Adolescent dreams…

After going through the phase where i wanted to be an Egyptologist, and then a detective, i settled onto the fairly standard childhood career choice of Astronaut somewhere around 10 years old.  Fueled in large part by the Apollo Program, with a healthy turbo-boost from Star Trek, i wanted nothing more than to go into space.

My parents were supportive and encouraging – we took a family trip to the Huntsville Space Flight Center when i was in my early teens. They were just starting to work on the Space Shuttle program, and i remember walking through a mock up of the crew compartment. Seeing the spot marked “urinal”, and trying to figure out how it would work, i asked the tour guide “Where will the women pee?” and his response straight up pissed me off: “There aren’t any female astronauts.”

That triggered a visceral response of “fuck you, buddy” “oh, yeah? wow…”

It wasn’t until my final year of high school that i gave up the notion of becoming an astronaut. It was some combination of poor lifestyle choices, and genetics, but i was fat and out of shape, and realized that there wasn’t a chance in hell i could do the push ups. My high school Physics teacher helped me sort things – he had settled on teaching after a stellar career with NASA as a research scientist, and i realized that there were careers that could support the mission, without requiring push ups.

My undergraduate institution was selected in part because of affordability, but also because it had a decent engineering program. Somehow, i managed to survive a nearly fatal freshman year (see ‘lifestyle choices, poor’), and land a co-op job in the aeronautical engineering field.

About 40 years later, i’ve just retired from a pretty decent run. i got to fly in a chopper at night (doors open). i got to watch a night launch of a Space Shuttle from the rooftop of a building about 5 miles away (as close as you can get). And i got to support a team that put a research payload in orbit…

It occurred to me today that i came remarkably close to hitting that career goal that was a nebulous thought back in my teens. At the time, i had no idea what it looked like, or would feel like. i had no concept that i would ever marry, or have a family. It’s surprising that it rolled out the way it did… with few regrets professionally.

How often does that happen? What did you think your life would feel like once you got out of the parental homestead and started life on your own? How close did you come?


from my favorite motivational poster source, Despair

16 thoughts on “Adolescent dreams…

  1. I expected to feel free when I left home. That I achieved.
    Other plans? Epic failure. Including my assumption that I would marry and reproduce. That said the roads my life has drited down have been (mostly) pretty good.
    I hear you on the poor life style choices and the luck in surviving the first year away too.

    • the whole “married/children” thing was a bit of a surprise for me – but i consider it good luck that it happened. given some of my more self-destructive habits as a youth, i am even more surprised that they were both healthy! in the end, we dance our dances, making it up as we go along… i was just surprised upon reflection that the career thing didn’t land too far afield for me.

  2. The theatre’s siren song called to me. But i never hit the big time.The all-singing, all-dancing prettier, less shy girls went up that ladder.
    But I can’t complain at some of the roads I’ve travelled.I’ve left instructions for Edith Piaf’s “Je ne regrette” to be played when I leave life’s stage.

    • may not have been so much the all-singing, all-dancing, prettier, less shy bits — there’s an element of luck in that as well. timing is a lot in the performing arts… had i flunked out of engineering school, my plan was to go into technical theatre. figured i could have made a living with light/sound/sets while still getting to play with power tools. that ended up as a hobby… but like you, i don’t regret much. excellent choice of songs for the finale! 🙂

  3. I don’t know, maybe today is the wrong day for me to even try and answer. I do know one thing and that’s I never expected to think that 3 out of 4 wasn’t too bad. xoxo

    • the rest of that conversation is probably best had over a bottle of wine or two! i find myself more actively reflecting on the past than usual – i’ve always been pretty aggressively leaning forward. something about rolling through the retirement milestone has me considering how i got here…

  4. I just wanted out of school as fast as possible. A senior service project took me to the old State Hospital geriatrics program, and from there to nursing school. In line with my desire to get out of school fast, I was going to take a 1 year LPN course. My parents talked me into a 2 year RN course, (couldn’t sell me on the 5 year BSN). I lived at home during college, and escaped 170 miles away immediately upon graduation. Yeah, lucky I survived the first couple of years on my own. Then I married an older man who didn’t want more children, some life happened, I had some jobs besides nursing, and then went back to school for my BSN, and a little later an MSN. I think I did OK, despite my sister throwing in my face that I was never nurse of the year. Neither are 99% of nurses. Doesn’t mean we are bad. I spent most of my career in geriatrics. If I had do-overs though, I would probably go to vet school. I like animals more than people sometimes, and one of my other jobs was working in an animal shelter for a year.. On the other hand, we sometimes refer to geriatrics, especially dementia care, as veterinary medicine, because often times they can’t tell you what’s wrong.

    • you had a helluva run, sister! work/study/live – and you did it on your own timeline. there was a time in my career where i had some aspirations of ‘greatness’ – was in the running for an award or two, and it felt good. but for the last 10 years, i got used to not being ‘engineer of the year’, as i coasted toward the finish line… and that was ok. now that it’s all behind me? i’m struggling to remember why it mattered. you worked in things that made a difference for people – and even on your worst day you probably made a bigger difference in someones life than i did in 10 years of nerdwork.

      i have never heard the comparison between geriatrics/dementia and veterinary medicine – but it makes sense…

  5. Good on you for your nimble thinking. Some folks discover their dreams won’t come true and they crumble. You took temperature, the wind direction and made adjustments. Pretty good for just a kid.

    I never had a dream or any direction. I bounced around. It’s all I ever did. My mission in life is to see that my daughters chase something meaningful instead of just punch a clock.

    • My parents were pretty enthusiastic about my sister and i becoming financially and emotionally independent from them – i took a page from that playbook raising my own kids. My dad actually said “You need to be able to take care of yourself – you’re not likely to score a rich husband”. Pretty harsh, but also quite accurate.

      If you encourage your daughters to live lives of deliberate choices, then you’re on the right track. Studley and i are pretty proud of the four kids we have between us, all making honest-to-dog decisions about what they do in life, unlike the ‘default’ path that we followed with marriage, family and such…

  6. Big shocker- i never had any career aspirations even as a kid… someday i aspire to be a writer… other days i just aspire to be…

  7. Great to see a poster from I’ll assume they are still in business. Years ago I bought some of their funny stuff.
    Fly in a chopper at night with the doors open. Exciting.
    I have been in helicopter but daytime, doors closed. Of course those doors appear weaker than a porch screen door. One of the most exciting things in my past was going up in a glider (who needs an engine to fly). Life except for its end is unpredictable. The best adventures are ones that just show up unexpected. I should write for

    • They are still in business! My favorite gifts to retirees, and those moving on from the office were ALWAYS from! i think they have an option now where you can make your own demotivators! Worth a look!

      i have never been in a glider, but have been told that the silence of the ride down is pretty powerful. As close to being a bird as a human can get!

  8. I was always interested in creative writing. On Career Day at school I’d go to the room where some incredibly boring guy gave an incredibly boring talk about journalism. I don’t remember too many girls attending those talks. Most of the girls went to the ones on fashion, hair, airlines stewardess, and other girly stuff. At the end of senior year I was accepted into Cal State Long Beach, but got knocked up on Grad Night by my boyfriend, who was going to be a sophomore there. Long story somewhat shorter, we “had” to get married, he worked nights at a factory and went to school during the day. I wrote, not just typed, but that too, all his papers for his classes after he gave me the info. on what he needed. He was a history major and his last class as a senior was historiography, or the principles of writing history. I wrote his final paper for that and got an “A.” The teacher threw a party for his students and someone asked why this class couldn’t be offered in the freshman year instead of at the end. I remember a flush of satisfaction when the teacher scoffed and said something to the effect that no one just out of high school would be capable of doing that.

    Later, after we had one more baby, my soon-to-be ex-husband went to law school at night while working for the City of L.A. during the day and I typed up all of his notes every day from the previous day’s classes. After four years of that, it was finally my turn to go to school. But by then he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore. I was already enrolled in dental hygiene school where I met an instructor who was a dentist and also divorced with two kids. Twenty years of dental hygiene practice and forty years of marriage later and here we are.

    My son (the Grad Night product) ended up getting a PhD from UC Irvine in neuro-anatomy and is the editor and publisher of a vintage race car magazine. My daughter is a furniture designer and recently was certified to help kids with learning disabilities. Her son, who is 16 and a great kid, is on the autism spectrum, so she has a lot of personal experience to bring to that endeavor. So even though things didn’t go quite the way I would have intended them for me, I can look at it as setting into motion some good things for the world through my kids. And that’s fine by me.

    • Twists and turns and living life as improvisational dance! You write really well – and clearly could have been a stellar journalist, but life loves a curve ball! i’ve spent some time at UC-I (LOVE that campus) and have a great appreciation for their science/engineering programs – not a trivial accomplishment to clear those hurdles! But it seems both of your children also followed their hearts – dancing the dance wherever the music led them! Reminds me that i need to have this conversation with both of my kidlets…

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