It was an uncharacteristically soggy weekend here so we decided to go go see a movie on the big screen – The Martian. I’d heard all about it, as I work with many NASA science geeks who loved the movie because apparently they get the science right in many ways that so many blockbuster films do not.
For those of you who don’t know the story, it follows a crew of NASA astronauts who have to unexpectedly abort their mission on Mars where they leave behind one of their crew members who they believe to be dead. Well – no spoiler alert here – it turns out he is alive! And has to keep himself alive, fed, housed, and entertained for four years until the next mission can rescue him (Mars is really, really far away). I won’t go into any more detail, but I will say that I enjoyed the movie and I’m glad I saw it on the big screen, but it definitely included some “no way in hell” scenes that defied all laws of nature to ensure the audience remained captivated.
Two of The Martian’s crew members were former military, and two others were scientists, so I found myself relating to them the most since I am myself a former military officer (U.S. Coast Guard) and a former scientist (geology). I remember how passionate I felt about both of those pursuits in my 20s and 30s, and I can only imagine the dedication and drive it would have taken to become an astronaut. While watching the movie, I found myself envying their (fictional) ambitions to become the first to land on the red planet and definitely the first to attempt a crazy rescue mission to save one of their own. How Amazing! With a capital “A”!
The movie also left me a bit wistful, wondering what Amazing thing I might yet pursue in this life. To be honest, I always thought that having kids would provide an automatic Amazing, and that the pressure wouldn’t be as strong to accomplish other things. In a way, focusing on our journey to become parents let me off the hook of deciding who I wanted to be otherwise, and I admit that I was OK with that. After all I had never been so obsessed with anything as I was about becoming pregnant and becoming a mom, so it was easy to call that my calling and passion.
I wonder now if I was right about that, and whether having kids would have sufficed as the Amazing, or whether I would have realized too late that there would still be a need for other self-actualized pursuits. Many of my friends with kids tell me that the desire to pursue a passion doesn’t just go away when you become a parent, but it does become harder given all the other things that need to be done. With kids now essentially off the table, I have this feeling that I’ve been given a second shot to find my Amazing but I’m just not sure what that might be. While this thinking is related to my thoughts about how to scratch the kiddo itch, I think it is bigger and deeper.
While it is probably too late for me to become an astronaut, is it too late for me to get my PhD? Join the Peace Corps? Become a teacher? Leave behind our cushy life and devote ourselves to the needy? Write a novel? Travel the world? The possibilities seem endless, but the drive of my youth isn’t quite there. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that we just spent 5 years in pursuit of one Amazing with nothing much to show for it. And I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with me turning 40!
Does anyone else feel the pressure to do something Amazing with their unexpectedly childfree life?