“I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid. But honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space.”
That was the comment by Sir Richard Branson shortly after making aerospace history Sunday in New Mexico.
Branson took a trip aboard the VSS Unity to the edge of space in Virgin Galactic’s first crewed flight — marking a significant moment in the private space tourism industry.
The quote above was one of Branson’s first thoughts after his feet hit terra firma.
Retired NASA astronaut Kay Hire took the idea even further. Asked by CNN what she thought while watching the flight, she acknowledged feeling a bit envious and added that watching space flights as a child she actually thought space travel would be further along by now.
Interesting that a move forward in aerospace summons memories of childhood in at least two participants. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
One of my personal heroes is a guy named Jack Parsons. You may have heard of him, or maybe not. He was one of the founders of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and developed both solid and liquid rocket fuel that helped the US reach the moon.
The interesting thing about Parsons was that he too was acting on childhood dreams. During his youth in the 1920s, space travel was seen as firmly belonging in the realm of science fiction. It was thought to be fantasy, something no rational adult would aspire to.
Parsons refused to believe that. He read science fiction and he read comic books and took them as his text.
Parsons believed in science and he believed in magic. And between the two he grew up to help put a man on the moon — where there is now a crater named after him.
It would be simplistic to say that maybe these people refused to grow up. What they have in common is putting an adult’s efficiency to work in the service of childhood dreams.
They grew up. They just refused to give up.
So childhood dreams can be inspirational for those in aerospace. But what about the rest of us?
I would argue imagination is a pretty good motivator in all walks of life.
When I moved back to Ridgecrest, California, I had failed at marriage, was broke and looking for work. I arrived in March 2013 to find a house plundered and burglarized while my mom, Dorothy, was in Orange County helping me move.
It was not a good day.
A few nights later I was sitting at the head of our stairs talking to Dorothy about my plans. I told her I intended to work for the local Daily Independent and be a voice in the community.
She looked at me like I was out of my mind.
I had been a housewife for more than 10 years and had failed even in that limited realm. Who was I to think I could get a job at all, much less have an impact on Ridgecrest?
But I had a feeling I could. Sitting on the top of the stairs that night, I could picture it all in my mind. It was something I wanted to do.
After a lifetime of “rational” decisions that failed to pan out (including marriage), I decided to just go with what I really wanted and give it a whirl.
It worked out. Writing this column and being a part of this community has been the privilege of a lifetime.
I am no astronaut. My aspirations have always been earthbound, but I have discovered that things work out better when I pursue things I care about.
I wanted to have a voice in my community, and I think I accomplished that much.
So that is what I have to say to you. Figure out what you want in life and put all the energy you have behind making it happen.
The first part of that sentence is the most important. Put the effort into deciding what you want. Not what others tell you to do. The world is full of people who will try to marshal your enthusiasm and use it to influence you into supporting their particular gig.
On the old program “The Actor’s Studio,” a student asked Tom Cruise how an actor could find his or her artistic voice.
I am paraphrasing, but Cruise responded with something like: You already have a unique voice. Everyone has one. The hardest part is not letting others talk you out of using it.
So that is pretty much it. My mantra, if you will. Go after what you really want; find your voice and use it.
Branson is an extreme example of this. He took his childhood dreams all the way to the edge of space. And it was magical, he said.
We all have a unique dream, a unique voice, a unique mission.
Don’t let other people, “rational” thought or being a grown-up get in the way of fulfilling it.