The first time I saw the night sky in it’s full glory, I could hardly believe my eyes. Stars sparkled in all colors. The milky way rippled across the dark like a shimmering ribbon. Shooting stars fizzled above the horizon. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that there were more stars than I could ever have imagined, stars beyond stars, multiplied by millions. To infinity and beyond, for sure. My whole family was mesmerized by the night sky. Every evening we’d pile onto the deck, wrapped in sweatshirts and huddled in blankets against the cool night air, while fireflies blinked and mysterious creatures chirped and chattered in the dark shadows of the trees. For hours we would lie there looking up at the sky, counting satellites, learning the constellations and waxing contemplative.
That was the summer I turned 15. My family spent 3 weeks in Vermont, house-sitting for family friends. Until then, I’d never really been outside the suburbs of some major metropolitan area. I’d never seen the sky without the pale haze of light pollution and a constant flow of airplane traffic. Despite that, I’d always had a healthy appreciation for nature, having spent many childhood days exploring in the woods and along the creek that ran behind the park next door. Early on, my parents instilled in me a love of hiking and discovering. We’d take day trips to nearby state parks and to the Poconos, where we climbed endless trails and turned over countless stones looking for fossils. But it wasn’t until those summer nights in Vermont that I felt the jaw-dropping sense of awe that comes with realizing just how vast and magnificent the Universe is.
Whenever I find myself going through a rough time, or needing some reassurance that my life is not spiraling uncontrollably into disrepair, I remember how it felt to be looking up at that night sky, staring back at the Universe. Looking out into the cosmic depths really puts life in perspective. I am so very small and insignificant. The Universe is so vast and mysterious and I am only a teeny tiny part of it all. Suddenly, worrying about how my nose looks in profile seems ridiculous, not to mention the gazillion other silly little things that I worry about every day. In the grand scheme of things, my problems are fleeting and trivial.
For me, being reminded of my unimportance is a good thing. I don’t know why but I have always felt like I am supposed to be doing something outstanding with my life. Maybe because I’ve often been told that I’m special and I’ve been so brave to go through the various medical adventures (though mine are really not that scary compared to some people’s). Throughout my life I’ve often felt consumed with trying to make a good impression and getting people to like me. Even now, I sometimes spent too much time worrying about what other people think. To me, it’s a relief to be reminded that I am just a tiny part of it all. Gazing up at the night sky (or visualizing doing so) gives me renewed energy to pursue the things that are most important to me and to make the most of my time here and not worry so much about whether it’s significant to anyone else.