10 years ago today, my world turned upside down.
The day started out pretty awesomely.
Two days before, the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery had arrived at the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.
I’d been at the museum for the flyover.
(Two years earlier when I moved to the area, I’d gone to the museum to volunteer even before my furniture arrived.)
I was back this day to see the historic nose-to-nose meeting of Discovery and the orbiter prototype, Enterprise. (Yes, named because of a massive letter campaign from Star Trek fans.)
Enterprise had been at the museum for years, and was being replaced by Discovery.
If you’ve been in my space for any length of time, you know I wanted to be an astronaut for 20 years.
A Star Trek, Star Wars, and space geek, I was hooked when an astronaut came and talked to my 5th grade class.
I did all the things to chase the dream and prepare.
Earlier this year (2012) I had applied.
I don't often share that by this time in my life, I'd started to question whether I REALLY wanted to become an astronaut.
I’d known several astronauts by this point, some quite well. Among the super cool and inspiring flying in space stories were the ones where it's not all rainbows and unicorns. (Insert bureaucracy here.)
My sister had also interviewed several astronauts for her graduate thesis on the return from space experience.
One of them shared his view that when you’re waiting (often a LONG time) to receive a reply to your astronaut application, you want to be living such an awesome life that if and when the call comes, you actually have to pause and think about whether to say yes.
This day at the museum, in the exhilarating nose-to-nose energy, seeing the astronauts gathered on stage in their bright blue flight suits, all doubts vanished.
I smiled to myself and thought, "someday I will be a part of this group."
Back at work later, an email was waiting.
I'd been selected as an Air Force nominee to NASA, but was medically disqualified.
What I felt in that moment is hard to describe. "I can't imagine the rest of my life without this dream," I wrote in my journal.
This was my "dark night of the soul."
I've been through a lot of healing cycles since that day 10 years ago. I send all the love in my heart to the younger version of me who cried all night to her parents, her friends, and her pillow.
The next day I learned that my medical disqualification was pre-LASIK eyesight.
I was actually a little relieved knowing it was nothing I could control, but I was still in shock. It seemed so silly and stupid.
I rationalized right away that I was grateful for the journey. Despite my pain, I knew it was all worthwhile.
I wrote in my journal: “Realized it was good I THOUGHT I could quality for the past few years because it gave me something to strive for, a dream to look forward to and work for. Have a lot of thinking to do, a big shift in my expected future at this point, but I can still dream big and reach for the stars.”
Early whisperings of what was to come...
In the days, months, and years that followed, my emotions caught up with me in both predictable and unpredictable moments, but my initial phase of healing was rationalization. I was in my head.
Most of my life to that point I'd believed that we create from our minds. I'd been raised to believe I could do anything I set my mind to, that anything was possible, that if you worked hard enough, you could make any dream come true.
Not gonna lie, in the height of my devastation I felt a flash of anger at my parents for raising me to believe that. Obviously it wasn't true.
I put away the earth-from-space photo I had in a frame that said "All things are possible if you believe." I was heartbroken and I didn't believe that anymore.
My healed heart is in fact deeply grateful to my parents for raising me that way. I wouldn't trade the gift of that beautiful foundation for the world.
The nuanced shift I would make for future generations is this:
You CAN do anything... that's yours to do.
The "impossibility" of my astronaut dream was a wakeup call telling me – though I didn't see it at the time – that my spiritual path lay elsewhere.
That who I came to this planet to be didn't require that step.
That something even bigger and better waited for me.
Let me back up a little.
It’s easy to skip to the healed conclusion and not sit with the pain.
When my astronaut dream shattered, I continued through life on an outwardly successful path. But a deep part of me felt lost for a long time.
I was having an existential crisis of faith and identity. I had wrapped up my identity in becoming an astronaut, and I didn’t know who I would be or what I would do without it. My faith in “anything is possible” had taken a soul-crushing beating.
With a crazy busy job and training for my last two intercontinental marathons, I didn’t have time to dwell.
I think that helped.
My soul processed in the background while I got on with life, albeit on a path that I couldn’t see the end of.
And the mystery is the point. We are not here to see the end before it happens.
We’re here to envision something expansive, feel the FEELINGS that vision will bring us, and take action from a place of emotional and energetic alignment with the highest expression of that vision.
I finally learned to ask what I REALLY wanted when my 5th-grade self set her sights on the stars.
What I really wanted to was to inspire people to greatness the way astronauts inspired me.
What I really KNEW was that I was already spiritually connected with the universe.
At the time that translated into “become an astronaut.”
But I didn’t need to become an astronaut to inspire people or to experience my cosmic connection.
I do both of those things every single day just by being me.
If you have a big dream (or a child with a big dream), ask:
1) What’s important to you about this dream?
2) And what’s important to you about THAT?
The second layer is key (and you can keep asking until you get to the deepest desire).
What’s important to me about inspiring people to greatness is that the more people we have in the world loving themselves and owning how powerful, unique, and awesome they are, the better we can make the world... together.
The more creatively and collaboratively we can solve the big challenges out there.
The more EVERYONE can live in peace and harmony with each other and with our planet.
So how did I get to "goal behind the goal," as I call it, the connection with what I REALLY wanted in becoming an astronaut?
Gratitude was my gateway.
5 years ago I thought I had healed. I thought I was good to go.
But events showed me I was still rationalizing. I hadn't fully grieved my dream.
Through a powerful conversation with my coach, I discovered that I was actually afraid of BEING OK WITH not being an astronaut... I was afraid of being fully healed.
The next step that leaped out at me was to write a gratitude letter to my astronaut dream.
I wanted to focus on and energize what it had given me, instead of what I'd lost.
You can find more details and the letter itself in an article I wrote in November of 2017, A Gratitude Letter to My Astronaut Dream, but I'll share a couple of highlights here.
Through my letter, I explored all the beautiful gifts my astronaut dream gave me.
The incredible life I'd led in the pursuit of my dream.
The inspiration I'd experienced.
The person I'd become.
I thanked it for the belief that it was possible.
I thanked it for freeing me to pursue my underlying dreams and to reach my stars in other ways.
I also shared an insight from a friend who'd told me years before, shortly after the rejection itself:
"When people tell you how they can picture you being an astronaut, it's because they see something so great and wonderful within you, that no dream seems beyond you."
The lightning bolt of awareness that writing my gratitude letter gave me was this:
Success isn't being an astronaut.
It's being that person for whom no dream is impossible.
This image, taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders in December 1968, is often credited with jumpstarting the movement to take better care of our planet.
How can I say "nothing is impossible" when my astronaut dream clearly wasn't possible for me?
Because I believe that the universe loves us and gives us all the resources we need to live into the fullest expression of who we are.
Being an astronaut wasn't mine to do.
My mind had settled on a limited vision of what I was capable of in the 3D world.
But I'm here for a higher purpose.
What I've learned through the wisdom of years, another decade of life experience, and particularly Quantum Human Design™, is that we do NOT create with our minds.
Our minds are not for “figuring it out.”
They’re for asking questions, imagining what's possible, asking WHAT ELSE is possible, and opening to divine inspiration.
The truest answers come from our attunement to and alignment with the flow of life.
From taking a step and seeing what unfolds. And then taking another step.
From listening to the wisdom of the universe and recognizing the signs and signals of synchronicity.
From listening to the other vast sources of knowing available to us (beyond logic).
From listening to the wisdom of our bodies, who know far more than our minds.
From taking action from a place of energetic, emotional, and embodied alignment.
I know that who I came to this planet to be didn't require being an astronaut.
Today I can look back and see that this shattered dream was the greatest gift I could have received.
My journey has taught me that identity and goals are not synonymous.
That even major disappointments hold gifts beyond imagining.
That every experience leads us closer to our purpose on this earth.
What higher purpose is calling to you?
YOU are the gift you came here to give. You are enough, just as you are.