Take a Moment and Reflect.

orion_Large-e-mail-view
(Just an image I chose from a Google search of images: “Orion”)

 

Sometimes, I’m in awe at the way a series of thoughts can rush through my mind and feel me with a sense of wonderment and amazement.  This happened to me this morning when I woke up to perform my routine duties for work. Since I was awake at 2:30 in the morning and walking outside at 3:00 in the morning, it was extremely dark where I happened to be.  Since I work in remote locations, there is little interference from light as I gazed into the early morning sky. It struck me how clearly the night sky displayed the stars and moon on this crisp, late autumn morning.  I was awe struck at something so beautiful and forgotten by me until this moment.

In a rush, a multitude of various thoughts rushed into my mind, in spite of the mesmerizing effect the sky had on me that moment. I had a memory of my dad pointing out stars to me on the back deck of our mobile home, encouraging my love of science and nature. I remember thinking he was incredibly smart, because he knew more about astronomy than I did in my entire 5 or 6 years of life. I mean, at the time, I knew Star Wars was just a movie, but it gave me a sense of exploration, a sense of wonder at nature. I began falling in love with science, but it was so far from manifesting itself at that time. I’m not quite sure where my appreciation of astronomy came from, but I remember spending “billions and billions” of moments watching Cosmos with Carl Sagan on PBS (I’m old, trust me). I appreciated and loved how he would explain so many different phenomena of nature and related it to our place in the universe.

I remembered the early parts of my childhood and going to school. In no stretch of the imagination was I considered “smart” or a “good student” during my elementary and middle school (though, they called it ‘junior high school’ then) days, but I Remember so many adults telling me that I was not living up to my potential.  But I remained a lover of astronomy. I went so far as to copy pages out of a book I got from the library, because I loved what it taught me about the planets and the sun. I didn’t want to lose that information when I had to return the book. There I was at 10 or 11 years old, with notebook paper and my hand written notes with drawings of the planets that I made with colored pencils. I knew at that time I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to learn astronomy.

Then, I spent a few years refraining from following that love. It wasn’t cool, and I was at a time in my life when I was trying to form friendships and spent time being bullied and other things. My family had moved to a new school district and I attended a high school with people I barely knew. My self-esteem and self-confidence were under attack and I did not do well in school as a freshman and sophomore. My dreams of doing something, related to space began to fade. Eventually, however, chemistry entered my life and I began to fall in love with that subject.

My junior year in high school, I began making changes. My behavior and attitude in school began to change, because of a lot of factors in my life, but I was signed up for a class in chemistry and I fell into understanding it almost immediately. My grades, overall, began to improve in a way that seemed like it was overnight.  I began to feel like science was my calling again. This same year, I really began soaking in astronomy in my spare time and my parents had given me a telescope for Christmas that year.  I felt like I had finally found my purpose in life, but had little understanding how to apply it in a way that would benefit my sense of fulfillment in a long term way.

I remember spending hours and hours in my back yard at night, gazing through my telescope. It didn’t matter how cold it was at night (in fact, cold temperatures make for the best views), I would be outside into the wee hours of the morning hoping upon hope that I might make some new scientific discovery. Of course, my knowledge was limited, but it didn’t matter to me, I wanted to learn and I would teach myself. I went so far as to keep a notebook of observations and studied amateur’s various suggestions on how to maintain something like this.  In the mean time, I continued with my studies of chemistry and developed my math skills during high school.

I found I loved chemistry in a major way. I wanted to learn more about energy and the chemical reactions that produced energy and I began relating it to the things I was teaching myself about the universe. This love of science was going to carry  my forward to a school for engineering within a 45 minute drive from my home as a kid.  I was receiving personal pats on the back from my teachers in school, such as one teacher who wrote a statement in a letter of recommendation, “{My real name}, continues to ask the question ‘why?’ in his commitment to understanding the world around us…”. I loved that attitude I used to have to constantly question, to constantly seek a better understanding around me.  Eventually, I was admitted to that college. I felt like my calling at the time was in environmentalism or in energy development – I was not sure, however, what I wanted.

Eventually, I dropped out.

I had so many things going on in my life at that time. So many things that changed everything about my appreciation of science and learning over the next several years. Eventually, however, I went back to school and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering when I was 30 years old – just barely more than 15 years ago.  I still had a love and appreciation of science, but I had long forgotten what I enjoyed about astronomy. I had long forgotten so much I had taught myself about astronomy. At the time I graduated college, I was more interested in making money and doing what I could to get ahead in the world. I wanted to do what I could to take care of my family and give my wife anything possible.  My love and interests had changed, and I felt like my ability to accomplish my true dreams would be, forever, stopped.

I have been feeling for a long time that I had sold myself out. I felt like I pursued corporation, monetization, greed, materialism and for nothing; because I was laid off a few years ago, I had failed in this pursuit. I felt like I had lost focus on myself, lost an understanding of those things I cherished. I felt like I had betrayed myself in pursuit of knowledge and understanding.  What had my life come to?

I felt a sense of disappointment, but as I looked at Orion beginning to drift to the west towards setting and looked at the moon in it’s last quarter, I reflected one simple thing: “God, I miss this.”  A warm wave of emotion came over me, in a moment, I felt some of the despair and negativity I had been feeling wash away.  For this brief moment, that I stared into the darkness at the lights I used to love as a child, nothing else mattered. For this moment, I stopped and reflected and thought, “I still love this. In spite of forgetting everything I used to know, I still love looking at the stars and the night sky.”

I felt a moment of happiness.

5 thoughts on “Take a Moment and Reflect.

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