In 1987, at the impressionable age of my seven, I became a fan of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (I have Star Trek Federation window decal on my SUV and I am a nerdy introverted person). I remember the profound impact of the voice of Captain Jean Luc Picard before each episode: “Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise; its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
I loved Star Trek and Captain Picard and I watched it when my parents would let me because I was the only person that liked this show. But as a kid with a big imagination, I was the unwilling recipient of a reoccurring dream in which I would open the front door of my house and instead of a front yard, it opened to space and taking up the majority of the door’s view was the moon. Displaying its splendor - large, full, bright and extremely close – I could see every crater and shadow.
After opening the door and recovering from the awe of our beautiful moon, I realized that my front door opened to the infinite unknown and that if I were to attempt to step off my stoop I would be thrust in to oxygen-lacking space, surrounded by billions upon billions of stars that were always out of reach. I would be terrified, waking in the cold sweat that follows nightmares.
Needless to say, I knew then that I would never, ever, ever go into space willingly. I did; however, get a chance to see today’s version of space travel and exploration when Clear Lake/NASA Chapter hosted the 60th Texas-Louisiana Annual Division Meeting and Education Forum in League City, Texas of which I was a delegate for my chapter.
The amazing information that I learned from visiting the Johnson Space Center, kept milling around in my mind for a few days. And I remembered that scary dream I used to have as a child. My fear of going into space has nothing to do with the obvious dangers of blasting off or reentry. I have never heard of a person actually being lost in space. In reality, my fear is unfounded as thousands of hours of training and binders upon binders of operating procedures would and do protect those who may have to take a space walk.
How many times have I let my fear of the unknown keep me from pursuing a passion? I couldn’t begin to count them. I’ve always dreamed about my life being big, being more than just ordinary, being more than just someone’s wife, mother, employee. One day, I met a small group of amazing women who told me I was capable (and then a man who, not knowing these other women of my IAAP chapter, also told me I was capable).
The ladies of Pelican Chapter encouraged me to chair a committee, and I did. Then, they told me they would like for me to be on the board and they would help me when I needed help, and it happened. After two different board positions, they said why don’t you try President-Elect, all you have to do is line up speakers and submit recertification applications. Well, that sounds easy, right? And so again, with gentle encouragement and a bit terrified to stand in front of people and introduce a speaker, I endured and I enjoyed.
I was recently installed as President of my chapter for 2012-2013. And the other day, while preparing to shuttle my kids to their schools, my daughter Abigail came up to me in her uniform with a brightly colored button-up over it. She was so proud, twirling around, “Mommy, look at me! Don’t I look like the President’s daughter?!” It took me a minute to realize she was not talking about the President of the United States, but of me. My 6 year old was proud to be her mother’s daughter. To me, the most important aspect of it all, is knowing my children, especially my girls can grow up knowing that aspirations are attainable, that hard work, dedication, and the two nights a month that I’m not at the dinner table with them will someday give them the confidence and the courage to pursue their dreams- what every they may be.
IAAP has given me the confidence and the courage to be a strong, professional woman and to be a role-model for not only my children, but my colleagues and my chapter’s new members. You can’t buy experience that gives you those traits. You have to work for it and be willing to learn from the advice of those professional women you associate with and even give in to that gentle prodding of those ladies who know you are more than capable, even if you yourself are not so sure.
I am thrilled that others do not share my fear of space exploration and I was delighted to learn about the brave pioneers who continue to boldly go where no one has ever gone. I may not be ready for a trip to space, but I have set my sights on new horizons and frontiers. While others have forged these paths before me, with the help of ever-evolving technology coupled with my unique perspective and passions in my career, I am confident in my pursuits and I’m confident in IAAP! I know that without the opportunities I have been given in the five short years I’ve been a member of this organization, I would not be the amazing woman I am today (I know it sounds conceited, but my husband keeps telling me I’m amazing and he’s usually right about everything, so I tend to believe him).
I want to encourage you to boldly go forward with IAAP as your support system. Don’t shy away from that position you really want. Don’t pass up that committee or board opportunity because you are afraid to fail. Hold your head up high, pull your shoulders back, take a deep breath, and do it anyway because you know you can.