So around 12:35 a.m. August 6 (Hiroshima Day), I completed my 41st free trip around the sun. What a difference a year makes. A year ago, I was a month away from my three-week trip to Europe and a couple months away from a very cool, potentially program-changing rocket launch. Well, the trip was fabulous, as was the launch, but the latter item didn't matter a tinker's dam because I'm no longer working for said program, and am now about seven weeks away from being out of NASA. Dagnabbit.
I can't complain too much. I've reminded myself, over and over, "Be grateful you have a job when 500 other people in Huntsville (and counting) don't." Still, I wanted Constellation to go to the Moon. I believe it would have, but those who doubted won the political battle, and now the next person to place human footprints in the lunar dust could end up speaking Mandarin or Hindi or even Russki rather than English. So it goes.
My biggest "plan" for 2010 is to hold onto a job. I keep getting reassured, "Oh, they (NASA) will find you something." However, after coming within two days of standing in line for unemployment, you'll understand if I'm a bit dubious of such reassurances. I have skills, I have something of a decent rep as a technical writer, and after a very rough and emotional winter and spring, I have my emotional stability and confidence back. Such are the things that will carry me through whatever comes next.
What have I learned in the last year? I suppose the fundamental thing I took away from the last 365 days is that I am not--and can not be--my job. Nor can I define myself solely by my relationships with others. I need to be some unique combination of talents, beliefs, behaviors, and attachments that might or might not equal Bart Leahy.
I still have things to do, things to learn, things to experience. Depending on how one believes actuaries or futurists, I am still a bit under the midpoint of this crazy thing called a life, and I need to figure out what to do with the rest of it. I spent my birthday evening on my own--dinner, cocktails, a decent book--and I was quite comfortable that way. Is that how I'm going to spend the next 41+ years? I have no idea. Right now, I'd say "I'll get by with a little help from my friends" and call it a done deal.
Where am I, who am I, at 41 years, one day? Bartholomew Daniel Leahy, Homo sapiens, mass 125 U.S. pounds, height 5 feet 11 inches, hair grey, eyes blue and corrected with glasses, face puffyish with grey mustache and goatee. Career: writer; philosophical bent: law-abiding, Graeco-Roman-influenced Judeo-Christian, limited-government conservative, capitalist, advocate of self-restraint and self-defense, as warranted by circumstances.
I exercise as the mood strikes me, I read a great deal, I have the wild idea that human expansion into space is good for the species. I prefer to get along with people and avoid unnecessary ruckuses. I have a sense of humor that hangs on the mostly-harmless side of sarcastic. I am comfortable on my own and am able to differentiate between being alone and being lonely (I count myself the former, not always the latter). I write journals and occasional fiction trying to explain or justify myself to the world, or simply myself to myself. I have a set of goals that I might or might not accomplish between now and my final sendoff, and every day I try to do something constructive with myself to build myself toward one of those goals.
I'm reasonably sure that's where I stand at age 41. Will you or did you do understand yourself so well at this point?