I am Earth

From the moment I learned about space and the possibility of space travel, I’ve wanted desperately to get out there. It’s overwhelming at times: the desire to see our blue planet from a distance, make a gloved handprint on our moon, look at Jupiter’s storms through a porthole, admire the texture of Io, get close to Saturn’s rings. Go further. Exit the heliosphere. Experience real, interstellar darkness; terror, hugeness, awe.

I’d watch films or read books about astronauts, witness them agonize over the decision to risk it all, and think “yeah, I’d take that risk.” No hesitation.

It’s a thing I obsess over in private. No one wants to hear about an average adult woman dreaming of being an astronaut.

For over a decade now, I’ve had a “perfect death” fantasy: I’m placed in a capsule, shot out into space, and I listen to music while I watch Earth recede into the distance. Then, when I’m ready, I hit a button and I’m infused with chemicals that help me pass peacefully. I’m alone, incomprehensibly far from home – my semi-secret yearning for space travel fulfilled in my final moments.

In retrospect, the urge to leave our home planet was probably tied to the sensation of being different. Broken. It felt like:

  • I’m not supposed to be here
  • This world isn’t meant for me
  • I feel misunderstood and afraid
  • I need to get away from here

This was how it was for most of my life. I don’t know if it was undiagnosed neurodiversity, immaturity, or something else. It doesn’t matter anymore, because today:

  • I’m exactly where I need to be
  • I’m the product of millions of years of evolution
  • It’s normal to be misunderstood and afraid sometimes
  • I don’t need to go anywhere

Today, space travel is still an experience I’d struggle to turn down if given the opportunity. But it’s not an impulse to run away anymore. It’s just thrilling.

In my late thirties, I’ve stopped avoiding human connection and started to embrace and invite it (it doesn’t come as naturally to me as I’d like). I’ve told people I loved them without reservation. I’ve hiked mountains, vomited from the effort. I’ve almost passed out from immersing my head in ice cold glacier runoff, and gotten dirt lodged so deeply under my fingernails that it took multiple showers to properly clean out. I’ve jumped in puddles barefoot, and swam in lakes, rivers, and oceans. I’ve listened to cows cry for their calves, birds sing in the forest, and music of all kinds. I’ve planted trees, watched them grow, stared directly at a solar eclipse, eaten freshly fallen snow, and sunk my teeth into apples just plucked from the branch. I’ve seen rainbows, lightning, crepuscular rays, flourescent sunsets, and tangerine sunrises. I’ve taken deep breaths of our atmosphere, smelled rotting hay bales, and been bowled over by the sweet scent of a lemon tree in bloom.

I’ve written already about how I’ve learned through direct experience that my body and my mind are one and the same. But this non-duality is extending: I’m part of Earth, and Earth is part of me. The line that separates the two is fading fast.

This is true for all of us. Earth is more than just where we live. We can’t survive in space unless we take parts of our home along for the ride: atmosphere to breathe, plants to eat, water to drink, music to listen to, and other humans to connect with.

We’re nothing without this place.

I don’t want to die alone in space anymore. I want to say goodbye to everyone I love, look them in the eyes. I want to die right here, on the planet that makes me what I am; toes in the dirt, hand-in-hand with my love. I want to take deep, greedy breaths and listen to our favorite song together. Feel a cool breeze on my face. Say “I love you, I love you, I love you…” into his ear as I hold him close. Smell him. Make a morbid joke so that I can hear him laugh one more time.

Thankfully, it’s not my time yet. Until then, I’m going to fall more deeply in love with what it means to be a part of this planet. I’ll taste fresh bread and lick honey from my fingers. I’m going to listen to rainfall, thunder, drums, singing. I’ll dance until my knees hurt, laugh until I cry, walk miles in the rain, get hot, get cold, get uncomfortable, get tired, rest, recover, rinse and repeat. I want to love, be loved, touch, and be touched. Make things just a little bit better if I can. Feel.

That’s all.