Never Say “No” to Adventure November 17, 2010Posted by craftlass in Discovery, NASA, NASAtweetup, space, travel, Twitter.
For the past 3 weeks I have been in Florida. If I used any rationality at all I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t have the money to come and it’s a fairly long time to be away from my “normal” life, amongst other reasons too boring to talk about.
However, rationality is often the best way to ruin your life, at least when it comes to living it to the fullest.
The main reason for the trip was to attend the space shuttle mission STS-133 NASA tweetup, which was supposed to occur over 2 days, Halloween and November 1st. I was one of 150 lucky people on Twitter selected from over 2,700 applicants and the original idea was to have a day of speakers and tours, then more speakers and the shuttle launch the next day. NASA had done this twice before with great success and I had been hearing stories about how amazing the experience was. Conveniently, my father lives in Florida, so I purchased a one-way ticket down for a few days before the event (what I could afford at the time and also a wise decision in the end, as space travel is not something that conforms to a set schedule very well). I figured I would visit my father, go to the tweetup, and buy a ticket home once Discovery made it to orbit while taking advantage of Dad’s free accommodations again. I had friends coming, too, so spending extra time with them was something I initially saw as a bonus.
Oh, how reality differs from plans!
I have had good reason to learn not to trust people, I have been burned more often than I have found good sorts. Yet, when I heard there was a houseshare forming I jumped on the chance. I had previously met two of my housemates and we had become friends but the rest were complete strangers at the time, not even people I was following on Twitter yet. I figured, well, I would have lots of friends down there to hang out with and it was just a place to crash and save a fortune (hotels in the area are crazily expensive over the launch and even higher for this one than most).
At this point, I had already said, “Yes!” to two things I logically should have said, “No,” to. Thank goodness!
The tweetup was delayed by a day due to a launch delay to November 2nd. Some people opted out at this point as they would have to leave before the new launch date. Me? I met my friends on Saturday, as planned, and we drove out to the Space Coast and straight into meeting a whole pile of tweeps at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. While we were still there, before even seeing our houses, two of my girls met guys who would quickly come to be far more than friends. Connections, when right, happen quickly! We also had the good fortune of meeting several former astronauts, including the NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden, who turned out to be a delightful man who seemed thrilled to meet us and talk to us, too. If we had said, “No,” due to scheduling we would have lost out on so much just on the very first day, two days before the tweetup was set to begin.
Halloween brought more friends and the first really big party at my house, affectionately and appropriately nicknamed “The Big House.” I played and sang for a couple of hours, very casually, and the whole affair was streamed by “hatcam” so even far-off folks could participate by watching and chatting. By the end of the night, I had sold some music and gotten new fans, which makes this one of the most successful gigs I’ve ever had despite not being paid or even having a microphone. Playing for people who genuinely enjoy what you do is the most rewarding thing, and I continued to play most of the nights we were there. We had a couple of other guitarists and a violinist in the house as well, so I loaned out my guitar and got to enjoy being played for as well. “No,” never even came into my mind.
That night I had intended to go to sleep early so as to be well-rested for the tweetup. A bit of confusion led me and a housemate who I had never even talked to online (except as necessary to plan the houseshare) outdoors, where one of the most beautiful moons I’ve ever seen was rising over Cocoa Beach, across the river. We grabbed our cameras and my binoculars and shot some beautiful pictures before lying down on the dock to take in the many, many stars. Turned out we were both from major metropolitan areas with dreadful light pollution and the concept of that many stars was foreign and utterly seductive. We stayed out almost all night, just passing the binoculars back and forth and trying to figure out what exotic (to us) stars we were seeing. A terrible idea to stay up most of the night, but now one of my all-time favorite memories. I got to do something I love more than almost anything and make an instant close friend. What could be more worth the sacrifice?
The tweetup was instantly wonderful, great speakers and more friends and the chance to take pics in front of the countdown clock. There was a mix-up due to all the changes and not enough busses for our planned tour so they asked any of us who were staying to let those who had to leave take the tour and come back the next day. Some people who were staying anyway chose to take the tour then and take the next day off, others just opted out of the tour entirely. I chose to return the next day and was rewarded by a trip inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a building that few people ever get to enter, even those who work for NASA and contractors. The screams of glee at this announcement are still ringing in my head two weeks later and I hope I never lose them. We said, “Yes,” and were rewarded by getting to live out a dream most of us shared!
As the days wore on and the launch got delayed and delayed and delayed some more, we could easily have gotten disheartened. Instead, those of us who refused to say, “No,” who changed flights, disappointed loved ones back home, spent money we didn’t have, and took a gamble on this bird ever flying took the opportunity to create our own adventures. We’d split up into small groups during the day to go off and explore the area and reconvene at night. We celebrated a friend’s birthday in a style that could never have been planned in advance. We invited a myriad of interesting people to join in our fun and broadcasted it all to the interwebs. We listened for inspiration and worked together to find ways to utilize it. It didn’t matter who had money or a car or knowledge, those who had shared, and those who didn’t found ways to share, too. We were in this together all the way.
When we arrived early at the press site for the Friday launch attempt we soon found out it was delayed yet again, and would be several weeks off at the earliest. Some people heard the news on the way over and just didn’t bother showing up. Those who were there were far luckier. Astronaut Dan Tani gave one of the best talks I have ever attended and we got a chance to talk to some amazing people outside the tweetup as well as inside it. Were we disappointed about the launch delay? Of course. Was it made easier to bear by being with our new family? Of course. Did it solidify the emotions we were all feeling about each other already? Of course.
If I had heard the news while alone, on the way, or even back at the house, I think I would have reacted differently. I would have been far more upset and have had a harder time dealing with the disappointment. I stayed at the press site for hours, hugging these people I love, taking pictures, participating fully in the experience. Leaving was brutal, but eased by a large group meeting back at the Visitor Complex again. When we got home the mood was somber for the first time all week, until members of another house and some locals suddenly showed up and lifted our spirits until we were partying like there was no tomorrow. People came streaming over and we all found our smiles yet again.
Once again, we said a collective, “Yes!” It would have been easy to say, “No,” and give in to our funk, but we had learned our lesson.
Some experiences in life are worth far more than a job or even a spouse (of course, a good spouse will support these choices, anyway). Some experiences are once-in-a-lifetime and the moment you say, “No,” they are simply gone forever. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if that’s the case. The only way to avoid missing out on them is to eliminate “no” from your vocabulary right now, at least as it pertains to taking chances.
Where some people may have seen only disappointment, I see the greatest week of my 34 years. All because I kept saying, “Yes.”