The Right Stuff

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I just finished the terrific (and hilarious) book, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, and was struck by a pang of wistfulness for my one remaining unfulfilled ambition – to see the earth from space. Now you would think that a book that described in laugh-out-loud detail the perils of weightlessness on a whole range of bodily functions would be off-putting but instead it provides a refreshingly inspiring vision of why we crazy humans yearn to burst free of our own atmosphere.

I was reminded of my own childhood ambitions of becoming an astronaut (crushed sadly when I realized I would need at least some modicum of mathematical expertise!). I confess my childish ‘list’ of career options was a distinctly motley collection. Writer was always top of the list (thankfully!) but after that there was actress (Cate Blanchett and I were in the same high school class after all :)), political journalist (for many years my mother had visions of me coming back from various war-torn regions in a body bag), astronaut and then (far, far down the list) politician (!). So on earth did I end up being a lawyer? Probably because people managed to convince me that I should follow a career path which would at least have an outside chance to making money.

Reading Packing for Mars reminded me once again that only when we humans follow our passions can great things be achieved. Anyone stepping back and looking objectively at manned space travel would think it madness – though no doubt someone looking objectively at the probability of publishing success would conclude the same! – but nonetheless we continue to pursue our dreams. Despite the fact that I have been able to pursue my #1 childhood ambition, I still have a yen for the possibility of space travel. The thought of seeing earth-rise is still tantalizing. I suppose I had better hope that either NASA suddenly needs someone with my meager skill set on their Mars base or that I make a cool few million dollars so I can hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic.

So what do you think, have I any shot at being the first recovering-attorney-historical novelist in space? What crazy childhood ambition did you have and do you ever still yearn for it once more?

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8 thoughts on “The Right Stuff

  1. Why not? Never give up your dream because of age or circumstance. To start, write about your experiences in outerspace. My sons and I wrote a story for Highlights (that did NOT win the contest) called Rollercoaster to the Moon. Imagine you just bought a ticket to ride. The fee, one old cell phone battery.
    3-2-1-blast-off!

    I wanted to be an actor – sing, dance, etc. I also wanted to the part of Anne Frank in a play. I actually am too old for that, now.

  2. I am one of the few people I know who has lived–or at least tried–all of my childhood ambitions.

    Number One for me was to be a fireman. Did it for 15 years.

    Number Two was the space program, but early on I realized that I have a killer motion sickness problem, so I gave up on the astronaut thing early on. But I did get to manufacture rocket motors for eight years, and that was very, very cool. Having investigated a number of failed launch tests and witnessing how many things have to go right in just the proper sequence, with NOTHING going wrong, I cannot imagine how anyone can willingly strap themselves to high explosives and not panic during the countdown.

    Number Three was to become a professional writer.

    Just putting it in writing like this makes me realize (again) how blessed I’ve been.

    John Gilstrap
    http://www.johngilstrap.com

  3. Clare, you went to school with Cate Blanchett!! Do you still have her phone number?

    I never had a childhood desire to become a professional writer. I’m sure there are some folks who are not surprised.

  4. Now I am officially jealous John, although I am terrified of fire so fireman (or lady) was never on the cards! Who knows maybe I will get to space – before that I would like my internet connected so I don’t have to try and comment by iPhone! Joe, sorry to say I haven’t spoken to Cate since the first week of uni ( college)… You will have to try your luck elsewhere!

  5. Hey, you never know where you could end up, even in old age.

    As a kid I dreamed many things. I wanted to be the “6 Million Dollar Man” Steve Austin, and used to run in slomo making that machine noise he always made on TV to prove I could be him. Then I wanted to be Mr. Spock. By the time I was 8 or so I knew what I really wanted to be, a US Marine. Then at 18 I changed my mind for a short time and became a stand-up comic. When that didn’t get me too far I joined the Marines anyway and my life went like this for the next few years:

    “tried a career in the Marines but injuries sent him home after only six months. He worked as dining manager at NSA, owned a computer shop, was a carpenter, farmer, actor, lumberjack, voice actor, EMT, network admin, helpdesk supervisor, Boy Scout leader, IT trainer, radio talk host, youth minister, and after 9/11 was a sergeant in the Alaska Defense Force Coastal Scouts. Basil currently works as an IT Network Sys Admin for the US Government and spends weekends as a Sunday School director for his church. All to support a habit of writing and making stories about people who are what he always imagined himself being.”

    So there it is the sad, sad life of a Wannabe, who may one day end up actually becoming what he really wants to be…which this week happens to be a successful Kindle author who gets discovered.

    yeah…I made the plunge

    …Of course being a school teacher in Fiji sounds kinda cool too. 😉

    http://www.basilsands.com

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