I’ve developed some weird emotional responses over the years. Crying at parades (any parades) and fireworks started happening after I had my first kid. Any music with a swooping crescendo makes me choke up. Makes me a real hoot at Disneyland. It’s not uncommon, I’ve learned, to have that response, but it’s still sort of weird to be on the verge of The Ugly Cry ™ while clutching cotton candy and watching costumed performers make their way down Main Street USA. And the thing is? It is a pure emotional response, mostly joy, but sometimes other, unnamed, complicated feelings, like watching my kids experience new things, I don’t even know. I bet the Germans have a word for it. It’s a straight-up hot mess. I have no business ever going to Mardi Gras or Carnivale, can you imagine? (I wouldn’t pass up the chance, though.)
Anyway, for the last few years, whenever I look up and see the moon and stars, my mind begins to pick out constellations, and admire the scenery. Then a small panic starts fluttering in my mind about leaving Earth behind and travelling into space and how I never want to do that. And let’s face it, no one is going to force me onto a rocket and blast me towards Mars, and like Mardi Gras, if someone gave me the chance to orbit the planet or something, I wouldn’t pass it up lightly (or at all, I hope.)
There is a deep almost-grief that settles at my core when I think about leaving Earth. I feel my toes curl, trying to grow roots. There’s no imagined delight at the wonders beyond our planet, which cracks me up, because I love learning about our solar system and beyond. I love the thought of what’s out there, yet to be discovered. I’m just not the one who wants to go. I’m not sure what exactly gives my lizard brain the idea that there is some upcoming mission to space or planet-ending event that will require me to suit up and blast off, but the anticipation is there.
I know what I’m going to wear, just in case:
When this strange idea that I’m going to be pulled into space kicks in, I immediately start planning my excuses, most of which revolve around things that I would miss about Earth, because again, my lizard brain is convinced that I’d be on a Really Long Mission or something. Aside from missing my family and friends, unless we were all recruited for a Robinson Family-style mission, I’d miss the mustard blooming in the fields, I think. I’d miss the smell of the ocean, and the peace of the redwoods, and the warmth of the sun on my skin. Not only do I live less than 30 minutes from all those sensual, natural wonders, but I rarely get out and enjoy them now because I’d rather watch paranormal investigation shows and knit on my couch when downtime arrives. But man, you float the possibility of a 20-year mission to space, and I’m waxing poetic about the stuff I take for granted every day.
I am cracking up at myself, but look, the panic is real. Stupid, but real. My thoughts leap from my own panic about being forced onto the launch pad to the future, generations ahead, and I worry about whether subsequent generations will find themselves orbiting some far away planet and missing the sound of autumn leaves underfoot. Man, that can get me good and worked up. Would they even care? Would the mysteries of the universe be more exciting than boring old Earth? Would they think of us Earthbound people at all? You can see this is getting melodramatic.
I used to think that my preference for comfort, ease, and not a lot of change was what triggered all this. Now I think this is my own weird midlife crisis about getting older, watching my children grow and facing up to the idea that any of us could be facing a trip off-planet unexpectedly. Maybe the panic is about knowing that there will never be enough time on Earth. But…but…but… excuses boil up revealing what I’d miss, what couldn’t be brought with me, and it makes me wonder what in the heck is stopping me from basking in all these things now.
I can’t slow the passage of time, or stop my kids from becoming adults or God forbid, becoming astronauts. Not that being an astronaut is likely for any of them. They are terrestrial critters like their mama. The only thing certain about life is that it ends someday for all of us, no matter how many good reasons we have to stay, and how many amazing things we’ll miss when we go. Maybe this is a celestial poke in the forehead to go ahead and capture as many memories and experiences now, so that when it’s time to fly to Jupiter there are no regrets, and plenty of well-documented antics for the subsequent generations to be scandalized by.