Did you see that NASA is hiring astronauts again? It’s true! I myself have considered applying.
Yes, I was one of those kids. I wanted to be an astronaut when I “grew up.” Only…I still wanted to when I was a much less adorable, considerably more awkward teenager. We’re going with teenager. I was 19 dammit. 19 is a TEENager. Okay. I still wanted to when I was 22. Fine. I confess. I’m 32 years old and I still want to be an astronaut.
There. I said it.
It’s what got me this far, actually. Let’s go back to the adorable kid part. Everyone tells you oh that’s so wonderful and maybe asks if you’d go to the Moon and that’s that. Then you’re a teenager. An incredibly naive (thank you over-protective parents) brainy band-nerd teenager. Yes. Marching band y’all. AND in honors calculus. Have I painted the picture? I was in marching band, all the honors science and math classes (and getting A’s), AND I would still wear t-shirts with Care Bears and the decidedly uncool jeans from wherever moms shop for their kids to make them look 10 when they’re actually 15 years old.
I was also very petite. So I was probably literally wearing clothes meant for 8 year olds.
And I wanted to be an astronaut. I kept that to myself, mostly. I noticed around age 14 that people would laugh at you if you still said that was your goal.
Then I went to college, with my dream tucked safely in the back of my mind and no idea what I would actually do “for real.” Because it was clear by age 19 that it was a total dream and NASA wasn’t hiring astronauts and even if they were…well…when everyone laughs at you you stop thinking you can do it.
So then I took Geology 101 for a General Ed requirement. I chose it because my dad always liked quartz crystals. Seemed like a fun class. On the way to the final I somehow bumped into the professor (ohmygod so awkward) on the path toward the building. He recognized me and asked if I was going to be a geology major. I looked at him quizzically (why? what does one do with a degree in rocks?!) and said, I hadn’t really thought about it. He asked what I wanted to do and….for some damn fool reason…I blurted out that I wanted to be an astronaut.
I wanted to die. (so awkward)
He did not even bat an eye and responded that he had a grant from NASA and if I wanted to do some undergraduate research he might have some work for me to do.
That, friends, is why I majored in Geology.
And I did undergraduate research with him. And so then I went to graduate school to study Mars. And then, ONLY THEN after moving 1,000 miles from home with my brand new husband who I dragged along for the ride, did I realize that working for NASA meant living in Texas or Florida (mostly) and often on soft money (so you’re always writing grants and don’t have job security) and studying pictures of Martian dirt (something I did my first semester) turned out to be pretty damn boring.
So I studied glaciers and decided I would teach. I actually quite like teaching.
And that, friends, is how I wound up getting a PhD and ultimately becoming an assistant professor.
I am decidedly not an astronaut.
So now NASA makes this big announcement…why am I not gang busters all in?
Well…I went and gave birth to two wonderful humans after falling in love with another human, goshdarnit. And I can’t do it now. When I was 19 I never thought I would meet anyone, let alone convince that fool to marry me! Remember the Care Bear t-shirts? Y’all. I was wearing that shit as a freshman in college.
PICTURE IT. You saw this girl on campus, didn’t you? Thought she was a high school student maybe? Definitely had no romantic interest because jail bait and COME ON grow up already?
I thought I had a snow ball’s chance in hell of actually having a family. Going into space when you’re a solo act is, for me, a no brainer. I didn’t have kids yet so I wasn’t too concerned about how hard it would be on my parents (I get that now!).
But here we are. I’m the perfect age. Educated in a totally applicable field WITH graduate degrees (preferred). And NASA is hiring astronauts.
And I have a beautiful family.
So training for a mission to Mars is out. I just do not want to leave them that long. Even training for the ISS or the Moon is too much for me – I know how intense that would be. And my kiddos are little right now. I do not want to miss that.
So, I am 32 and I would love to be an astronaut…one day…when I’m more grown. Or, more accurately, when they are.
For now, I’m on a different adventure.