It’s funny how areas of our lives are connected in little ways. In 1997, I went with my dad and my brother’s girlfriend at the time to see my brother graduate from Infantry school here at Fort Benning. On our way back to Birmingham to catch our flight back to Houston, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble to kill some time. I ran across a book that looked intriguing and was on sale so my dad got it for me. Little did I know that it would alter such a huge part of my life.
This is the book:
Growing up in the Houston area, the NASA-Johnson Space Center was the default field trip location throughout my elementary career. I remember as a child that I enjoyed visiting NASA and learning about the space program but as I got older never thought much about it. Picking up that book reminded me of my childhood interest in space. It would not be an understatement to tell you, reading this book changed my life. As soon as we got back to Houston I read every book I could get my hands on, went to the JSC Open House and got some astronaut autographs, revisited the National Air & Space Museum with my mom when we took my brother to start college in Virginia and got a job working at the JSC visitor center first as a tour guide then as an education counselor.
I was spending a semester at home during the fall of 1997 because when I started college, I didn’t really have my head screwed on straight. I skipped class and just generally had my priorities out of whack. Most notably, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I started out as a biomedical science major (we didn’t have pre-med, this was pre-med and pre-vet all rolled into one) with plans of becoming a neonatologist. Freshman chemistry changed my plans rapidly and suddenly I was a ship without a rudder. I waffled about, thinking I wanted to be a hospital administrator, then a corporate event planner, changing my major from biomedical science to management to marketing. My grades suffered and as a result I was asked to stay home for a semester, take some summer school courses at a local school to get my grades up. Getting good grades is one thing but if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Finding that book at the Barnes & Noble gave me direction, a passion, and a much needed rudder to my life.
By the spring of 1998 I had reenrolled as a history major and I went from a mediocre-at-best student to a success. I finally graduated (a year late but hey…everyone needs a “victory lap”), did three internships with NASA and a contractor and then started a graduate program in space studies. While I was up in the frozen north, I learned that a school back home had just started a space studies program so I prepared to come home and finish my graduate studies. While I was up there, I met Ryan online. I came home, we started dating, became engaged and married while I finished my masters degree. I worked in the space industry for about 2 years before having Aidan.
Ryan joined the Army in early 2006 and now, here we are, back at Fort Benning. I’m no longer directly involved with the space program. I’m working towards becoming a teacher. From time to time, I find myself missing reading about, talking about, and teaching about space. For so long, space was my raison d’etre, my harbor in a tempest, and when I see or read something about NASA I feel my heartstrings get tugged just a bit. I have to remind myself that teaching is a portable career and that when I was working in the industry in Houston, I was never doing what I wanted to do. One of these days, when my child(ren) is (are) older, I would like to write a book or two. Sometimes I feel like abandoning/postponing my passion is a betrayal of sorts. One day I’ll get to go back to what I truly love, what gave me the rest of my life.