… except one: Atlanta. Most don’t know and most would never guess, but I was actually born in Atlanta—June 16, 1987. The interesting thing was, the price that displayed just above the Atlanta, GA “dot” was $87. Yeah… this was happening.

I moved to Minnesota with my parents when I was still a baby, and I only returned to my true “hometown” once, for the 1996 Summer Olympics with my dad. It was a great trip—something not a lot of nine-year-old kids get to do, but I found it rather odd that technically, I’ve been an adult for almost 13 years, and I’d never returned to the Peach State… until yesterday.

I’m sure it goes without saying, but Hartsfield-Jackson (being the busiest airport in the entire world) had just a bit of influence on my seemingly impulsive decision to fly there for a day—that and the fact that the Delta Flight Museum also happened to be in ATL.

I think some people were a little surprised that I planned to spend nearly $100 just to fly to and from Atlanta for one day, all by myself. But you know what? After my solo trip to Istanbul where I ended up in the hospital on day one for an emergency appendectomy… I LOVE the idea of traveling solo. There is something so liberating about it.

So, after a full week of work, I awoke—albeit slightly unenthusiastically—at 5:30 Saturday morning to catch the 6:15 a.m. train to O’Hare. Being at airports and flying are things I would give just about anything to do any day of the week, so the early wake up on a weekend was a “no-brainer” for me.

I arrived at the airport, sped through security (thanks TSA pre-check) and took a few photos of planes taxiing or at their gates, before making it to my own gate to board the American Airlines 737 that would carry me to Atlanta.

When I landed at Hartsfield-Jackson, I immediately made my way to the ride-share area to catch a Lyft over to the Delta Flight Museum. When I arrived… let’s just say my bottom jaw was practically on the pavement outside the massive hangars that housed the aviation artifacts I was about to set eyes on. Upon entering, I couldn’t even believe what was in front of me: a Douglas DC-3, a Travel Air 6B Sedan and the always-beautiful “Spirit of Delta” Boeing 767, to name a few.

I was sort of in shock… not knowing where to go, what to touch, how to feel, who to talk to… above all, I was in AV geek heaven. A few highlights: meeting a group of six to seven friends who were likely in their late 70s/early 80s inside the “Spirit of Delta” who had asked me to take their photo, meeting them again at the first Boeing 747-400 ever built (Ship 6301) where they asked me to take another photo of them in front of an engine and where they, kindly, offered to take a photo of me standing in that engine (YES PLEASE!) and, finally, being able to walk out on the wing of the Queen of the Skies.

If you are an AV geek, and you’ve never been to this museum… you ARE missing out. Seriously. Go there as soon as you possibly can. You will not be disappointed.

Following my time there, I headed out to the Georgia Tech campus where I spent some time exploring and, most-importantly, reenergizing with an iced coffee and stuffing my face with a donut that happened to BE about the size of my face. I then bought a MARTA ticket and took the train back to the airport, where I made my way to the top of the south daily parking ramp to take some photos.

The weather was perfect: low 60s and warm sunshine. I saw a KLM 777, the Lufthansa A-340 in the Star Alliance livery and, expectedly, dozens of Maddog MD-80s and 90s. It was lovely.

I went back into the airport, found my way to my gate and boarded my ERJ-175 (my first time on an Embraer jet!) to fly back home to Chicago. It was a perfect, perfect day. And it must have been good… because I woke up this “morning” at 12:30 p.m.—I KNOW!

So… tonight, I raise a glass (OK, a tallboy of Collective Arts’ Radio the Mothership) in honor of Atlanta: my hometown and a true AV geek heaven. Thanks for the memories ATL.

View photos from my adventures on Facebook.

Be kind, be determined, be gracious and oh, meet your hero…

Whoever said, “Never meet your hero,” clearly never met Benét Wilson.

Honestly, I feel like it was in the stars for her to be my mentor. It was December 2016 when a little light bulb turned on in my head… “Maybe I can combine my love of planes with my passion for writing,” I thought. I needed to find a professional, someone who was actually doing what I hoped to do… and a few simple Google searches led me to the Aviation Queen website.

I reached out to Benét via email, and before I knew it we were talking on the phone and she gave me some crazy awesome news: she wanted me to contribute to her blog. A few posts in, she saw enough potential in me to recommend me to Airways Magazine’s Chris Sloan, who promptly brought me on as a contributing author. I wrote on a variety of topics and even got to take some pretty awesome trips—I was having the time of my life and was so incredibly gracious (and still am) for the complete and utter selflessness that both Benét and Chris showed in taking me under their wings and helping me as I learned to fly (no pun intended).

You all know how this story ends… I left the nest. Just a few months after this journey began, I was offered a job with the greatest aerospace company in the world: Boeing. My husband Scott is finishing up his last two semesters at the University of Minnesota, so for now it’s just me and our two cats down in Chitown. It is certainly hard to move to a new, big city by yourself… but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything.

Each morning I bid farewell to my sweet, fuzzy friends, and I begin my one-mile walk to work. And each and every time I approach my office building, I stop briefly to look up at the big Boeing logo amidst all the other skyscrapers, and each and every time I just can’t help but crack a smile. I do the same each evening as I head home, except the sun is usually setting and the big logo is glowing against the dusky sky. Now I truly feel like I have more than just aviation in my blood—I have Boeing in my blood. I am proud, honored and humbled to say that I bleed Boeing blue.

Meeting Benét couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time either, as just yesterday FIRST—an international nonprofit that inspires K-12 students to develop STEM skills—announced that Boeing had donated $1.5 million to support young innovators. Another thing that makes FIRST awesome? Their focus on mentorship… showcasing firsthand the important role mentors play in learning, dreaming and doing. It wasn’t until my own journey began almost a year-and-a-half ago that I realized what a crucial role a mentor could play in my own life… Benét helped me to learn, she supported my dream and she cheered me on as I chased that dream.

Lucky for me, Benét is still on my team today—she is someone I can talk to, someone I can depend on and someone who supports me. I am so proud to call her my friend.

So here’s to you, Benét. You are an amazing person. Your smile is infectious. You make me want to be a better person. And as I hard as I try, I could never truly repay you for the ways in which you’ve helped me. In my opinion, no one deserves a lifetime full of blue skies and tailwinds more than you do.