Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dream on, kid

I just did my favorite education/public outreach demo so far to a high school class in Chile. The kids were really good at driving the rover, not getting stuck on rocks or driving crazy because of the 4 second delay between a keystroke and seeing the result of the motion on webcam. (The delay simulates the logistics of off-planet exploration.) I loved seeing them smile as they operated the rover. They looked so happy. I would be too if I was 15 years old driving a NASA robot on another hemisphere. The applause at the end of the session was heartwarming.

When I was in 3rd grade, the teacher had us draw or paint a nearly life sized body and put a photo of our face on it. I drew an astronaut suit. My parents still have it. When I was in 2nd grade, I etched and painted a psychedelic shuttle on a clay tile. When I was a toddler barely able to walk, I fell asleep on a hammock with a small picture dictionary on my face. The page I was on was one depicting planets and space related words. I still have both the clay tile and the picture dictionary. And now, where do I find myself? Near a world famous observatory with a beautiful view of the heavens every day, rain or shine. Here I am tearing up again at the sheer brilliance of destiny or whatever you call it. I still feel like I'm dreaming as I walk into my room in solitude.

I have so much to tell my young self. I would tell him not to worry so much about what other people think of him because it'll ironically just make him less attractive because no one likes a phony trying to conform. As I grew older, I began to fear the difficulty of projects. I would tell him to continue doing impossible things without a care for how long it takes or how hard it is. I would tell him that romantic relationships are one of those impossible things but to take care not to assume it will eliminate all of his problems. I would tell him to practice self-love now because it doesn't get easier if he habituates in the other direction.

Now at 31, reading this as if my 50 year old self were admonishing me, I have trouble accepting this advice. "Yea, right, old man. You've forgotten what it's like to be young." So instead of further giving answers to life lessons, I would just give him a calm smile and a fearless hug. I would express through my demeanor that things will be all right. I would tell him yesterday's dreams that I'm living today and my dreams today that I know will be fulfilled tomorrow.

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