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By Katie Marshall
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little lost. It’s the second month of a new year, so I should already have all of my goals accomplished for the year. I’m in my mid-twenties and there are 13-year-olds creating science that will change the world, so I am very far behind in my career aspirations. After years of checking off To Do lists and getting all of it (most of it sometimes) right, I’m sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, ready to draw a building, and coming up with nothing. I’m sitting in front of a class, lecturing about architecture without realizing that I’ve walked into the wrong class and this room is full of Econ students and all of them know that I’ve got it wrong, but I’ve just hit my stride in my opening monologue. This feeling has left me feeling overwhelmed so lately I’ve been doing a lot of sitting and re-watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix because if figuring out what I’m missing or what I’m not doing well is too hard, I can always just put on the television and escape. Let’s see how this cast of characters handles their problems. Let’s forget about mine.
When I was younger, much younger, I asked my mom if I could dress as an Alien for Halloween – my family had a running joke that I was adopted, so this seemed to fit nicely into my narrative of being a visitor. While she agreed it was a great idea, (“Moonbeam, I like that. You are a moon beam, Katherine.”) she nixed the costume idea because the mask was too much, and potentially unsafe – how would I be able to see? How would I be able to breathe? I went as a half-hearted scarecrow that year, but I’ve held onto Moonbeam and the intrinsic concern that I may not be exactly where I belong for some time.
I do not think I am the only person who wanted to dress up as as a planetary visitor or who wondered if they are where they are supposed to be. As such, this is not a cry for help. It is a song of welcome, a parade of awareness, an exhale of relief.
You may not be where you are supposed to be. And that is okay.
We often discuss that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, that we are doing exactly what we need to be doing. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that and I hold onto it in varying degrees of intensity depending on how royally ridiculous everything seems to be that day. I appreciate this thought.
But I wonder – what if I belonged somewhere else? What if my origin preceded my entrance to the dance floor of life at 7 pm in an Atlanta, Georgia hospital? Wouldn’t it be magical to be made of something more?
Jerry Waxman, a professor of Astronomy and Environmental Science at Santa Rosa Junior College believes that we are in fact something more. And he thinks it’s wonderful. Here are his thoughts on where we come from, just in case you’re having one of those moments where you need something new to hold onto.
“There is a fundamental reason why we look at the sky with wonder and longing—for the same reason that we stand, hour after hour, gazing at the distant swell of the open ocean. There is something like an ancient wisdom, encoded and tucked away in our DNA, that knows its point of origin as surely as a salmonid knows its creek.”
“Intellectually, we may not want to return there, but the genes know, and long for their origins—their home in the salty depths. But if the seas are our immediate source, the penultimate source is certainly the heavens… The spectacular truth is—and this is something that your DNA has known all along—the very atoms of your body—the iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and on and on—were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when you stand outside under a moonless, country sky, you feel some ineffable tugging at your innards. We are star stuff. Keep looking up.”