“The transition from ‘astronaut preparing to accomplish the next big thing’ to ‘astronaut telling about the last big thing’ did not come easily to me.” Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut, and second man on the moon.
When we were still down in South America, pondering the sudden necessity to return to the United States to repair our truck before departing for S.E. Asia, my constant refrain was, “I don’t know how I’m going to do.”
That was my shorthanded way of expressing my general state of angst and malaise at the prospect of returning to western civilization in its modern manifestation. But to be fair, I honestly did not know how I would do. By that I was saying I didn’t know how I’d react to the cultural norms, the societal expectations and the day-to-day reality of American life.
And that amount of fear was engendered just being faced with the prospect of a month or two back here while we repaired the truck. Now, with all that has happened in the meantime, we’ll be here for a while. Actually, the reality is, we’ll be here for a life chapter. And that reality means I am now face to face with my fear: the quotidian effect.
“I remember coming back to Houston after the moon, and my neighbors had a barbecue for me. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’,” Dave Scott, commander of Apollo 15.
When we returned from our world travels via motorcycle in late 2004 I anticipated that I would be refreshed, recharged and ready to build another business. But as it turned out, I felt as if I was a U.K. electrical plug that was incapable of reconnecting with the U.S. electrical receptacles that surrounded me. I just could not find a way to reengage and plug back in.
We felt even more alien and different when we returned from South America for the holidays in late 2008. Everything seemed the same as we left it, but different. In that regard it felt a bit like visiting Canada as an American. Everyone else seemed to think it was all normal, but it didn’t feel normal or right to us. It was as if we were a half-cycle out of synch with all that surrounded us. And that made us feel even more disassociated.
We don’t know any astronauts, so we couldn’t talk to them about how they adjusted, but we did know some other people who had been separated from normal life for an extended amount of time—circumnavigators—people who have sailed around the world. In fact, the woman who taught Steph how to sail, Leslie Graney, had sailed around the world—twice.
“It has been such a special treat to read your stories and see the spectacular pictures. I confess I am a bit, maybe a bit more than a bit, jealous. Jealous of your days being entirely open to the whims of adventure, and also, I am sure, the tedium of waiting or hardships. I think that is what I miss most about travel, the chance to make each day unique. I miss inconvenience and random motion.” – Leslie Graney
It is that randomness that Leslie so eloquently describes that defines life outside the confines of normalcy, the routine, the mundane, the unremarkable, the workaday world, the quotidian. And that, more than anything is what I feared, what I was talking about when I wailed, “I don’t know how I’ll do,” – I feared the quotidian.
“Remember where you’re standing when the spotlight goes off. You’ll have to find your own way off the stage.” Jim Lovell, mission commander Apollo 13.
So now we are here, surrounded by, immersed in, the quotidian. All who we interact with, all who are not us, are part of the regular world, the quotidian. Everything that awaits us, what seeks to assimilate us, is the quotidian. I resist it. I flee it. I fear it.
I still don’t know how I’ll do.
Apollo astronaut quotes from this Time story: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1910599_1910769_1910767-1,00.html