I was about nine years old when the movie “The Right Stuff” came out. I went to see it with my parents at Hastings Ranch in Pasadena. When the film was over I asked immediately if I could go see it again. And I did. I was smitten. I look back at the nine year old me and wonder a little. Most little girls are not obsessed with three hour long epic films about the pioneering of space travel and the politics that went with it. But, most little girls didn’t love the film “The Four Seasons” starring Alan Alda either. I guess I was just a strange kid.
Since then, I have always loved Astronaut movies and reading about the early years of NASA. First off, those guys were just cool. I mean look at their names: Chuck Yeager, Gus Grissom, Jack Swigert – With names like that they had to be bad ass. And what was more bad ass in the early 60’s than strapping yourself to a rocket and going into space? And this was at a time when technology was nowhere near where it is today. Back then the idea that a computer could fit in a single room was amazing. The men who signed up for the space program had “the right stuff”. The right stuff was that unique mixture of ego, brains, courage, competitive spirit and crazy that it took to be an astronaut.
I do not have “the right stuff”. Every time I watch “Apollo 13” or some other astronaut movie I am made totally aware that I could never be an astronaut. I am not the type of person who would get excited at the prospect of flying through space. Sure, looking back at the earth would be really nifty, and I would like to see the moon, but if it could REALLY happen to me I don’t think I would be able to do it. I might go through the tests and I might try out that simulator, but I also might chicken out at the last minute. Just like Don Knotts in one of my other favorite astronaut movies “The Reluctant Astronaut”.
And maybe that is exactly what I am, a reluctant astronaut. I never saw myself living in Prague for four years. I never saw myself as the type of person who would pick up and leave America in the first place. But I have surprised myself, because that is exactly the type of person I turned out to be. Somewhere along the way I stopped listening to the world tell me what was best for me and I just started living my life. I have seen a lot of people come to Prague and leave pretty quick because of pressure to “start living a real life” in America. I have seen some people get here and get so scared that they never try a new way of life. The idea of a life without television seemed far more frightening than a life chained to a desk in the good old USA. For me, the final frontier was leaving behind all of the things that made me unhappy.
So I guess in a way I do have the right stuff. I might not be in outer space, but I am living a life that is different and fun. I had the courage to come here, and I had even more courage to stay. I have the brains and strength to do what is needed and the right amount of crazy to be able to survive this city. I guess in the end all it takes is knowing yourself and being able to believe that you know what’s best for you. That’s the right stuff in my book.