Chapter 1: Reality
George came back to reality with a snap, prompted by his granddaughter Ella giggling to some unknown joke. He came to from a daydream, from some distant world and usually when this happens, nothing is remembered about what the heck we were daydreaming about; but, this time, there was no chance of that.
He was in a World of nostalgia, of “what if,” of regret. He didn’t want to regret his life choices, as he was a genuinely happy man. It was more of the sense that he could’ve had it all. All the happy bits, and none of the drudgery that he accepted, and made the best of in life. He was sitting on the floor watching Ella crawl across the floor pausing at each toy, block, and really any object, to inspect it with that unique blend of curiosity and wonder rarely seen in anyone over the age of 18!
He looked down at the object in his hands that sent him on his mental journey. A small toy rocket. It was rubber, and probably meant to be a bath toy, but it made it into the bin of various toys that were now spilled all over the carpet in the living room. It was a simple enough object that George had seen before, but maybe also being around his granddaughter whose life was so full of potential, and infinite possibilities contributed to his trip down the ever-revealing question of, “what if?”
“What if I made just one different choice?” He thought. “Or made the decision, at any number of points in my life, to take the risk and follow my heart instead of the more practical path in my head?” His mind tore through the possible changes in his life at the speed of light. Multiple possible lives passing in his mind in the blink of an eye. This simple toy seemed to knock his World out of its comfortable orbit, and he couldn’t shake off that feeling of, but not quite, regret, and sorrow, and yet, as he looked to Ella, content and happy at the same time. It was a strange mix of feelings and downright confusing!
“I think I need a change of scene here, Ella,” George said lifting himself off the ground. “Why don’t we go for a walk?” Ella stared up at him with a poker face that gave nothing away as to whether she was happy or sad about this rhetorical question. He lifted her into his arms and walked towards the front door. It was a rare moment for George to have his granddaughter to himself for the day, but he was cherishing the time. George put a little light jacket on Ella and set her up into her stroller. They stepped out into what would be described as the perfect day for George. Sunny, cloudless, cool enough for pants, but warm enough to have a t-shirt. A light breeze rustled the leaves on the trees throughout the neighborhood.
George smiled as he looked to the sky through his sunglasses. There was a crescent moon already risen in the bright blue sky which added to his nostalgic, slightly regretful feeling.
“Look at the moon, Ella!” he said as he looked over the handles of the stroller to Ella. He laughed upon seeing that Ella was already drifting to sleep before they even reached the sidewalk. As she dreamed, George let his mind drift as well to a solution for his newfound feelings brought on by a silly toy. By the time he returned from his walk with Ella, he had a plan in store. George put Ella in her crib to let her continue her nap, and when his son and daughter-in-law came home, he said his goodbye’s. He wanted to get back to meet Mary, to tell her what he was thinking. She was away on a little business for one of her books and would be home that night. He wanted to have things prepared and ready so he could present his idea to her as soon as possible. That Rocket plunged him into regret, but now he was in the sky and more excited for the future than ever before.
Chapter 2: The Plan
“Mary!” George said as she walked through the door. He took her suitcase from her hand, placed it down on the floor, then hugged her with a little more energy than usual.
“Well, what has you so excited?” She said. “I mean, I’m excited to see you too hunny, but there’s something else… isn’t there?” She looked at him with sharp, kind, and knowing eyes. She was smart, and direct, and exuded confidence in even the most subtle of things like how she walked or said hello. Mary was short and slight, but her eyes were a gateway to her mind and gave her the presence of an Elephant. Then her smile would open the doors, and any reservations you might have towards speaking with someone of her intelligence would instantly dissipate as you were undoubtedly welcome. George took a moment to look at his wife. 40 years of marriage still left him missing her when she went away.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” George said as his mind caught up to the present. “Oh! Yes, there is something I want to tell you. I don’t want to bombard you though. I’m sure you’re tired, but I’ve had an idea, and I’ve laid it all out to present to you in the kitchen.” George was speaking like a jittery teenager asking out his first date, and Mary laughed enjoying his childish enthusiasm.
“Ok,” She said, “Let me unpack and get settled a bit and you can tell me.” She soon returned downstairs and was ready to hear the idea. George was already sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop open, and a legal pad with what appeared to be a few pages of scribbled notes inside.
“Alright, George, let’s hear it!” She said directly, business-like, but also playfully.
“Well, today I kind of went down memory lane a bit, and was thinking about my passion for space, and astronomy, and how I always had the idea as a kid to build a rocket.” George barely rested for a breath before continuing. “Anyway, I thought to myself, ‘well, what are you doing about it?’ So,” he sat up a little straighter, “I’ve decided to do something about it.” Mary listened intently and smiling at the passion in his voice. “Here’s what I propose. I want to go back to school… together. I can take classes on all those things I never got to learn about, and you can maybe take art lessons as you always wanted to paint, and draw. Maybe you can do your own cover art on your next book!” Mary looked intrigued, and as always, was comfortable with a little silence to think before she responded.
“I like it, and sounds like fun,” she was now reasoning out loud. “but what about traveling? We were making a lot of plans there.” Mary said.
“I got you covered,” he said. “We are going to pick a location we want to travel to and move there for a year or half a year while we go to one or more of the local universities. We don’t need degrees so we won’t really have to worry about admissions and we can see the sites along the way.” Mary looked at him, thinking, still a smile on her face. Again, she paused for a period that would make some uncomfortable, but that was her way. Mary never just agreed or disagreed with something before giving herself the time to think about it. Her eyes spoke before she did and said there was another question that needed answering.
“Ok, one more thought. What about our kids, and our granddaughter? We won’t get to see them as often, and I expect there will be more on the way soon.”
“I agree, and here’s what I think. The first year, we stay a little more local, and we can spend the next year more abroad like, Europe. Then, come back to the US the following year and so on until we get tired of it or just want to be home again. We’ll be home in the Summer’s for Ella’s birthday and can still come home for holidays too.” George finished with a resolution in his voice that he knew this could work. Mary was working the numbers so to speak and then again her eyes spoke first, and she slapped her hand on the table as if to solidify her statement.
“Ok, let’s do it,” she said, and George responded with a simple, but huge grin. “Let’s get some rest, and we can start really putting it all together tomorrow. Sound good?” She asked.
“Sounds great,” George said content, and excited. He wasn’t sure he was ready to sleep, but he would try. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, he couldn’t wait for the next morning to get started.
Three days later and the kitchen table was filled with the results of their searches, printouts, and plans for the next few years. Those three days consisted of Google searches, phone calls, taking down notes, and sharing their findings with each other. They were trying to make their plans for at least the next two years, and it took a few days to agree on where they would go first, second, and so on.
“First, we can start in New York City,” Mary said. “I’ve always wanted to experience living there, and we won’t be short on inspiration for what we are learning either. Plenty of schools to choose from, and a short flight away from our kids in Michigan.”
“Also, good to get the more expensive trip out of the way first,” George added playfully. “We can also each take a German language class or two to prep for the next year.”
“Right,” she said. “After New York, off to Germany and Austria… with some little trips in between,” Mary’s tone and smile were a little mischievous like she had an unknown agenda. George continued, unaware.
“Then, back to somewhere in the US,” George said. He looked over everything and nodded his head in approval. “It’s a good start, I’m excited to get going. I bet our kids are going to think we’re mad though!” He laughed.
“I bet,” Mary laughed back. “All we have to do now is pick our schools and classes in New York, and we can plan Germany along the way.”
They found the schools and classes they wanted to take over the next few days. Mary would start with some basic drawing and painting classes, as well as an Art History class or two. George would go for a Physics class, an introductory Aerospace Engineering class, and an Astronomy class. Then, Mary got on the phone to make it all happen. Being a writer, she had a lot of connections with… other writers, who also taught at Universities. Her friend Agatha was able to get them through the doors, admitted, and signed up for the classes they desired. The school was more than happy to accept their tuition costs.
George and Mary laid out their plan to their Son and Daughter and were met with looks that said, “you might be a little crazy, but overall we’re excited to hear how everything will go.” The Summer whipped by and soon it was early August. George and Mary packed a couple bags each and left for the Big Apple. A few hours later they were in their new home. A furnished apartment, with blank white walls. They unpacked, placed a few framed pictures of their family around the apartment and spent the night dreaming of tomorrow.
Two days later, George woke up immediately struck with the strange fact that today was his first day of College.
Chapter 3: Stepping into a Dream
George walked down the streets of Manhattan to his first ever College class. Mary’s class started later, but they decide they would meet for lunch. George walked into a large brick building and found his lecture hall for Physics 101. Pen and Notebook ready, his thoughts were merely on how funny this all seemed. Most of the students in the class would be freshmen, and he assumed that they were all probably wondering why the Professor was sitting in the front row of seats. He gave a quiet laugh to himself amused at the thought.
Soon, the actual Professor walked in, and class began. The pace of the lecture moved fast, but George was focused and determined to get all the information down, to learn all he could here. An hour flew by quickly, and soon he was at lunch with Mary at one of the school cafeterias.
“So, how was it, Rocket Man?” Mary asked playfully.
“It was great, definitely got a lot of strange looks from the other kids, but felt great to finally experience a college lecture,” George said.
“Well, you are strange,” Mary said nodding her head as if confirming some long-held internal debate. “Did you just say it felt great to experience a College lecture?” Mary and George both laughed.
“How was it for you? How was Art History?” George asked
Mary shrugged her shoulders, “Part of it was great, but part of it I definitely didn’t miss. Something about the lecturing, I feel like I could just read a book instead of being in a classroom.”
“So, do it,” George said. “The whole idea here is to enjoy ourselves and to enjoy learning something new. You could read a book instead of going to a class and spend time at the art museums and take some tours.” George mapped out the plan with his hands. Mary loved the idea. After lunch, Mary left for her Introductory Painting class, and George was off to an Astronomy class. They finished the night with dinner out for some Sushi. Before closing his eyes and falling asleep, he took one more moment to take in this new experience they were in and fell into his dreams.
Their weekly schedules worked out in such a way that George was on his own on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He had a class in the morning, Introduction to Aerospace Engineering, and then was on his own for lunch. The only class Mary kept was during that lunchtime, and so George would sit in that Cafeteria and look over his notes, or write in his journal, or just do a bit of people-watching. On one of these Thursdays, in the middle of October, George was eating his lunch when he found himself looking up at two young men, trays in hand, smiling down at him.
“Can we join you?” Said the tall, skinny one.
George gestured with his hand towards the seats while he finished chewing. “Please,” he finally said with a smile. They all introduced each other. Paul was tall, skinny, and was white as a ghost with a simple buzz cut. Stefano was like his polar opposite. Tanned skin, Long curly black hair, average height and an athletic build. Even their personalities seemed opposites as Paul did most of the talking, and Stefano listened intently, adding to the conversation here and there. They were curious about his story and what brought him to their Physics class which is where they first noticed him, confirming for George that they did indeed think he was the teacher. It became a weekly meeting every Thursday for lunch, and soon their conversations became deeper. George would challenge them with questions about their future plans, and they would ask George his opinion on ideas they had.
“What is your plan for when you graduate?” George asked.
“Get a job,” Paul answered, and Stefano nodded in agreement. Then, George challenged them to go look online for the job they would want in the future and look at what is required. The next week they came back to George and started right away with their experience.
“You need two years experience for everything!” Paul said before even putting his tray on the table and sitting down in a huff. “And that’s for an entry-level, barely doing any Engineering at all, job.”
Stefano chimed in, “And to get the really good jobs, where you are actually designing and building something, you need at least a Master’s degree.” George just sat back and let the barrage come at him.
“Yet,” said Paul, “We are spending our time taking a class on the history of Ancient Greece? I don’t understand how that helps me become a better Electrical Engineer.” George put up his hands to stop them going any further and laughed.
“Ok, ok. Now you have two choices. Complain about the obstacles, or find a way around them.” George explained to them how Mary chose to pursue her study of Art History differently and they threw around some ideas of how they might get around their obstacles. Each week continued with their meetings and discussing new ways to pursue their goals and dreams. In a flash, it seemed the Semester was over, and George and Mary were back home in Michigan to spend the Holidays with their children and grandchild, Ella.
They couldn’t miss New Year’s Eve in New York City though, so they were back in their apartment before they knew it. They were able to watch the famous ball drop from inside one of the buildings in Time Square thanks to one of Mary’s connections. The mass of people in the square below was unlike anything they’ve ever seen. A bucket list experience they never added, but one that they would never forget.
A new semester began with new classes for George, while Mary continued her painting classes, and exploring her Art History education on her own. The apartment also became Mary’s art gallery with her finished paintings from the first semester filling the walls at George’s insistence.
“They’re not very good yet George,” Mary said looking at her work almost squeamishly.
“True,” he said laughing, “but they will show your progress and keep us inspired.” George learned more Astronomy and a little about rocketry in his next Aerospace Engineering course. His schedule no longer coincided with Paul and Stefano’s, but they met up here and there to continue their talks. Come April, Mary was taking George on tours at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other museums. Her knowledge astounded him, and Mary enjoyed showing off a little. They were also beginning their planning for their next venture to Germany and Austria for the upcoming school year.
“I don’t know about you,” George began, “but I think I am ready for some Mountains!”
“I agree, and we really need to spend some time on our language studying!” Mary said.
“We have the Summer, but you’re right, we should get started on that if we are going to really be able to live there for a year!”
May came, and by this time their apartment had minimal wall space available for any more of Mary’s artwork to be hung. The white walls that had welcomed them back in August were now full of color as they packed up their suitcases to head to Michigan for the Summer before embarking on the next leg of their great experiment.
Chapter 4: A SMALL Idea
The walls of their new apartment in Vienna, Austria were again blank and bare. It took them a few days to fully unpack, as Mary wanted to head out to start seeing the new city right away. After a few days of exploring some of the sites, unpacking in-between, it was time again to go to school. Things were going to be a little different this time learning from their experiences in New York. They discussed the changes over the Summer.
George began, “There are just certain things that a lecture can’t teach. I need to get my hands on things and learn along the way.”
“That’s why I left the Art History class,” Mary agreed, “but the Painting classes have been really beneficial, and I guess that goes with what you said. I get to be hands-on there, yet having a Teacher to guide me along the way and give me new tools to use was great.”
They concluded that George would take part in certain lectures and look for other opportunities that were more hands on. He stumbled upon the perfect outlet during his research. A rocketry club connected to one of the Universities. He would get to learn how to build a rocket and launch it into the sky just as he dreamed of doing as a kid. He also had a couple of lectures he would attend as well to supplement his rocketry and space passion.
On the morning of their first day of learning in Vienna, Mary was the first out the door. She had her day mapped out, and wouldn’t meet up with George again until dinner. It was around lunch time when George set out for his first meeting of the rocketry club.
They were in a regular classroom to start and the Teacher, speaking English fortunately, outlined what they would be doing. They would learn a bit, design their own rockets, and then build them together under her supervision before eventually going on a day trip to launch their creations.
“Ok, everyone,” the teacher said after her introductions. “let’s start by talking about the basics. What are the essential pieces of launching a rocket?”
George raised his hand, and the teacher pointed at him with a smile, “Some sort of propulsion.”
“Yes!” She said with enthusiasm and George was now attracting those quizzical looks from the younger students as the teacher wrote, “Propellent” on the board. The quizzical looks soon passed, and George became just one of the students. Someone there to learn, and to launch a rocket! His Lecture on Cosmology was next, and he was glad he joined. Mary and George met for dinner where she told him all about her deep tour of the Opera house and her new painting class. Another piece of art already in the works to decorate their walls. George recapped his day, but his thoughts were mostly on rockets.
Time was flying on their time in Vienna, and the leaves were long fallen from the trees that lined the streets and filled the parks. Mary was a painting machine as their apartment was already splashed with color from several of her paintings on the walls. George was up and out of the apartment that morning with a quick kiss from Mary. It was launch day for George, and he was excited. He met the group of students and their Teacher at the workshop where they had spent the last month putting their original designs together. They more or less looked the same, with varying heights and widths, but George’s had the benefit of Mary’s colorful touch as she painted him a decal to wrap around the surface. The group hopped on a bus together, rockets in tow, and headed out into the country.
“Alright, everyone,” the Teacher said turning around in her seat to the group of students behind her. “I know you’re all excited, and so am I, but remember, we will not be blowing off any fingers today! Be safe. Remember, we launch one at a time, so we can really show off each design and also talk about what makes each rocket successful or not.” The bus rocked back and forth as it pulled into a small gravel parking lot overlooking a vast open field. “Ok, here we are! Let’s touch some clouds!”
They all filed out of the bus and made their way to the field. One by one they placed their rocket on a handcrafted launch pad built by their Teacher, discussed their design and then all took cover to watch the rocket launch into the sky at breakneck speed, or explode where it stood. After a few students had their turn, George was up, and he was actually a little nervous. All eyes were on him, it seemed, and not on the rocket. They all hid behind the rock wall about 30 feet from the launch pad as they waited for the fuse to ignite the propellant inside the rocket. The seconds seemed to go on too long, and then it fired off into the sky in an instant, causing George to take a quick breath as his eyes widened in shock and surprise from the sudden ignition. They all stood up, and a few of the students cheered as his rocket raced through the air, indeed touching the clouds.
George felt, well, he wasn’t sure what he felt, but it was incredible. He had no words to speak, to describe it to Mary when he returned to their apartment.
“I… I…. It was just amazing,” George said. “Seeing it shoot off to forever, it was… just amazing.”
“Amazing you say?” Mary teased. “I’m sure it’s hard to explain because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this. It is indeed amazing.” She smiled, gave him a hug and kiss and let him stand speechless still searching for the words.
“I do know one thing,” he said. “I want everyone to feel like this. I want Ella to experience this too. I’ve been thinking about it the whole bus ride back and the walk back to the apartment. I have another idea, Mary.”
It so happened that Mary also had an idea as George laid out his thoughts. He wanted to create rocket-building kits for kids of different ages and with varying levels of difficulty. Each kit would have all the necessary pieces to assemble a working rocket that would take off and touch the sky like his did, hoping that they would inspire kids to think bigger and bolder and to chase their dreams.
“I love it, George,” Mary said. “It’s funny because today I also had an idea for my next book.”
“Wow, that’s great,” George said.
Mary quickly spoke again before George could ask her any questions, “I’m just not going to tell you what it’s about. I feel like keeping that a secret for now.”
They both knew at that moment that their experiment of attending classes was more or less over. Not in any regretful way, but knowing that it led them to somewhere they would never have been without taking the steps they did. The next morning they talked this over and what it would mean for Mary to work on her book, and for George to work on his Rocket Kits.
“Well, for one thing,” she said, “I think we should not enroll in any courses or clubs for the second semester and spend time traveling a bit more before really working on our next projects.”
“I like it,” he said. “And then I’m guessing it’s off to Chicago?” He knew where this road led. Every book Mary ever wrote, she penned the final pages in Chicago. The city was driving distance from their children in Michigan, and the city atmosphere inspired her. He couldn’t deny that he loved being there as well.
When the Semester closed, they decided to not return to Michigan for the Holidays and use the extra time to travel. They visited cities in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Mary even surprised George with a day trip to a mountaintop Observatory in Switzerland which was, as Mary intended, the highlight for him.
The warm weather seemed to rush in around them, and the flowers popped up everywhere. It was time for their journey abroad to end, but it felt more like a beginning to George. He already started working on his Rocket Kits, and Mary was outlining her novel. Even with all the travel, they couldn’t help but find the time to work a little. As they were leaving Austria, on the plane home to Michigan, George seemed more interested in the flight itself as they tore through the clouds.
Chapter 5: An Unexpected Opportunity
The next year and a half flew by and took George to an unexpected destination. In his wildest dreams, he might have imagined his path winding up there, but that was unlikely even with his great imagination. Mary and George spent that Summer after leaving Austria planning and outlining her book and designing and creating his rocket kit. Then, as the first week of September came they were moving to Chicago propelling things forward like a slingshot for George. The once again blank apartment had a package resting on the kitchen table when George arrived home from a day working out at a local coffee shop. George grabbed a knife to cut the tape as Mary looked on almost as excited and nervous as George. Inside was the first completed version of his Rocket Kit sent to him for approval by the Manufacturer he connected with over the Summer.
“It looks great!” said Mary. George said nothing, but there was no look of disappointment on his face. He read every inch of the box that described the interior contents. He slowly opened it and pulled out the pieces, and the instruction manual, and extra educational material on Rockets. He looked up at Mary with a smile.
“So far, so good,” he said. Then, sat down at the table and began reading every inch of the instructions and spent the day putting the rocket together making sure the instructions he wrote made sense. A test flight back home in Michigan the following weekend and he was able to finally feel that it was ready.
Right before the Holiday Season, George’s Rocket Kits were available at major retail stores. By the time Summer rolled around again, George was swamped with managing his new booming business. It wasn’t money that George needed though, so he decided to bring in a CEO to run the business logistics and make everything run smoothly. Then, he decided he wanted to have a team to help him create more of these kits but for different things. Learning through little projects. It just so happened that he had reconnected with his fellow classmates from New York City, Paul, and Stefano, the month before.
“George!” Paul said over the Skype call. “Our Savior!” Paul raised his hands up to the ceiling as Stefano sat next to him smiling taking up slightly less of the screen.
“What do you mean?” George asked. Stefano let Paul do the talking.
“Well, after that first semester we went to our Counselors and made a deal. We could work or intern for credits to replace any courses that didn’t pertain directly to what we wanted to do. That, along with Summer classes, we graduated a year early and have our 2 years experience! Well, 3 years!” Paul was speaking fast and cheerfully.
“Wow,” said George, genuinely amazed at their progress. They told him more about their internships and all they’ve learned. So, one month later when he had the idea to put together a team to help create other kits like his Rocket one, they were the first two to pop into his mind, and they jumped ship to Chicago in a heartbeat.
By the end of the Summer, things were really coming together. George was able to help the team create new kits, and the CEO, Charlotte, made the whole machine run without a hitch. The kits made learning fun again, and kids and adults alike were loving them. Rockets were shooting into the air across the country, as well as telescopes being built and mini robots. As exciting as all that was, it wasn’t the unexpected and truly incredible destination that he was heading towards. That came in October.
Mary was just about finished with writing her book and decided she would finally tell George what it was about. He had been hounding her the whole year they’ve been in Chicago, and even at his busiest times with the business he still found time to tease her and ask what the book was about. Finally, nearing its end, she gave in over dinner.
“It’s about…you,” she said, and George sat up straight in surprise, and a well of emotion filled him. “I just thought it was so amazing how you decided to take us back to school and looking at all that’s unfolded since then I wanted to write about it.”
“I… I don’t know what to say,” George said. “Can you make me a little taller in the book?” he finally said, and they both laughed. A small tear escaped from his eye. He was filled to the brim with love from and for Mary.
“It’s a mix of fact and fiction, and I think it’s going to be my best book yet,” Mary said. They sat in silence, and all the words that could be said or needed to be said were done with a look and the touch of the hand. The next morning, Mary let George read some pages from her first draft of the book about him. Then, they sat down for breakfast in the apartment and turned on the news.
“… Alright everyone, strap in because this next report is out of this World,” the newscaster said. “Elon Musk, the founder of Space X, has just announced this morning that they are going to launch their first commercial flight into space next year!” Mary and George listened intently as the newscaster continued, “They are going to take applicants, and the requirements are that you pass a health examination, and pay up the small sum of 5 Million Dollars! Well, that puts me out of the running,” said the newscaster, “but, maybe one of our listeners will be orbiting our Planet next year.”
Mary and George looked at each other and Mary started, “You want to apply, don’t you!” She said.
“I don’t know, I would love it, I’d be scared of it, but I’d love it… I’m almost 70 years old though, I’m sure they’re looking for someone younger—”
“Oh, Stop.” Mary interrupted his rambling with a wave of her hand. “Would you do it if you got chosen?”
“Yes I would,” he said.
“Then, you’re applying,” Mary said with distinction, “and I might not be as close to finishing my book as I thought.”
After three months of waiting, watching the news daily for any hints of when they would hear back from Space X, a phone call came for George. Mary put her writing down and stood to stare at George on the phone.
“Yes, this is he….Ok… yes… I understand… thank you.” And he hung up the phone and turned to face Mary with the biggest childlike grin on his face that said it all. He got it. They hugged, and George spun her around like they were in a movie.
“I’m going into space!” He said.
“I can’t believe it! I am definitely adding to this book!” Mary said, and they both laughed. George called his kids, and everyone he knew as calls came in equally as fast as the names of the first people to go into space on a commercial flight were released to the media. George was by far the oldest, along with a young girl in her early twenties who was a genius millionaire, and a man in his 40’s who was a famous travel writer with a TV show.
The launch date was 9 months away and in the meantime they would all be shipped down to NASA’s Astronaut training facility in Florida to make sure they were physically fit for the journey, and also to go through a less rigorous crash course of all the knowledge that Astronauts must know to make the cut. Luckily they would be accompanied by two experienced Astronauts on their journey, so it was more for the experience than needing to know anything in particular. As the other two winners were already well known in the country and around the World, George took on a lot of the spotlight and became a new global celebrity. Everyone wanted to know who this guy was and what made him special enough to be chosen for this first flight.
Two weeks before launch and George had his last allowable visit from Mary, his kids, and their families.
“It’s all so fantastical and borderline insane,” he thought. “Me, a man nearing his 70’s and going into space!” He held Ella in his arms, and he was so happy that she was old enough to understand what was happening and to remember it too.
“Remember, Ella, anything is possible, so dream bigger than your biggest dream,” George spoke so only Ella could hear. A private moment that he hoped she would remember. It was like his whole journey was just so he could tell her this, and that she would believe it. As she would see him get launched into space in two weeks, he couldn’t do much more to prove it than that.
Chapter 6: The Reality of our Dreams
There he was. Strapped into his seat, on his back, and looking through the windows of the Spacecraft to the seemingly infinite blue sky above. His helmet on, and barely able to move with how tightly he was secured in his seat, he looked around to his companions. The genius girl and the popular and charismatic TV host and writer were all reduced, like himself, to heaps of silent mush. They all mustered simple smiles to each other, but no words were spoken as they all felt they had to keep their mouths shut. The nerves were unbearable. George focused his mind elsewhere as his two Astronaut leaders were counting items off a checklist to mission control.
“We are a go,” the pilot said, and this brought George firmly back to the present. A moment later the countdown started, loud and clear, piped through the speaker in his helmet.
“10, 9, 8, 7…” a huge rumbling shook the whole ship and himself violently. The engines were ignited. “6, 5, 4…” the rumbling grew beneath them, and George felt the ship jerk upwards for a brief second. “3, 2, 1” and the jerk became an all-out thrust, and he felt the giant spacecraft begin to hurl upwards into the sky. 10 seconds later the fear and the worry were gone as the only thing to focus on was the force upon his chest. He trained for this and focused on his breathing. It was like breathing with someone standing on his chest. Still above was blue sky and then they ripped through a cloud, and George’s thoughts went to the rocket he launched in Austria for a brief moment.
The noise of the engines reverberating up through the ship was intense, and the weight upon his chest grew. The bright blue skies were fading to a dark midnight blue, and then black. The World at their backs, they felt engines detach from the main ship to fall back to Earth. Another engine ignited, and they were launched further and faster into space, but the force on his chest was not nearly as strong. With such a focus on the moment, the short flight seemed to last an eternity, but then the engines cut off and it was over.
“Anybody puke?” The pilot asked with a big grin below his mustache looking back to the three inexperienced astronauts. No one had, and instead, everyone laughed. The trip was the most intense of George’s life, but the destination was definitely the most peaceful. As soon as they unbuckled from their seats and removed their helmets, they all had slightly different reactions. Some played with the weightlessness and spun their helmets and gloves around in the air, while the main pilot showed off with some slow motion backflips. George, along with the other experienced Astronaut made their way immediately to the windows.
He looked out to see his World and the pictures he had seen in his life didn’t come close to the amazing view in real life. It was more than the view, it was a feeling, and it swept over him and brought him to tears. As far away as he was from his home, from the people he loved, he somehow felt closer than ever before. He didn’t quite understand it, but he didn’t need to just now. He just floated there and stared. Then, he heard a noise that didn’t fit in with the picture, or with the scene. A cry, a baby’s cry. He heard it again, and he was torn from the view from the spacecraft of the Earth below and snapping back to reality sitting on the couch at home as Ella’s cries reached him from the baby monitor.
He leaped from his seat on the couch and went upstairs to tend to her. She was still fast asleep, but sort of talking. He kissed his two fingers and placed them on her forehead quietly backing out of the room to let her continue dreaming.
“At least one of us can,” he thought to himself. “How long was I in my head for?!” He wondered. He recalled their walk around the block and putting her to bed before sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee. He started daydreaming while on their walk, and although he remembered everything he did, half his brain was completely elsewhere, walking through the most elaborate daydream he’d ever had. It was figuratively and literally out of this world.
His son and daughter in law returned home, and he said goodnight to them as Mary was indeed coming back tonight from her trip and he wanted to greet her when she returned. He drove home, and his thoughts went wild along the way.
“The beginning idea is easily possible,” he said out loud to himself as the streetlights zipped by on the highway. “We could go to school and take classes and travel together.” It was as if he was reasoning with Mary in the empty seat next to him. “I might not end up in Space,” he laughed, “but if the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely go.” By the time he pulled into the driveway, he had made one conclusion. “Why not? If we don’t like it, we just stop it. We move on to the next thing, and if all that was gained was some time together, and memories, it can’t be a waste.”
About an hour or so later, Mary opened the door to a quiet house. She wheeled in her suitcase and left it by the front door.
“George?” She called out, walking towards the kitchen where the only other light in the house, besides the one in the entryway, was on.
“In here, Mary,” George answered. She entered the kitchen and found George sitting at the kitchen table, laptop open, and notepad next to it. George got up from the table, walked around, and gave her a big welcoming hug and kiss.
“What are you working on?” She said, curious, pointing to the kitchen table workstation. “You seem… different… but in a good way. What’s going on?” George placed his arm around her as he began to walk with her towards the table, a smile on his face.
“I have a proposition for you,” he said.
– THE END –
Before we get talking about the story, let me first just say, thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoyed the tale of George and Mary. It was really nice to write about them as they were inspired by my Grandparents and at times it felt like they were writing with me. I got to think a lot about them and what amazing people they were. Always kind, always fun and enjoying life, and always interested, curious, and up for learning something new. I gave the character Mary her name after my Grandma, Mary Henig, because she was The Learner in my mind and one of my favorite memories with her was teaching her to use her iPad which she, of course, mastered in like 5 minutes. But, all of my grandparents encouraged me to learn and grow and they all led by example. So, this episode is dedicated to my Grandparents who were and still are all amazing inspirations to me. I know they would’ve loved this and been more excited than anyone to read and listen.
Ok, now let’s get down to business. There were a lot of themes in this story, and all my stories will touch upon multiple things, but there’s one main point that I was trying to make with this story. The most important thing for creating something new, for chasing a dream, achieving a goal, and so on, is to just get started. At the end of the story, after George dreamed up an amazing future, he decides to just go for it. The probability of his journey leading him to a trip into Space would be slim, but if you like the idea of something, then the first step is literally to take the first step.
That’s how it was for me with this Podcast. I loved the idea, and after going through the whole process I still do, but I would never have known if I didn’t just take the first step. Will people love it, what if they don’t, and all those questions like that can stop us from moving forward waiting for things to be perfect. Is this first Podcast perfect? Probably not. Will the next one be better? I think it really is. And that’s the point. YOu’ll get better, your dreams will change and morph as you pursue them, but if you wait for all the steps to be known, or the pathway to be crystal clear, you’ll be right where you are in 10 years still waiting. So, get started now, and adjust course along the way. I hope this story encourages you to think about your dreams and your goals and to push beyond any fears or doubts.
Now, what about finding your dream? What if you’re not sure what you want or are really stuck figuring out that first step? That’s one of the main focus points in my coaching and particularly The Architect Program where we design, from the ground up, your life picture. And we don’t do this by taking a career test. We start with some dreaming and imagining amazing futures like George did. You can learn more about Coaching sessions with myself and The Architect Program at my website: www.TheRoamingScholar.com.
On my blog… also on the website, you can find a post to read the full story here, and a separate blog post with a summary of the main points from this story including a downloadable worksheet to guide you to stop delaying and get started today. I will leave you with one thought here though. One way to get started is to make a deadline. Not an arbitrary deadline, but like I did. I promoted the launch of this Podcast to be launched on September 5th, and so I had to get it done! Make it reasonable and accomplishable, but make it real. Ok, that’s it for this episode of The Roaming Scholar Podcast, and I hope to see you next month as we step into The Old West with some bandits in, “The Missing Sheriff.”