Sunday, June 10, 2007

Changing and Choosing

What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember? I do. With every fiber of my young boyhood, I wanted to be an astronaut. Sail the stars in a high-tech tin can, watch the sun rise and set every twenty minutes or so, speed around the globe at 17,000 miles an hour! I knew I would probably miss being the first man on the moon, seeing as I would end up being just thirteen when it happened, but I thought I would certainly be the guy NASA tapped to lay the first tracks on the Martian surface.

What a passion I had for the space program in those days. I knew the names of every astronaut, what branch of service they were in and which ones were on which missions. I watched every launch and each splashdown that didn't interfere with my school attendance. And I wrote the NASA information center in Cleveland about every month or so and they would send me reams of interesting materials that I would absorb every chance I got. Astronaut bios, flight medical records, detailed spacecraft data and tons of photos - I had it all and read it all.

I was going to be one of those magnificent men in their flying machines.

Then came the carnival in town. Hot dogs, cotton candy, sweet soft drinks. And rides. A visit to the Tilt-A-Whirl changed everything for me that day. One spin on that contraption and I experienced a rerun of all the stuff I had just eaten. If I couldn't take the spinning of a mere Tilt-A-Whirl, how could I expect to survive the rigors of space flight? The realization almost made me experience a re-rerun, but I managed to hold it back.

Life was not the same for after that little encounter. But that's not the point of this essay. Dreams sometimes crumble and fiery passions turn to embers. That's just the way things are. I'm not sorry I didn't become an astronaut in those heady days of fly boys in space, and I'll take my ride sometime after space flights become commercialized. The only thing we can count on is that things are going to change. Ambitions falter, doors close, opportunities pass us by. And we have to choose. Hang on to something we may never have had or follow a new path.

Sometimes it takes a Tilt-A-Whirl to get you to see the next opportunity.