13 January 2009

Rocket Girl

October Sky. It's one of my favorite movies. West Virginia. Coal-mining town. And a boy who makes good on his promise of becoming a rocket scientist. It's one of those movies that I watch to remember who I am and who I thought I was going to be.

You see, I was determined to become West Virginia's second astronaut (just in case you're curious - here's our first). I was going to get a Ph.D. in physics and go the route of many academics who have become members of the astronaut corps.

But then, I fell in love with Ty-man and realized my love for him was more than my love for a job in space. Before Ty, I was on track. I was working on a B.S. in physics (actually did manage to finish that), had spent 10 weeks doing undergraduate research in the field of plasma physics, and had an offer for grad school. But, I chose the Ty-man over grad school. I always figured OK, I'm married. Cool. In a couple of years I'll ditch the job for grad school. I can still do this. I can still make it. But then I felt the pull of a $40K salary and that eclipsed all plans of school. A few years later, when grad school crossed my mind again, the uterine time-bomb was ticking and demanding that it do the job it was paid to do.

And now? Three kids later? Even if I had a Nobel physics prize in my sweaty little palms, I think NASA would snort it's way to hyperventilation if presented with my resume. And honestly? NASA has become such a screwed up organization that I don't know if I want my ass strapped to one of their rockets, getting stuck on the ISS while they attempt to design a new crew vehicle with a pittance for a budget. All while the US government and Putin enter a decade-long pissing contest, keeping our astronauts out of the Soyuz capsules. The space program is such a cluster fuck right now.

But I miss it. I miss the vision. The hope. The dreaming. I sit and look up at whatever stars are visible from my brightly-lit cul-de-sac and I wonder if I could have made it, if I would have had the fortitude to set aside a family for the chance to see Earth from the windshield of a shuttle. Or if I could have done the job of an astronaut, knowing this dream job could kill me at any time and leave my loved ones alone.

I don't know. Anytime I watch a shuttle launch or get anywhere near Kennedy Space Center, I feel a happiness in me, like I'm home. But I also am left feeling empty with a wonder of what could have been.

Could I truly have been a Rocket Girl? And is it truly enough for me to be just Heather?


Not Afraid to Use It said...

It's never enough. Those childhood dreams and desires never die. Maybe we are meant to pass that fire along to our kids or others who come into our lives? It is hard to be content when faced with unfulfilled dreams. The stars always shine brighter on the other side of the galaxy.

Liz Hill said...

Sugar--only you can decide if it is 'enough' but you must remember that; a) 'just Heather' is a constantly evolving being; and b) You are a mere babe---you have so much life to explore--you just need to give yourself permission to find the balance that works for you

Molly's Mom said...

Take comfort in knowing you're the SMARTEST mommy on the block!

As cheesy as it sounds, you are doing exactly what you were meant to do. I know how it is, though, to say "I wish I'd...".

Anonymous said...

I agree that 's it's never enough...unless you want it to be.

I think that is why I enjoy coaching so much. A set of decisions took me away from what I really wanted to do. I was on track to become an emergency sports physician. I wanted to travel with a pro sports team.

Looooonnng story. I didn't chose marriage over it, at least not mine. I came home to a local college so that my parents could afford to divorce. The local school didn't have the same type of program.

That's who I am in a parallel universe, I swear. Too tired to pursue the childhood dream at this point and the lifestyle wouldn't be realistic for my family. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I zigged instead of zagged though.

Anonymous said...

I loved the movie, and I actually toured the Kennedy Space Center (which was fucking AWESOME, btw), but to actually BE an astronaut? There ain't enough money in the world to get me into one of them rocket ships!!!

Gypsy said...

NATUI is so right. They don't die. I still want to be a cowgirl ballerina.

That One said...

Do you realize that your kids are going to have the most kick-ass science fair projects EVER? Their best resource tucks them in at night! Sure, it's years away but you can totally start with the experiments now. Show your kids what makes your heart go pitter-patter. They'll cherish the science later.

formerly fun said...

I think the people who achieve those things are the ones with the fire in their bellies thats so strong nothing else compares. The kind of dreams that require a single-mindedness most of us just don't have. That single-mindedness doesn't always equal happy either. Howard Hughes achieved great things but was one unhappy sick puppy, just sayin.

Still, the realization that our lives might have taken staggeringly different paths had we made some different decisions is a hard what-if for all of us.

I used to dream of big big things, still do sometimes but the buddhist in me sees the value of the here and now and simple things. Uh, of course I say this now while trying to get a book published and lamenting when my kids and life and hubs keep me from forward process.

Anonymous said...

There's something kind of exhilarating about still being able to revel in old dreams. That feeling you get when you see a shuttle launch? I get the same way whenever I find myself backstage at a theater or walking past the audio booth at the Fox. I didn't follow that path, but it's fun to dream and wonder sometimes.

LOVE October Sky, btw. Just bought The Coalwood Way actually. And I think I'll go listen to the soundtrack!

RiverPoet said...

I worked at NASA HQ for a time in the network operations center. We kept the servers running that keep the communications running between all the centers and to the astronauts. I couldn't have been more bored with all the damned red tape. I've never encountered so much bureaucracy.

And I was there when John Glenn came to HQ to announce he was going back up. How cool is that? And they wouldn't even let us anywhere near the conference room where the press conference was going on. We had to watch it on close-circuit TV in the break room. Damn.

After that I started looking elsewhere for work. I loved my compadres there, but the grinding bureaucracy was too much for this Texas girl.

But you? Would have been the best damned rocket girl ever. It would have been a true tragedy, though, had you been in either of the shuttle disasters. At least we, and Ty-Man, and Bubba, and Miss-Miss, and J-Man get to wake up and find you here on the planet with us.

You'll always have the stars.

Peace - D

A Free Man said...

The whole astronaut thing is probably off the table, but why not think about going back to school part time if you're keen. Loads of people do it. Some of my best students are the "mature" students. I happen to know that you've got a pretty good tech school nearby as well. Shit football team, but pretty good academics.