So from what I understand, I’m not supposed to use my blog space to discuss life’s bumps — only the victories. Well, that being so I’m going to write about the last couple of weeks anyway.
I hinted I had something in the works a few posts ago, and I was really hoping to get to spread the good news today. But alas, it isn’t to be. I got the call from NASA yesterday. I didn’t get the job.
The lady on the phone was very nice. Made sure to explain just how close I got to getting to call myself a NASA consultant. Explained that I live just a little too far from Houston, TX to be the best candidate. That there was nothing wrong with my interview, or experience, or enthusiasm. There was just this guy who happens to live close by…
It was probably for the best. I’ve got so many irons in the fire right now that an additional job (even temporary) might cause the rest of my work to suffer. Still, I wanted to have that title for a while. I just wanted the chance to teach astronomy again.
There’s a reason that Arkansas has been experiencing a ‘brain drain’ for so many years now. I’ve looked into the faces of my students for the past decade and seen such great potential. Such great desire to succeed. They attend public school in the state until they’re old enough for college life and then they cope with the reality that their destinies will most likely take them from this gorgeous landscape I thrill over and love. It doesn’t matter what they want for a career — musician, lawyer, actor, …physicist — the only way to reach the top of any of these professions is to go elsewhere. (Yes, yes, many businessmen have done just fine here, but I’m talking about using talents and skills of a broader sense.)
If all the talented people leave the state, then why would any reputable company set up shop here? And if there are no inspired (and inspiring) companies here, why would the talented people stay? The vicious cycle will not be broken in your lifetimes. I’ve worked with state legislators on this problem for years. I know what it would take to stop the bleeding, but your leaders want instant results. People don’t vote for realists, they want a politician who has a get-rich-quick scheme up his/her sleeve. In science we learn that if an interaction doesn’t occur, conditions will not change on their own. Real change requires a change in what we do. You must willfully cause an action for a reaction to happen. If you want skill and talent to remain here, then you must make here better than the alternative.
That means building civic buildings to house theaters, science centers, art galleries — you know, cultural stuff. Any businessman knows you design your company to attract the type of customer you want. When you look at how a particular city spends its tax money, you see what kind of population they want to grow. What do you see when you drive around Arkansas? More importantly, what would you like to see? What changes would have to happen for you to fulfill your dreams here? When you don’t want to go to where the action is, how do you bring the action to you? It’s not an easy thing, and sacrifices have to be made for the short term. But the payout means so much. The state even has a surplus right now that could get us off to a good start. Of course, a state lottery could help too… [Sorry, too much political posturing for my nature. Let’s get on to the moral.]
As much as I like for my students to stay near enough for us to visit, I would rather them be successful. They deserve it. They work so hard and overcome such huge challenges. I see in them all the possibilities of a future I’d like to happen. I know that through them, I might even change the world. For that chance, I’d gladly miss a cool consulting job or two. And that’s why I encourage them to go off and not fear following a path that might lead them to never return.
It’s for the best.