I’ve recently been watching the “When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions” TV series that was originally on Discovery Channel. The series goes through NASA’s quest to put a man into space and ultimately to get a man to the moon after President Kennedy’s 1961 speech in which he said that the United States should land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. When I was a mere eight years old, I was allowed to stay up late that July night to watch Neil Armstrong be the first man to walk on the moon. Luckily for all of us, it was summer so Mom let us watch history being made.
Many moments of the different missions stand out to me, but one thing that really touched me was when the Apollo 13 Commander, Jim Lovell, spoke about the moment he realized that his dream of walking on the moon was never going to happen. Even though he had been looking forward to being one of the few men to actually walk on the moon for years, he had to let that dream go. He was disappointed but couldn’t dwell on it because he had to focus on getting back home alive.
I never had to make a decision between living and following a dream in my life, but I have had to let some dreams go over the years. After all the hoopla over the moon landings, there was a time I wanted to be an astronaut. My first watch was even a glow-in-the-dark astronaut watch, where the second hand was an astronaut floating around in space, similar to the one below:
How cool is that? However, I realized I could never be an astronaut because just spinning around in circles in my front yard practically made me sick. I mean, if doing the washing machine spin cycle in the front yard makes me puke, I don’t think I’m going to make it into space.
When I was younger, I thought it would be cool to be an actor. Then in fifth grade I decided to be part of a play and I had two small parts. One was the narrator at the beginning of the first and second scenes, and the other was a small part where I was on stage in a group where I didn’t have any lines. The narration part was easy, I just came out and said the name of the play, who it was written by and set the first scene. We did it in front of the younger grades for practice, so I came out, gave the name of the play and who wrote it and then started setting the scene and…went blank. I stood there, repeating “The setting is…” multiple times, while the little kids started laughing. From off to the side, my teacher gave me my line and I finished with a very red face. I realized then that if I couldn’t recite a few lines in front of a few little kids, I could never get up in front of a large group of people and deliver a bunch of lines.
I used to love to sing, too. I was in the Glee Club (yes, it really was called that) and really liked it. Then my voice started changing and I got really self-conscious about how I sounded and that was the end of my singing career. It was over before it even started. Remember Peter Brady when his voice was changing? I could relate. There was also the whole thing about getting up in front of a group of people and performing…with all of them looking at me.
Being on the small side, I used to dream about being tall when I got older – especially if I ended up being taller than all my brothers. When I was in about 6th grade and was starting to get better in baseball, I imagined myself being like 6’4”. When I was in 9th grade and most of my friends were growing way more than I was, I imagined myself being 6 feet tall. By the time I was finishing high school, I would have been happy to be 5’9. Seeing as both my parents were short, 4’11” and 5’5”, I never really had a chance to make 6 feet tall.
Even though I wasn’t very tall, I dreamed of being a professional baseball player from the time I first put on a baseball glove. Up through 10th grade, I truly believed I had a chance to make it to the major leagues. Then I started thinking about how I was one kid, in one small town, in one small state, and I realized I was pretty good, but not that good. That was probably the only dream that hurt to let go of.
Not all my dreams were crushed. I have an incredible wife, two awesome kids, a good job and I live a decent life. Those are all dreams that came true. Oh yeah, I may not be writing books, but I am a writer with this blog! And I didn’t even have to choose between a dream and life.