I asked for questions, and you came up with some great ones! I’ll be sprinkling the answers over the next couple weeks.
Sharon asks: Sorry, but I have to know what your favorite cheese is…mine is Irish white cheddar. (YUM)
- The Young Adult Phase, where I interned at NASA Dryden in the Mojave desert, designed hypersonic engines, crashed the test pilot’s bar, and hitched glider rides from world famous test pilots.
- The Get Serious Phase, where I lived off a NASA grant for my graduate studies in supersonic engine simulations, which funded a studio apartment at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana that was the size of my kitchen (note: I have a small kitchen).
- The Get Crazy Serious Phase, Part 1, where I interned for a summer while working on my Ph.D. at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, studying satellite imagery and looking for aircraft contrails and cloud patterns from space.
- The Get Crazy Serious Phase, Part 2, where I used a NASA grant for my Ph.D. research and lived on-site at NASA Langley Research Center, designing test-rigs for measuring jet-engine exhaust and running experimental and computational simulations of the effects of high altitude aircraft engine exhaust on global warming, in particular the formation of sulfur-oxide and poly-aromatic hydrocarbon aerosols.
*You would think that having spent all that time, getting advanced degrees and working for NASA, only to apply and not be accepted to the astronaut training program would be devastating. After all, it was a childhood dream being crushed! (Ok, I’ll admit I was a tad disappointed.) But here’s the thing: all along, I knew that being an astronaut was a high-stakes, long-odds dream. Being a practical person, I was determined that every step on the path be one I would have taken anyway, even if I never ended up in space.
In other words, I enjoyed the journey – and quite a journey it was!
By the time I reached the application stage, I had already decided that being strapped to 6 million pounds of fuel and oxidizer wasn’t necessarily the best of options. (Note this was related to being a young mom, not the Challenger disaster. I was in college when that happened, and more determined afterwards to pursue the dream. My mom was not pleased.)
There are some obvious analogies to writing (although writing is slightly less hazardous). Whether or not you “make it” in writing – however you define that – make sure you enjoy the journey.
I don’t regret pursuing my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, just because I failed to achieve it. Failure beats the alternative:
(70 year old me, talking to the grandkids): Well, when I was a kid like you, I wanted to be an astronaut.
(dimpled darlings): Why didn’t you, Grandma?
(Me): I never tried.
Never regret the trying. It’s the only thing we’re truly here to do.