I grew up, like so many people my age, being told we could be anything, achieve anything if we only set our minds to it.
My parents are the result of post war baby boom. The world changed beyond recognition in their lifetime. They built me up to more than they ever imagined for themselves and they did it in good faith. They are a generation of optimists.
We, at the top end of the “millennial” generation, have come to terms with the idea we’re going to have lower social mobility than our parents. We’ve come to terms with the idea that we can enjoy avocado on toast but not ever get a mortgage. We’re more educated but underemployed and living on temporary and zero hour contracts.
We get to do that collectively.
What I don’t get to do collectively, is come to terms with the other limitations I never expected. The limitations which no amount of work, witty think pieces, or economic change will alter.
Tonight this came, unexpectedly, into focus, when I watched a BBC 2 show called “Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes?”
When I was a kid I wanted to either be an astronaut or a vet. My maths and biology was atrocious during my A Levels because I was a neurotic, mentalist wreck and busy taking lots of drugs so I never applied to any veterinary university programmes. But I know the route to being an astronaut can be much more circuitous, so I never really, truly let go of that dream. I’ve never pursued it, but it has lived as a pleasant daydream at the back of my head.
Cyclothymics in Space! is not a series we’re going to see anytime soon. Our unique talents don’t really tally. What can I bring to the ISS? Moods which expand beyond self discipline, a tendency to paranoia, lingering trauma and grudges which primarily exist in the mind and not objective reality. Emotions which happen for no damn reason. Fluctuating energy levels, distrust, clouded reasoning, blurry recall, hyper sexuality.
These are antithetical to being an astronaut.
Lots of people are unsuited to being astronauts. People with physical disabilities, people with chronic physical health conditions, people with colour blindness, deaf people, blind people, claustrophobics…the list goes on and on.
But tonight it was realising I would be ruled out at the first personality and emotional evaluation test stage which made me feel utterly defeated.
We all want to be limitless. Our limits happen in different places and at different times. Sometimes it’s unexpected places we find them, places or things we didn’t even know we still had an emotional connection to (like being an astronaut) and that’s when it can really trip you up.
No mortgage, no stint on the ISS. I’ve got avocado on toast, what is the consolation prize for not being able to be an astronaut?