When asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, the majority of my junior class enthusiastically replied ‘Astronaut’. From the response, you could have safely assumed that space travel and exploration had a prosperous and ambitious future. None of us would go on to be astronauts. Even more incomprehensively to us then would have been the thought that no further human would put footsteps on the Moon, the last being 1972. To that group of kids these weren’t lofty or outrageous notions, but taken for granted. With the rapid progress of technological development, there was an expectation and we built our dreams around these advancements.
Back in 1961 President John F Kennedy pledged to put an American on the Moon and bring him home again before 1970. The scope of the ambition was humongous; a whole technology had to be created from scratch. Ironically, Apollo’s very success ended human expansion into space. Politics, economics and general lack of public interests soon played its part; NASA’s grand vision today is watered down to exploration using robots. Any hopes of getting a man on Mars are more far-fetched than ever.
Fast forward 20 years and I sit in my cubicle typing these words having long checked in at the door my dreams, wonder and imagination. Working the same 9-5 job in big corporations wears you down. It molds you into an acceptable presentable form. You arrive on time, do your tasks, have your meetings, say the right thing, smile at the right time and go home at the right time. You progress by reigning in your personality, tweaking eccentricities, getting rid of the rough edges. You learn to nasally talk about such uninteresting topics as the traffic on your journey in that morning, a topic that as a kid would have bored you to tears. Worldly issues such as politics and religion are steered clear of, least you might offend someone and land you in a HR situation. You never point out areas of redress within your organization; you don’t want to be seen as getting ahead of your station or ruffling feathers. You learn to be a good little employee by keeping your head down and getting on with your tasks.
For a satiable income, it gnaws away at the stuff that once made you – YOU. It slowly dilutes your imagination, passions, creatively and dreams until one day you wake up and realize they’re gone. You’re left a shadow of yourself, it’ not just the physical toll of aging, it’s bigger; it’s an essence change. Yes it gives you the car, house and two holidays a year, but is it not all for the price of the things that make life worth living? You become comfortably numb; feelings of excitement about endless possibilities have long eloped.
We are told we are lucky to have a job and that is true, try living on fresh air. But why do we settle so easily; why do we want this sedentary life so much; why are we so eager to get a foot on the career ladder and saddle ourselves with responsibility. I look around my open plan office today and see my fellow employees busy at their terminals; there is no joy or laughter. I wonder quietly to myself, how many of them wanted to be astronauts too.