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I Wanted to Be an Astronaut

by Olivia L. Dobbs about a year ago in healing
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On Rediscovering Childhood's Fascinations

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

“I want to be an astronaut” was often thought in the quiet evenings of a childhood spent looking up.

My youth was rough beach towels on a dewy grass lawn. Watching clouds pass with endless interest and pointing out shapes and animals. I waited for awakening stars with written lists of wishes.

When a middle school teacher first mentioned ISS spotting, I sat and searched for a blinking light. That night, I waved to every twinkle.

Evenings were briefly filled with telescope assembly and searching for planets, struggling to understand star charts, and being delightfully horrified when the realization of space’s size sunk in.

But, as I aged, that telescope collected dust. I muddled forward with busy nights. There was no time to gaze and wonder in a world occupied by extracurriculars and honors studying. I was young, and already there was too much work to be done.

It decayed in the sunlight and rusted with rainy seasons. I held back tears as my father threw it in the trash when it no longer provided a clear image. Its waterlogged interior was defeat, the first time I had failed an interest.

In my teenage years, I strolled through museums of space artifacts far too quickly. Planetariums were interrupted by young love and laughter. Planets and galaxies were abstracted on study cards, a collection of words to regurgitate on scantron paper.

And yet, I’d still point to Orion every winter. A belt of stars was a comforting sight when it lit up friend gatherings in fields and empty parking lots. In summer, I delighted in teaching friends how to find the Dippers.

Camping trips emboldened me. I’d sneak peeks at the Milky Way through dense forest foliage. In meadows, shooting stars would receive silent wishes for love, success, and happiness.

Through a cracked phone screen, I’d point a camera up, snap, and frown at an underexposed picture. There was no way to capture the stars of a mountain’s sky. The feeling would slip through my fingers and out the window on the drive back.

In the worst moments of growing, I found comfort in sunsets. I’d sit beneath a tree amongst the ants and watch the sky turn colors. It took my lowest moments to remember what’s above me.

Adulthood was rediscovery. It began with leaning in when professors talked of planet-finding and JPL tales.

It became silent gawking at Space Shuttle Endeavour, watching Mars rover footage over and over, and accidentally finding myself on NASA’s website- time and again.

Young love was interrupted by the onset of meteor showers. Small talk cut short to contemplate a belonging in the vast universe. Rediscovery became using dates as an excuse to ramble about astrobiology and the effect of mass on time.

Adulthood became a choice to lay on the ground once more. To look up and consider that “up” is a construct of gravity. When lying on Earth, space is in front of us. With a different perspective, stars can be reached by launching forward.

I’m relearning fascination. I’m relearning station-waving and stargazing. I’m relearning the quiet contemplation and patience of observing clouds take shape.

With relearning comes a thought. “I wanted to be an astronaut” comes to mind while meandering through museums of space artifacts.

I think tonight, I’ll go stargazing. Tomorrow, I might revisit NASA’s astronaut application.


By Denis Degioanni on Unsplash


Originally published at for the MWC Space Competition.

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About the author

Olivia L. Dobbs

Science Enthusiast, Naturalist, Dreamer.

Check out my science! ->

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