Live Long and Prosper

My guest blogger Karen Cumming helps kick off the New Year with a 2nd half story that really stretches the meaning of extreme adventure!  She also shares three valuable discoveries she’s made about being 50 something – stop seeking approval, forego fears, and an unexpected adventure might just splay itself in front of you.

I was talking to a friend the other day over coffee when one of us – I forget which one – smiled knowingly over the rim of her white china cup and said those immortal words that all of us in the 2nd half of our story love to hear: “Well of course, fifty is the new forty!” Sure, it may be a cliché, but all clichés are rooted in some shred of truth, aren’t they?

I think fifty really is the new forty.   I honestly feel younger, more vibrant, and in better shape now that I was a decade-plus ago. But more importantly, I am wiser. My mind has caught up with my body. What a concept, eh?

After more than a half century on the planet, I have definitely learned some lessons. You have, too. Let’s compare notes.

Number one. This one’s a biggie. I don’t need anyone’s approval. I can be who I am, do what I please, and if someone doesn’t like it, well – it’s just none of their business. They need to keep their eyes on their own beeswax – and I need to do the same. It took me a long time to figure this one out, but now that I have, what a sense of freedom it has brought me.

Number two. I’ve learned that fear is never my friend. Ever. My job is to focus on what makes me feel good, and go out and do more of that. And if fear enters into the picture, tell it to go the hell home.

Number three. I’ve learned that just when you think life has brought you to a dead end, the skies open up, a guy who looks amazingly like Charlton Heston parts the Red Sea, and you are flung into a brand new adventure. Often, one you never imagined would be yours.

Case in point. I am going to Mars.

No, really.

I’m one of more than 200,000 people who applied to the Mars One Mission in the summer of 2013. And amazingly, I’ve made the cut. Ha! One year later, a total of 663 of us are now moving into the interview process, which will narrow the field even further. The mission is slated to take off in 2024 with four astronauts aboard. Over the decade to follow, subsequent crews of four will land every two years until 24 Earthlings are calling Mars their home. Oh, and did I mention? It’s a one-way ticket. That’s “permanent settlement” in space talk.

So what on Earth (pun intended) would possess a 52-year-old woman to throw her hat in the ring?

That’s easy. Adventure. I’m a journalist and a teacher. The journalist side of me sees it as the story of the century… a story I want to document for the rest of humanity here on Earth.

The teacher side of me sees it as the opportunity of a lifetime to educate children and adults alike about space from space. Just like Canadian Chris Hadfield did aboard the International Space Station with his guitar and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

Now you won’t be surprised to hear that not everyone thought this was a good idea. Imagine, if you will, telling your nearest and dearest that you want to leave Earth forever and take up residence on Mars. Chances are, they’d question your sanity and chastise you for abandoning them.

Been there. Bought that t-shirt.

I’ve been on this intergalactic roller coaster ride for a year now, and here’s what I’ve learned.

This is my path. Mine.

I’m not supposed to live the same life as anyone else. And the mere idea that I might want to try — should be cause for serious alarm.

Pretty good advice in general for all of us navigating our 2nd half story.

Do what you want. Period.

And in the end, you just may find yourself in a place that’s out of this world.

– Karen Cumming will be blogging more about her Mars One adventures on the soon-to-be-up-and-running website


2 thoughts on “Live Long and Prosper

  1. SOOO true the three lessons learned and the freedom it has provided!! Congratulations Karen for making it on the list to go to Mars…WOW. I can’t begin to imagine the excitement you must be feeling.

  2. Really enjoyed your post Karen. I admire your courage not just to want to go to Mars (which I think is incredible), but your courage to take charge of your life and live it on your terms. We can’t all go to (or aspire to go to) Mars, but we can live our lives with the spirit of adventure that you have embraced 🙂

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