Astronaut! That was the response I blurted out when my third grade teacher asked her class what we wanted to be when we grew up. Can I say for sure if I truly understood the question or actually knew what I wanted to dedicate my whole life’s work to? No, not exactly, but astronaut simply seemed like the most reasonable answer. At the time, space was the coolest kind of trapper-keeper one could buy, outside of Lisa Frank… The 80’s babies know what I’m talking about and if not, I question your regard for meaningful historical facts… Besides the allure of celestial school supplies, once an eight year old finds out about Dip-n-Dots, or space ice cream, she can’t just un-know that kind of information. Regardless of the ice cream logistics, I believe I was more interested in making a statement. I wasn’t just going to aspire to be something familiar and safe. No, I wanted to be wowed by my dreams and taking rockets to the stars appeared to be the only place to start.
Well, space didn’t really stick. Outside of joining SECME in the 6th grade, the closest thing I got to the science of being an astronaut was watching Space Jam. But my dream of big dreams was never going away; star chasing was merely becoming more metaphorical rather than literal.
How to become whatever it was I was supposed to be was a bit tricky. Dabbling in art and drama clubs, reporting for Wilson Elementary School’s newspaper and even directing their morning news at the wise old age of 10, was my means of traveling to my future self. It was fun, all of it, but I still wasn’t sure. I still didn’t have my answer to what I would be. Though edified by these opportunities, I was plagued by the fear of being lazy (refer to my first post LA-ZY: A Noun), of never quite making it or missing the point all together.
I soon developed the notion that I would simply have to be everything. This certainly sounds aspirational, but was it practical? So often we forfeit the patience of mastery by failing to hone in our pursuits. Multitasking serves as the operative word in our daily mantras, becoming the definitions of our professional and personal expectations. But where is the focus of a multi-angled lens? I suppose this is a question we all should find and answer differently. For me, it was all a bit blurry. Movement equalled momentum; the more I did, the more I could say I did. I would quantify my efforts, gaining points for each activity I was involved in, slowly building up to the mental quota I set in order for me to add up to what I was going to be. The concept of growth is one I believe I got correct, but my math was a little off.
Doing many things did not mean I did them all well. Scholastically driven, I took pride in my school work but struggled in accepting my deficiencies. I had a knack for language and was enamored with world history, but math was a puzzle that once put together would only reveal the image of one of those terrifyingly ugly cartoons, like Ren And Stimpy. Needless to say I wasn’t terribly interested in finding out how fast the train traveled to wherever, though my point system compelled me to at least give the girl traveling on the train a name. It was Sandy.
Fast forward to 2015, when I became an aerialist for Royal Caribbean Productions. Suspended from heights exceeding 80 feet, diving, spinning, dangling and dazzling all while floating from the end of a braided steel string proved my third-grade assertion became a manifestation. I wasn’t just reaching for the stars, I was one of them. One year earlier, I was looking at other aerialists cheering, “You look good girl! I’m glad your insurance covers harness chaffing, because I don’t have any, insurance or chaffing.” And then I remembered. I wanted to be awestruck by my dreams, left completely breathless in gratitude and wonder. So, I began to focus. No multitasking or busying myself with a point system; I zeroed in on my objective. I trained until my arms knew no limit to strength and I could promise myself that I would never let myself go, whether it be hanging from 85 feet or hanging on to discovering who I am and will be. I became an aerialist, which for me was like being an astronaut, something I never thought I would be.
Fast forward to today. Today, I am things I never could have imagined for myself. I am a mother to beautiful twin boys and a wife to a man who’s heart and mine are one and the same. The expedition to discover myself shot me into the stars of love and motherhood. And yes, I was afraid. All space travel, whether into the spaces of our careers, relationships or merely ourselves, is mostly preceded by some sense of trepidation. So fearful of running out of air, of completely losing my breath, I held it. I held my breath until my lungs reached their limits and were forced to surrender to the possibility that everything would be absolutely fine. And you know what? It is. Thought-provoking, but fine. Challenging, but fine. Daunting and awesome and trying and beautiful and absolutely fine. I’m breathing in the stars and all the space around it. Though I cannot say I’ve already become everything I am to be, I can safely conclude that my third-grade self was correct, rocketing to the stars is the perfect place to start.