Updated: Oct 8
Author: Elsa Shiju
At the age of three years, I decided to become an astronaut and go to Mars. At thirteen, I am an Astronaut Trainee. "How is that possible?" you might ask. Well, I changed the paradigm. A simple decision that I made when I was three years old sparked an idea that I never lost track of, and ever since that moment I have dedicated my life to training, learning, teaching and taking all the necessary steps required in order to make this dream a reality.
At the age of seven, I attended my first Space Camp at Huntsville, Alabama. Over the course of last years, I started working on my scuba certification. This was to begin feeling those sensations of being in an environment without oxygen, similar to the vacuum of space. My next step is to continue my education, training with Project POSSUM, working towards my private pilot license and to obtain my skydiving license.
As you can see, throughout all of these different experiences, I've been trying to change the paradigm. A paradigm is a typical pattern of something; a pattern or a model. For instance, the paradigm for becoming an astronaut is getting the bachelor's, working in a particular career for several years, applying to the astronaut selection process and completing basic astronaut training. Then you have to wait and be assigned a mission, complete training just for that mission, and finally you can go to space.
Why is it that our youngest American astronaut is twenty-eight years old, and the youngest astronaut ever is twenty-five? If a kid has an interest in a career, they can begin studying it and how to pursue it. If you think about it, when you begin studying a topic, you go to pursue your bachelor's, on to your master's, and eventually, on to your PhD. A person will have studied that topic for eight to ten years. If a kid gets interested in a career topic at seven, studies and works hard towards it, what's to say that ten years later, at seventeen, they can't have achieved it?
In my journey, I have learned many lessons and I would like to share three of them with you.
1. Putting in the Hard Work
Each one of us has this passion and drive for something. Finding that passion is only the first step, because, more importantly, you have to be willing to put in the hard work. Dreams are very special, in the sense that they can't be bought. They can't be given to you, and you have to want it. A sixteen-year-old recently got a phone call from NASA, offering him a paid internship and a guaranteed job in the next couple of years. His interest was rocketry, and even since he was little, he worked to become the president of his rocketry club, built as many rockets as he could from scratch, and he put in the hard work. The hard work that you put in to follow your dream will not go unnoticed and can bring you closer to following your dream than you might have thought. So what about you? When can you start putting in the hard work? And how can you do it now, to one day achieve your dreams?
As part of my training, I have learned that with the hard work comes some sacrifice. Many of the opportunities and trainings that I have done along the way, have been during the school week, during different fun activities. Things such as video games or attending an event may sound a lot more appealing, and with any job, the play is always going to sound more interesting than the work. When talking about our dreams, it's always important to stick with it, finding the right balance of when to buckle down, put in the hard work and when to have that time to relax and enjoy your free time. This balance is essential in following your dream and there will be sacrifices along the way. The sacrifices that I made have brought my dream closer to me, and without them, who knows? My dream could have faded away. Are you willing to put in those sacrifices to eventually obtain your dream and your goals?
3. Never Give Up
I wonder sometimes what was going through my little brain when I was three, when I was thinking that becoming an astronaut was exactly what I was going to do. Choosing the career option of becoming an astronaut and the goal of going to Mars was absolutely the craziest career option I could have ever picked. However, I was not knocked down by this; I was not discouraged. Because of the hard work I'd put in, the support from my family, everyone around me and never giving up, I am where I am today. So it is important, because now, the Mission to Mars is becoming more and more of a reality.
So with your dream, no matter how crazy it might sound at the moment or how far-fetched it might be, if you continue and never give up on it, it's possible that it could become a reality.
This idea of changing the paradigm, is to make jobs that appear impossible within our reach.
This generation is definitely changing the world, breaking out of the paradigm that we find all of ourselves following. As we encourage kids to continue breaking these paradigms, that is how we can make a difference in the world.
Never stop dreaming, never give up and don't be afraid to talk about your dreams and tell people what you really want to do. This is a time of change, a time to explore, a time to evolve. Change the paradigm, change the future of the next generations!