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…