in recent years

201820172016
201520142013
201220112010

to the stars

I love space.

I have always known that I would never go to space.

I was an uncoordinated, fat kid who didn’t trust the military (Of course there are civilian astronauts. Lots of them! Neil Armstrong even, technically!) and I knew I would never have the discipline for it.

But I have always wanted to be part of the space program.

More than any other dream I’ve ever had — publishing a book! writing a movie! — I wanted to help explore space. It was my second dream job — edged out by paleontologist because, dinosaurs are amazing obviously — and the first I knew, almost as soon as I dreamed it, that I could never do.

Space is incredible. Vast and beautiful and endless. Every single thing we learn about space teaches us something important, but also opens us up to even more knowledge, to an even more expansive universe than we previously imagined, to an infinity so broad it’ll break you if you think about it too hard.

And I wanted to be part of it more than almost anything I have ever wanted.

And I knew I never, ever could.

Math and I have always been enemies. My lowest grades were always math. I had to repeat high school algebra. I preemptively took the ACT, well before I took the SAT, because I’d heard that the math was easier and I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D that my SAT score wouldn’t hit the minimum to avoid college placement tests. (It didn’t.) I didn’t want to struggle through at least 3 quarters of remedial math before also struggling through college algebra. (My ACT did.) I had to take a no-credit in my college algebra class because I couldn’t hack it. I ended up taking a logic class to satisfy my one single math requirement. I don’t think my final grade was very good. I excelled in sciences until they required math — here’s looking at you, high school chemistry — and I knew, deep down in the dark cave-like places where disappointment lives, that it would never get better. I would never make it through anything harder.

I took physics in college anyway, probably through a fluke of class requirements, availability, and timing, and it was torture. I understood the concepts, the ideas, the big stuff, the theoretical. I understood it and I liked it. I cared about it. Physics is… as close as humans get to magic. But the math bewildered and confused me. I tried. I read. I studied. I have never been a good studier, but GOD, did I try. I tried. And I just… couldn’t.

After putting in my second lackluster test performance, my very smart, very kind professor — a woman who worked for NASA and JPL and took students to the Marshall Space Flight Center and the Kennedy Space Center every year — asked me to stay behind after class.

I think I’d gotten a D and I was unhappily resigned. I wouldn’t call myself an overachiever, but with the exception of math, school had always been easy for me. Not just easy, but natural. It has always felt like learning was what I was supposed to be doing, the only thing I’ve ever been particularly good at.

This woman looked at me with this awful kindness, the kind that strips you down when you’re not expecting it, and she said, “You just. You can’t do this math, can you?”

And my breath caught in my throat because I’d had teachers who sympathized with my struggles before, ones who tried their best to help, but no one had ever, ever looked at me like they actually got it — that I was trying my absolute fucking hardest and I just could not do it.

And I just nodded.

She smiled at me, soft, and she told me she would do everything she could to give me partial credit so I could pass. And she did. And I did.

I took an astronomy class with her later, a class I anticipated and dreaded in almost equal measure, because I still loved space and because I wanted to learn about it, and she smiled and nodded at me when I took my seat at the front and some of the dread faded because I knew she still got it and I knew she had my back.

I cried after that class a lot. Because I love space. And learning so much about it — it was a surprisingly in-depth class for even an upper division entry-level — was moving, but also devastating because I knew this would be the end of organized space education for me. There was nowhere else for me to go.

She told me once, about midway through, as we went over a test after class that she had never had a student who so clearly and easily grasped and engaged with conceptual information, but who couldn’t do the math. It was the kindest, most flattering knife I’ve ever had through my heart.

I’ve always told people that, if the opportunity arose, even if I knew it was a one-way ticket to certain death, I would go into space. This is true every single day. This has never, even for like, one minute in my entire life been not true. To reach into the rich dark and see the limitless sea of our existence, to leave the bounds of earth, I would give my life. In a heartbeat. In a nanosecond. In a Planck second.

I won’t set foot on an airplane, but any space vessel will do.

The privatization of space exploration pains me. The increasing incuriosity of the American public and their unwillingness to fund NASA and further exploration of our universe is nauseating to me. We are so small in the scheme of everything and we have so much to learn. We are a species built from survival instincts and yet our curiosity compels us to do so much more, to learn so much, to seek out the edges of our universe and understand them.

Math may have defeated my dreams of exploiting that curiosity to its fullest. It may have even crushed my dreams, but it can’t stop me from learning. There is always more to know. And if Opportunity could outlive her mission by 14 years to teach us as much about Mars as she possibly could, we can be curious enough to learn something from her and curious enough to care about what comes next.

The static from your television is 1% residual radiation from the Big Bang. You and I and everyone we love, we are made of star stuff. We are the universe, walking and talking and seeking. Stay curious. Don’t stop learning.

intrusive religiosity

For about a year in the late 2000s, I became intensely devoted to crossing myself whenever I passed a cross.


 
This started with a steeple cross that was visible to me from the freeway on the drive home from my college. I often sat in a little clutch of traffic near it and it was lit at night, so I noticed it frequently, hovering over the wall that separated the speeding 210 from the neighborhood beyond.
 
I’m not religious. I’ve been to church less than a dozen times in my entire life. I’m unbaptized, un-saved, uncircumsised. I’ve been to Catholic mass once and I spent the entire thing staring at how super naked Jesus seemed on the cross, hanging morbidly above the Filipino priest’s head. I’m religiously curious, so I know a lot about rites and rituals. Plus I’m a writer and I like characters of faith, so I’ve done a lot of research over the years. I’m an atheist though. No waffling here: I don’t believe in god and I have no interest in church.
 
But this cross, it haunted me. I could feel the pull of compulsion each time I passed it, the little tug at me, like there was something my body, my hindbrain NEEDED to do, but I wasn’t getting the message. It probably took a month of this drive, two or three times a week, for me to figure out what it was. My right arm wanted to make the sign of the cross.
 
This is 1. hysterical because with all that lack of religious upbringing, I had no idea how to accurately make the sign of the cross, and 2. disturbing, because it was a compulsion with an intensity I had not yet experienced. I’ve had intensely intrusive thoughts my entire life (flashes of sudden injury, the desire to drive into oncoming traffic, having to back up from a rail because I wanted to jump – all the regulars!) but this was not that. And it wasn’t like the compulsive need to touch and smell things that I inherited from my mother. (Thanks, Mom!) It wasn’t going all the way back to my apartment or dorm door to make sure I locked it. Twice. I knew there were consequences if I left my front door unlocked. I didn’t have any identifiable fear or consequence of NOT crossing myself, I just realized that I had to do it and I had to do it real, real bad.
 
So I did.
 
It became a thing. I drove by this steeple, I crossed myself. Probably incorrectly, but it got the job done. I felt compelled first in my upper arm, then my elbow, then my fingers as I neared the cross. I’d cross myself and I’d feel the minor flood of elation at having satisfied the compulsion. I only crossed myself when I was traveling on the westbound side of the freeway because, I don’t know, these things just happen and the universe in which I live has all kinds of rules I just obey because that’s how it is. I also always did it with my fore and middle fingers extended, which had no reasoning either. It just felt right.
 
It was weird, but it wasn’t dangerous and it was only once a day, twice a week!
 
But then it started happening when I was eastbound as well.
 
And then it started happening any time I passed a large cross. Then any time I passed a church. Then any cross. Then cemeteries.
 
I was living in a Los Angeles suburb and commuting into the Inland Empire. I spent a lot of time in the car and I saw a lot of crosses and churches and cemeteries.
 
I knew it had become a problem when I had to come up with a way to cross myself SECRETLY.

I had started crossing myself so frequently (There are more than 40 churches just in the town of 40,000 where I lived.) that doing it with other people had become unavoidable.

I have been an outspoken atheist since I was thirteen years old, I couldn’t let my friends and family think I had suddenly become weirdly and confusingly Catholic. Also, I still – despite having access to the entire internet at my fingertips – had no idea if I was crossing myself correctly and being seen doing it incorrectly would have been HUMILIATING, obviously. I think I didn’t look it up because the compulsion didn’t want me to. My crossing was organic and it wanted to stay that way.
 
I had learned in like, the third grade, that crossing your fingers for luck came from persecuted Christians giving each other the what’s up, so I tried that. I didn’t like it. First of all, it’s not really an action, it’s an adjustment. Second of all, it didn’t satisfy my elbow or my shoulder. My fingers were okay-ish with the deal, but the rest of my right arm was Not Having It.
 
So I started drawing a cross on my thigh. It allowed for the motion of my entire arm, it seemed semi-holy, and it was pretty easy to do inconspicuously. And I did it A Lot.

The best way to end this story would be to tell you that someone busted me and I had an embarrassing breakdown about how I was an adult woman who couldn’t control my own weird, compulsive, faux-religiosity. Or maybe that the compulsion started to make me feel too out of control and so I forced myself to break it. But, sadly, this story just ends the way most idiot problems I have do: it just went away on its own.

#crashrocketship


soundtrack for this post

Today is six months since Crystal and I got hitched!

I am still honestly amazed by how much I L-O-V-E-D getting married. A group of forty people I really love who all showed up in the same place at the same time to stare at and listen to me talk? What a fucking dream!

I honestly don’t know how I got lucky enough to not only find a woman who has loved and adored me for more than eight years (and finally got her shit together and figured out she was actually in love with me eight years ago this month!) but also agreed to stand up and declare her love for me in front of a big group of people and then also promised to stay with me forever? When she hates public speaking and attention focused on her? What a champ, what a gift, what a wife.

And forty people who showed up to Las Vegas on a Friday the 13th for a 7pm wedding to cheer us on and throw confetti and get drunk and eat mad delicious burgers with us until midnight? I’m drowning in heroes over here.

The year of planning up to the wedding was mostly fun, but also torture. I learned a lot of stuff in that year, most of which can be summed up with: shit happens. And all those things that seemed huge and difficult at the time ended up either working out fine or not mattering at all in the end. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

If you’re planning a wedding I have only one piece of advice: ELOPE. J/K. Mostly. Fuck it, nail it! It’s something I saw on a wedding blog (A Practical Wedding, probably) and immediately wrote on a post-it note I stuck to my computer where it still lives. It’s sort of become my life mantra, tbh. Need to make a decision? Say “fuck it” and nail it down.

And if you’ve found your person and you want to marry them? Do it!

PS: I uploaded a million more pictures and planned to make a way longer post with vendor info and all that jazz and I will (truly!) but we’re house-hunting right now and it makes me wish I lived in a cave with wifi, so you’ll have to forgive the continued delay! plz&ty you are the best

what’s up wednesday

I’ve been a terrible blogger! And I apologize! Because I love talking to you guys (and about myself, let’s be real) and miss it immensely! (I also just miss BLOGS so much. I love EVERY POST I see from Rae and Kimmie and the few other people I follow who still get out there and share about their lives! DAMN THE MAN, SAVE THE BLOG!)

Anyway, Crystal and I get married in TWENTY-THREE DAYS which means that we leave to make the drive to Vegas in just EIGHTEEN DAYS so I’ve been basically losing my mind once every hour because I am very ready to be MARRIED, but I am not ready to have a WEDDING even though I am super amped and L-I-V-E to host parties tbh. I guess when you get married you’re supposed to like, pay attention to your partner and be in love and stuff and probably not perform and try to make everyone ELSE love you the whole time? What’s the point, man?

Also! My sister HAD A BABY and it turns out falling in bananas auntie-love with your SUPER ADORABLE NEPHEW can be really time-consuming. Who knew?

this is my nephew oliver! he's so cute it kind of makes me barf and i love it. #latergram

A photo posted by ash rocketship (@ashrocketship) on

So aside from wedding planning and trying to be a Serious Adult about skincare so that I can look passably attractive in my wedding photos* and taking lots and lots of aquacise classes because they are my FAVORITE THING I’ve done this year, I’ve been reading a lot and traveling a bit and getting tattooed and watching documentaries because I’ve officially become an old person and it’s WONDERFUL. I’ve had ALL clear biopsies since my diagnosis in February of last year (which rules!) and I’ve bought a bunch of jeans (some of them in an actual brick-and-mortar STORE like a PERSON) and a giant new cellphone that’s almost obnoxious enough to be embarrassing and also lots of make-up and I have SO MANY favorites to catch-up on with you it’s probably embarrassing.

I’ll leave you with a short list!

RIGHT NOW:

Reading: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang & Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman & A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. (Let’s be friends on GoodReads!)

Hearing: Spotify because I’m still riding out my 99¢ three month trial period & lots and lots of our wedding music (No DJ! Curating my own pre and post ceremony playlists! Terror!) & The Weeknd because I am alive in 2015 like the rest of you.

Seeing: Several of Kimmie’s documentary recommendations including Iris and 20 Feet from Stardom & Grav3yardgirl on Youtube & iZombie.

What have YOU guys been up to?! I miss you!

*: If you do any eyebrow grooming, do you find that that you have one good and one bad eyebrow? My left eyebrow is so good, but my right’s a dumb jerk. What’s that about?

monthly faves: february & march 2k15



JAMZ: Okay, so I spent most of February playing “Uptown Funk” and Azealia Banks’ “212” on repeat, but I also got super into SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” which is best played at near ear-splitting volume while doing a kind of flailing, loose-limbed dance that involves far too much ribcage. March was spent listening to my extensive love song playlist while we ready wedding stuff, but it also brought me “Fade into You” from Nashville which I found in the comments of a wedding playlist post. It’s like… goth country, romantic and lingering. So pretty.


ALBUM: Working full-time has totally destroyed my music finding and album listening. I’ve turned into a single-loving repeater and a safe-for-work Pandora station listener. But! I have revisited Natalia Kills’ Trouble quite a bit since it’s on my phone and it’s just a great listen, especially in the car with the windows down now that the temperature is often above 40! “Rabbit Hole” is my jam. I’ve been hitting this best of Miles Davis because I frequently turn to jazz when I’m feeling stressed, since lyrics can make me feel overwhelmed while I’m working. “Blue in Green” is a forever fave.


MOVIE: Crys and I both really loved Gone Girl and I was so grateful to see that they fixed some of the things I’d found so lackluster/frustrating about the book. I thought Rosamund Pike was fantastic and can’t wait to see Carrie Coon in more stuff. Gone Girl was great, but Whiplash I really loved. In the first few minutes I thought this was going to be one of those media experiences I hate, where I am frustrated utterly for the main character and end up furious, but the payoff in this is so intensely, weirdly satisfying. I want to watch Miles Teller mouth “Fuck you” while drumming angrily until I’m dead. And then it should be the holographic projection that runs over my grave 24/7.


BOOK: When You Reach Me is the best and most moving book I’ve read thus far this year. It’s got a great narrating lead and excellent secondary characters and a rich plot and wonderful details and, like I said on Goodreads, I wish so badly that I had written it. What an awesome, perfectly, gently devastating book. I did not love The Paper Magician, but I did enjoy reading it more than, I think, every other book I read in March. I thought the magic was interesting, but found the characters lacking. There was some great anticipatory romance stuff — I even got kicky-feet! — but it played out too easily and too quickly. I prefer some torture with my romance, thank you, but still a fun read.


TV: The Parks and Recreation finale was so, so good and was so sweet and so positive which is what the show always was when it was at its best. I’ve talked about how much I love P&R plenty before, but that finale was a really wonderful way to end a really wonderful show.

We’ve also been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, slowly, and I really love it. I think relentless positivity in the face of adversity is just something I’m really attracted to generally and I love how well Ellie Kemper’s face carries it off. Kimmy wears everything on her sleeve and I love watching her react to the world around her. I also love Jane Krakowski — generally of course, but particularly in this — because even she isn’t immune to Kimmy’s positivity. The speech she gives her stepdaughter about leaving Kimmy alone was like, genuinely moving. So good.


BATH & BEAUTY: I grabbed a couple of the Kate Moss by Rimmel matte lipsticks while we were in Billings in mid-February and I have been obsessed ever since. But, like, I can’t find them anywhere on the entire internet, which is genuinely terrible. I bought a deep red, a Ruby Woo-esque red, and an amaaaaaazing nude (#104, if you happen to see these somewhere!) that has pretty much replaced my usual Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Honey as my MLBB because it’s matte. They have a weird-ish perfume smell, but I love them so much I don’t really care and will definitely grab some back-ups if I see them in stores again.

I recently received an Influenster VoxBox* with some of the Dessange line from Target and after three weeks with the shampoo and conditioner I’m actually really happy. I like the way they smell (in the bottle, it’s not super great on my hair, but it also doesn’t last long) and my hair did actually seem a little glossier and brighter. My hair is really fine and really flat, so best of all, they don’t weigh my hair down, but still manage to make it soft and detangled. I’ve also now tried the Color Correcting Cream two Sundays in a row and I’ll definitely be buying it again. It not only keeps the gold tones in the dyed ends of my hair at bay, but it also seems to brighten the darker, natural dishwatery blonde at my roots. Awesome.


STUFF: Despite the oil slow-down, Williston is still expanding and last week we got a Culver’s, which rules and their Chocolate Covered Strawberry Concrete Mixer is pretty much the most best thing I’ve eaten in forever. Their custard is rich, but not overly sweet, and the combination of strawberry and chocolate is perfect. The beeeeeeeeeeeeest.

Also, most of the restaurant openings here have gone less than smoothly, but Culver’s seems to be the exception. The service is really friendly and seems organized and efficient, which is pretty much unheard of here, even for places that have been open forever. It’s kind of insane how much you learn to live with terrible service and how stark the contrast is when you have good service again.


LINKS: This photo series, this comic, this post from an eternal faveEpiphora, “The Babies in the Freezer which I read right after Ghost Child, This Is My Baby Right Now by Mia Mercado who is on the verge of blowing up and being too awesome to respond to me on Twitter anymore, this A Softer World, #thedress and the Rise of Attention Policing, My Eating Disorder Had Nothing to Do with Barbie or the Media, How Flawless Became a Feminist Declaration, Remembering John Jerde — I am obsessed with the architecture of public spaces and I want to learn everything about this dude, In Defense of Literal Ass-Kicking Heroines, this A Softer World, On Confidence and the Kimye Effect, and 5 Irrefutable Reasons Why “Tank Girl” Is Absolutely Not A Terrible Movie.


*: I got these products for free from Influenster for testing purposes.