I started my journey in California, to visit old friends but also to explore one of my favorite states, where I would consider settling down, if I ever do. I’m pretty sure I have seasonal affective disorder, thus sunshine is extremely important to me. I have fondly been called “solar-powered,” as I seek out every sunny patch possible, and apparently wear such a content look on my face as I bask in its warmth. After living in cold climates all my life (New York, New England, and then Michigan with its notorious grey skies and long winters), I am so ready to finally choose the environment I want to be in. There are so many reasons why I love California—year-round sun, temperate climate, laid-back nature, liberal viewpoints, and outdoorsy and health-conscious culture, just to name a few.
Last week I visited the famous (and absolutely free!) Grifffith Observatory of Los Angeles. It is home to the most powerful telescope of its time and continues to be a source of inspiration, knowledge, and discovery. Nestled amongst the numerous lush, rolling hills of Hollywood, it is absolutely picturesque both from afar and up close. Its rich plethora of information can easily take up your full day. When not exploring the exhibits or looking at the sun through a live camera, you can watch a show in the planetarium or bask in the beautiful clear sky on its terrace.
I’ll stop now haha, I’m not trying to sell this place to you. Okay, maybe I am—everyone, in my opinion, should experience something like this, that shows us how limitless and expansive the universe is, and in comparison, how small we really are. When I think of how each and every one of us is but a mere speck on this sphere in this one of many many galaxies, suddenly trivial problems become just that—trivial. Does it really matter that we didn’t look our best that one day, or she didn’t call us back, or we paid a little too much for that product?
When I think about how we humans are all made out of stardust (a fun fact presented as part of the observatory tour; we share so many overlapping elements from the periodic table!), and will return to being stardust when we die, I feel absolutely magical, although also rather unimportant at the same time. It’s not a bad feeling. It fills me with awe and wonder at how we wonderfully conscious and complex beings came to be.
Though I am a scientist by training, I have also become increasingly spiritual throughout the years, and am still in the process of exploring. It seems too crazy that humans being the only species to achieve this level of intelligence came about purely by chance. I have accepted that no one will ever really know the full picture, at least while still living to tell others about it.
A couple of thought provoking books, “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller and “Letters from a Skeptic” by Gregory and Edward Boyd on Christianity brought up for me an interesting concept of things existing because we yearn for them. Food and water exist because we hunger and thirst. If there were no higher beings, why do we long for meaning and purpose? Do other species also long for self-actualization and finding their purpose in life? They seem more preoccupied with survival in the wild, but then what about the ones in captivity, where all their physical needs are met by humans? I long to be able to truly communicate with an animal, to ask them these things. And to communicate with extraterrestrial life, if it exists, which I feel surely it must, though we do not yet have proof.
Whatever your beliefs are about our origins, we are incredibly lucky to be the conscious beings that we are, with all the powers to choose our own lives in front of us. While we may not be able to control many aspects of our lives due to physical, financial, or circumstantial constraints, I believe we will always have control over our thoughts and how we perceive the world, and consequently, our behaviors. Losing a job can either be a completely paralyzing tragedy, or an incredible opportunity to completely change our lives. When one door is slammed in our faces, only then do we become aware of the other ones that were open all along, patiently waiting for us.
No one knows all the answers or can see the entire ever-expanding picture of life, so why pretend that we do? We all have different opinions and values. Who’s to say one is better than another?
I believe that to fully take advantage of all the opportunities that lie before us, we cannot believe that we know everything; there must be some element of faith. I don’t see it yet, but I’m going to just follow this feeling and trust that I will be guided to a correct path. There is always more than one, so we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to find the “right” one. In some scenarios, there are ways to do them all; we would just need to decide which one to do first. The worst decision we can make is no decision at all, continuing to live in fear of taking a real risk and having something to lose for once in our lives.
Whenever that crippling fear sets in, I always just take a moment to imagine myself as small as I really am. The Universe will go on and keep producing amazing things, whether I contribute or not. What do I really have to lose by taking a chance? It won’t matter in the grand scheme of life. We all die in the end. To make a big impact, we have to take risks. We have to try to take up space, be bigger than what we think we can be or ever hope to achieve.
We are small, but not inconsequential. Each of us holds all the power we need to change the world in our own way with our unique set of talents and passions. We need to cultivate them with practice, hard work, and relentless determination, and maybe a bit of luck will help expedite us to the moment we achieve our fullest potential, but we will get there. Even if we repeatedly fall and fail, it is far better than sitting by the sidelines forever, being somebody we were not meant to be and wasting the talents and contributions to the world we were born with.
So if you have a dream, go and do it. Think of your greatest goal, and then try to push beyond even that. By doing so, it’ll be easier to reach X when you’ve got your sights set on Z. Don’t hold yourself back out of fear of not succeeding, or thinking you cannot do it because of A reason or B circumstance. There is always a way to take a step closer to your dream, no matter what the constraints.
Working towards our authentic dreams, be they achieving a career goal, having a loving family, or making it to outer space, is what gives our lives meaning. On their deathbeds, people regretted far more the things they didn’t do, rather than the things they did. Life is truly meant for living, not just surviving and waiting until death comes for us. This video by Prince EA entitled “Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives,” was life-changing for me, and I hope it will be for you too.