For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a scientist. When I was five years old, I was obsessed with the movie Jurassic Park and had a dinosaur themed birthday party because I was fascinated with paleontology. I thought it was amazing how people could find bones of animals that lived millions of years ago and figure out what species they were, how they interacted with other animals, what they ate, etc. At eleven years old, I read the Kane Chronicles series, which was about two siblings (Carter and Sadie Kane) who discover that the gods and goddesses of Egypt were real, they were descendants of pharaohs, and could do magic. After reading those books, I immediately started researching ancient Egypt and thought studying that awesome culture would be an amazing job. Finally at twelve years old, I found my calling: Astrophysics.
I hardly remember anything that happened during summer vacation in 2012 but the one memory I will never forget is when my dad suggested that we go stargazing. My best friend from childhood had come to house for a sleepover and we were bored by the time it was evening so my dad suggested that we look for satellites. “You can see satellites?!”, I asked because I did not know anything about satellites and space at the time. My dad laughed and said “Of course” then we went to backyard. He explained that satellites will look like a regular star but it will move across the sky so we waited and watched the stars. I remember thinking about how pretty the stars looked and how it was cool that they unintentionally made constellations like the Big Dipper then I heard my dad say, “I see one!!!”. My friend and I looked up and found the satellite my dad was looking at. Sure enough it looked exactly like a moving star and all I could think was “Humans are amazing.” It took millions of years for humans to evolve into what we are and we were able to develop a need for knowledge. That need drove us to building satellites and rovers so that we could explore the infinite universe and I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of that.
The next day my friend went home and I started watching all of the space documentaries on Netflix. The things that exist in this universe are wild. There are black holes that somehow have enough gravity to rip up stars, bend light, and keep an entire galaxy from breaking up. Stars can get the element Hydrogen and create Helium, Beryllium, Carbon, and the other elements from the periodic table just from that element. Also, all the stars that we see in the night sky could have their own solar systems with their planets that could have intelligent life form. All in all it was amazing that in the billions of years that it took for the universe to form, I somehow came to be and I realized that I wanted my life to be dedicated to astronomy.
I didn’t really talk about my astronomy passion during middle school with my friends but once I reached high school, I was a little more open about it; the people I hung out with did not care for that. I remember one time I was talking about this article I read about the elements used in fireworks and when I was done, they all stared at me blankly and said, “You’re such a nerd.” Looking back, I should not have been offended because what’s wrong with being a nerd? Nothing but at the time, I decided to not be vocal about those things.
Of course, it wasn’t everyone that made fun of my passions. My mom, for example, had always loved science since she was a kid so she was ecstatic when I started showing interest in astronomy and encouraged me to keep reading. My dad was supportive in a different way; when I was ten years old, I wasn’t reading as much because I just didn’t know what else to read besides kids books like Junie B. Jones. My dad noticed so he went out and bought me two young adult novels. My favorite book out of the two was The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, which was about an eleven year old girl in the 1800’s who was inspired by her grandfather to be a naturalist. How could I not love it? It was relatable because it was about a girl who fell in love with science. It was also informational because it was set in the 1800’s so I was able to learn what it was like to live in that time period. Unfortunately I lost the book years ago but my dad told me that there was another reason behind buying me those books.
A couple months ago, we were sitting in his apartment and at some point, I asked him if he remembered buying me those novels. “I remember”, He said then ran his hand through his hair and asked, “Do you know the reason why I bought you them?”. I nodded and replied, “Yeah, you wanted me to read on a higher level.” “That was one reason”, he said with a smile, “I also made sure that I got books that were about women doing things besides being a housewife and a mom. I wanted you to know that you can be anything.” Now I don’t really cry a lot but I was very close to shedding tears that day.
After that conversation, I thought “SCREW WHAT PEOPLE THINK!”. I knew what career I wanted and I knew how to get it so why did it matter what a few people thought of it? Once I achieve my dream of working at NASA, I will be able to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was twelve years old: study the physics of the cosmos. Sometimes I do doubt and question myself and when I do, I think of this quote that Stephen Hawking (RIP) said, “So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes a universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t give up.”