Tonight I was reminded of something that happened to me a long time ago, and although it was never a secret, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever told anyone. But if you’re interested in knowing about relativity and/or the real me, read on.
I took an astronomy course the summer between high school and college. In order to really see the night sky clearly you need to give your eyes about three hours away from light pollution, so we all went out to the middle of a golf course, spread blankets, and just chilled in the dark for three hours. There was a girl I was kind of sweet on, and to my surprise she and I talked to the exclusion of everyone around us the entire time. I didn’t think she was interested in me, but those three hours just flew by. Before I knew it, the instructor had gathered the class around a telescope, but she and I were in our own little world and didn’t hear a thing. He was incredibly cool about it. I think he saw what was happening long before we did. He walked over to us, and with nothing but kind amusement in his voice, said, “Hey, guys. Look up.”
I’m not religious, and I don’t want to overstate things, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it looked like God had thrown the master switch and turned all the lights on. It was ASTOUNDING. There were thousands of stars, of all sizes and brightness. I could see colors splashed across the sky I never knew were there. It was breathtaking. And when I finally looked down, I had my arm around her. I didn’t even know I had done it. But the moment was overwhelming, and in that fleeting instant, all my teenage insecurities and self doubts just silently vanished like they were never there, and I reached out for what I wanted most right then. Love. Connection.
That was a pretty magical night. My seventeen year old self didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s the day I found out how personally important love and wonder and science are to me. And how those things are in no way unconnected. That’s the day I found out I was a romantic. Which means I am a ridiculous human being sometimes. Just unmanageably, unforgivably ridiculous. I am dramatic and emotional and way too intense. I own those faults. But they’re also my strengths, because my forty-seven year old self finally has the wherewithal to see that I’m at my absolute purest and best when I love something full bore. Because, deep down, for better or worse, that’s who I am. It’s who I’m supposed to be.
And I will never stop reaching for her.