The other day, I had the urge to change my desktop wallpaper. I usually do this every couple of months (even though I usually have so many windows open on my computer that I never see my desktop, but I digress). I was casually looking at a collection of wallpapers when I came across some that were illustrations of outer space. Depictions of planets, stars, asteroids, nebulas, and black holes. As soon as I saw these pictures, I heard the same thing that I hear whenever I see pictures like these:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You see, I’m sure we all remember being asked this question many times during our childhood. The world was rich with possibility and potential then. We could be anything we wanted. Some wanted to be scientists, singers, doctors, sports players, police officers (just kidding, I lived in a black neighborhood), engineers, politicians, or lawyers. But I wanted to be an astronomer.
The mystery of the universe always fascinated me. Maybe its just the Aquarius in me, but Earth has always felt too small. It started as an interest in science fiction movies and tv shows. Futuristic spaceships whizzing about the galaxy, using their warp drive to travel at light speed, shooting enemy vessels with laser beams and photon cannons, and exploring strange worlds. Then my interest manifested into an awe about the beauty and infiniteness of space and a respect for its power and mystery.
During the summer before 8th grade, I was accepted to participate in a summer program that was pretty much a summer camp for nerds. Kids got to spend 10 weeks on a college campus and take an upper-level course of their choosing. I naturally chose the Astronomy course they were offering. It was an awesome experience because it provided me with my first in-depth look into astronomy. I learned about the life of a star, the strength of a black hole, the vastness of our universe, and the physics behind it all. I learned about this environment that covers our planet. This environment where millions of truly amazing and breathtaking phenomena occur. Phenomena that are physically impossible on our little planet. Space is a place where the “impossible” is often shown to simply be the “improbable”.
But during high school, my dreams of being an astronomer fell by the wayside. There weren’t any astronomy courses that I could take & our physics class barely touched on the subject of stellar bodies. Instead, I became interested in computers and programing, which had its own track of courses. After that I majored in Computer Engineering in undergrad & am currently enrolled in a PhD program studying Bioengineering. I enjoy what I’m studying now & feel passionate about the impact that my research will have, but my interest in the cosmos remains as bright as it was before. LaLa’s post yesterday also had me thinking about alternate career choices. How different things might have been if my interest in astronomy had been nurtured more.
Anyway, as a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? And I’m not talking about in the 2nd grade when you wanted to be a Power Ranger or Cinderella. What was your first serious career goal? Are you still interested in that career goal or have you moved on? Zip it up and zip it out.