A writer is someone one who has to write.  She feels compelled, like a musician who must get the song out of her head, to set down on paper the ideas that are rolling around inside and must be expressed.

I always wanted to be a writer but I lacked that compulsion. I used to have it many years ago, in my teens, but it was scrubbed from my consciousness by a series of domineering relatives (blood and otherwise) who spent my life, telling me how to live it.  They worked hard to expunge the spark of creativity struggling to escape and, after many years, managed to all but put out the fire. In the last few months, however, I have started to feel the return of that desire to give birth to the thoughts I have and begin to share them with others.

This is my progeny:

It hasn’t been by mere happenstance that this rebirth has occurred. It has been inspired by my new set of friends.  It has only been since I have met these new friends that I have felt the words and ideas begin to burst forth like they once did.

You think these must be very influential friends I have acquired.  Well, they are. They are brilliant, knowledgeable, educated people with a singularity (pun intended) and focus of purpose matched only by their intense dedication to the heavens and all things space like.

They are astronomers, engineers, technicians, computer wizards, and at least one amazing astro-physicist.  They are fellow educators, social media experts, software gurus, public affairs officers and space workers.  They are moms and dads, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. 

Somewhere along the way, some little spark of inspiration caused them to direct their passions towards space.  I suspect many have been harassed, ridiculed, and put down for their single-mindedness from the time they were youngsters.  Now they have found a commonality of thought with a group of people with whom they may share their obsession and extreme knowledge of all things space, without being intimidated, derided or “made fun of.” They go by the designation, “Space Geeks” and I proudly consider myself one of them.

My guess  is, if you polled the group, you’d find that some of these people define themselves as being socially anxious (I know I do).  One of them mentioned that he has a hard time being around large numbers of people (as do I).  I believe that’s part of why we all relate to each other so well.  We are people who have known the isolation of having a great passion about a subject.

We laughingly call ourselves “Geeks” but when we were school age, that name was not a positive one. We’ve just come to realize that it’s the Geeks of the world who hold the joy of curiosity and adventure (and make all the money).  So we revel in the community of like minds and consider ourselves lucky that we have found such great people. 

We are quick to thank each other for little niceties that others might overlook. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, births, and achievements as if they were our own, like good friends do. And we do it with a joy and consistency that is unparalleled.  We reinforce each others fragile psyches with words of encouragement when we have been revered and words of rage at the perpetrators when we have been maligned. We lift each others desolated spirits when we have been separated from loved ones and keep each other company when there is no one else around to talk to. We do it, in some cases, without ever having met “in person.”

I laughed when someone, the other day, started a sentence with, “Well, this isn’t space related, but…”  He had not noticed that some time ago the “space talk only” rule had been unconsciously waived.  People who had come together, bound by the common thread of space, had branched out to discuss the diverse, and sometimes even banal, topics that good friends share. 

We talk about weather because it affects the missions and our gardens. We talk about what’s happening in our lives because that’s what the sentence over the little box asks us to do. (It used to say, “What are you doing?” but I suspect that so many people took that too literally so Twitter decided to make the question less specific.)

We started out with a space in which to be as technical and “geeky” as 140 characters would allow but somewhere along the way, interspersed with all the techno talk, we have come to share our lives.

We talk of families, pets, jobs (or lack of). We trade recipes, amazing photographs, and stories about how we came to be the people we are. We sometimes know more about each other than our actual family members do. We humor, compliment, reassure, and bolster each others egos.

We are friends. We are a true community and if anyone questions or doubts that, let him examine the events of the past week to allay any misgivings. This week a large group of relative strangers came together, bonded, and departed as new found friends.  Over and above the well planned and well executed programs provided by NASA, were the spontaneous gatherings of people who did not want to be torn from the enchantment of the event.  Long after the planned events had concluded, we still “clung” to each other and congregated in parks, parking lots, and restaurants, bent on maintaining the thread of connectivity we felt when together.

It has been a week since the event, and yet we still share it daily. We have shared our mementoes with comrades who couldn’t be with us at the gathering and we have shared stories and photographs to help them feel as if they were there.

We all seem to recognize, on some level, whether conscious or not, that we have made a connection that will be with us, as a life changing event, for the rest of our lives. More than a couple people have said that this was the experience of a lifetime, the culmination of a lifelong dream and that’s exactly what they mean.  They know that all of the variables that came together to make the magic that we experienced this week, will never realign in the universe.  There can only be one first and this was it.

We continue to thank NASA for bringing us all together but it was our common spirit, that enriched this event. A beautiful, powerful, ship, full of courageous astronauts, launched into the clouds and with it was launched an enduring group of friends.

Thank you, NASA, and all the many people that acronym represents. And thank you, my new friends, for truly making this the time of my life.  

Jan DuRaine