My long-time role model and hero, Sally K. Ride, passed away this week at 61 years old, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
The first American woman to go to space, Dr. Ride was also an astrophysicist at University of California San Diego and the co-founder of Sally Ride Science, a company which aims to get kids, especially young girls, interested in science.
With news of Dr. Ride’s passing dominating my social media, I have been reflecting on just how she influenced my own life. My hipster tendencies are screaming, “Hey, I liked Sally Ride before all the hype!” but the rest of me is just glad that even in death, her legacy will inspire people to dream big.
I didn’t have many role models/heroes when I was growing up, but a seemingly-innate fascination with the space shuttle made me love Sally Ride from the time I first learned of her existence and accomplishments. In the 4th grade, during Women’s History month, one of my assignments was to write a report on a woman of note. I remember people choosing Harriet Tubman or Mother Theresa, and I chose Sally Ride.
[Funny, my family had a computer before most others', and I actually remember the font I used to type my little report, Typewrit, because it looked like a typewriter and 9-year-old me just adored it for some reason. Maybe that's where my love of interesting fonts began!]
I’m sure that report is still laying around in a box somewhere, because my dear mother saves everything, but alas, I cannot put my hands on it at the moment. Suffice it to say that I can probably give Dr. Ride most of the credit for my wanting to become an astronaut, since I was born only a year before her history-making flight. I didn’t become an astronaut, but that big dream is what fueled my love of astronomy from a very early age, and that is what kept me going all through college and grad school. It was my goal, my dream, my life-target, and still is all those things.
Perhaps you have veered from the original path to your dream, like I seem to be doing. I thought that getting my PhD would get me to where I wanted to be, and it may yet (but please, no more school for quite a while!!). Here’s a novel idea, though: other roads can also lead to my dream of exploring the Universe. It might be a roundabout path I take to get there, but a large portion of traveling is in the journey itself, and so it is with the journey through life. Who says you have to do what everyone else “always does” to get where you want to be? I see nothing wrong with marching to the beat of your own drummer. Go against the grain. Do something different. Surprise people. It may or may not be the path of least resistance, but whatever happens, it will be an adventure!
Finally coming out of hiatus,