Heroes, Episode I

I’m very wary of idolizing people.  We’re all broken and flawed.  But through that brokenness, something inspiring can glimmer – like a hint of a secret human destiny – suggesting that we can not only aspire to something beyond our assumed lot in life, but achieve it too.
There are a few of these people – my heroes and heroines – that have helped me believe in that aspiration.
Since today is Amelia Earhart‘s birthday, and yesterday Sally Ride passed away, I think today will be about the two of them.

I love them both because they both broke into a difficult field previously reserved for men.  They had to be both capable and really smart.  Also, they (along with other pilots and astronauts) pushed the boundaries of what we previously believed humans were capable of.

I’ve never held the delusion that I could be an astronaut.  I’m not smart enough and, well, like a lot of academics, I’m kind of soft.  So I hold an almost child-like awe for the men and women smart and strong enough to go into space…that’s SPACE, folks.  It’s like real-life science fiction.

But I do know that I can – and hopefully someday will – become a pilot.  Being a passenger on a commercial jet is pretty tedious (though I do love watching the takeoff and landing) but sitting in the cockpit of a little Cessna or Piper is exhilarating, controlling the means by which humans have actually conquered the sky.  Amelia Earhart was not only a pioneer for women, she was a pioneer for air travel.  She was daring to the end.

So those are my two heroines for today.  Two women concerned with more than societal norms.  Smart, brave women, not perfect, but possessing the guts and determination I’d like to have.  I’d like to be that kind of pathfinder, a bit reckless and willing to at least attempt to do exemplary and audacious things.

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