A moment of reflection on my life trajectory

Today I watched Engadget’s mini-documentary Citizen Mars, which provides a glimpse into the character of five different Mars One candidates who have made it to the Final 100. Since I’ve finished it, I’ve been thinking about my priorities, my ambitions, and my goals. I’ve been focused on graduate school and my goal of becoming a math and physics teacher for the last few months. My attention has been on the day-to-day because I’ve had so many short-term commitments. I haven’t really thought about the overall direction of my life for a while.

When Mars One first put out the call for candidates to go on a one-way trip to Mars, I applied. Getting to Mars was my ultimate goal. It still is. As I watched the Citizen Mars videos, I realized that I feel just as passionately as those candidates.

Can teaching get me to Mars? Maybe. A true colony will eventually have children, and children need to be educated. What will education look like within a Martian colony?

I still have Ph.D. ambitions. I need to find a critical need of a colony mission and pursue solutions to that need as my graduate work. I need to make myself an obvious and necessary addition to such a mission.

In pursuing teaching now and Mars overall, I’ve chosen to leave behind other ambitions. Robotics and artificial intelligence are now merely hobby interests. My interest in user experience remains that. Even my further study of physics or mathematics has been halted. Yet, I cannot give up my drive towards Mars. I am not yet ready to cede this ambition to something more realistic or pragmatic.

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Tuesday’s Talk of the Nation on NPR focused on the long-term unemployed whose numbers have swelled during the Great Recession. The guests on the show were inspiring in their perseverance and guarded optimism. Some of the callers, though, were simply heart-breaking. There were tales of college grads and highly qualified professionals that are struggling to make rent and triaging their bills, graduate students that had to drop out and take secretarial positions. Such people are part of the growing number of “downwardly mobile” workers.

Listening while making my deliveries, I thought of my own situation. I have a job with a small, local business where I feel valued, even if I am not using my degree or pursuing my interests. That job supplements my main work s a private tutor. When I tutor I am helping make math accessible and success possible for those hoping a college degree can give them some small advantage.

The show helped me realize that my situation is not uncommon right now. In fact, I’m fortunate to have work that is fulfilling in some ways, even if it is not leading directly to my goals or the life I initially planned out.

And I still have hope. And ambition. So even though others might express disappointment in what I haven’t yet achieved, I remain confident that I have not failed completely. I can measure my success in contemporary terms.

My momentum is greater than zero yet still.