I was 12 or 13 when I first picked up Carl Sagan’s Contact, and I was probably 12 or 13 plus about five minutes when the light dawned. I wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to be the tough female scientist who battled her way to the top on pure merit. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself, “I want to be Ellie Arroway.”

Since then, I’ve operated under that same static train of thought. I’ve fought tooth and nail to get into chemistry classes that were already over capacity; I’ve researched summer camps and scholarships for women in the sciences; I’ve lain on the roof of our car and estimated the angular separation of stars with my hands and wondered if there really is anyone else out there. For years I’ve been taking action to prepare myself for a future in astronomy and I’m only just now wondering if I’m really sure about it.

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things over the years. My mom still tells a story about registering me for my first soccer program. After the forms were signed, I wandered into my dad’s office, brave in my scruffy tennis shoes and knee-length T-shirt, and proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m going to bend it like Beckham!” When I was 10 years old or so, I honestly believed that my future lay in creative writing; I was going to be the youngest published author in the young adult genre, and no one could stop me. Then came years and years of math and science courses, and here we are in the present. Tonight, in order to avoid finishing my calculus homework, I have successfully cleaned my room, written this piece, and spent more than an hour on my Spanish self-study.


Sometimes my love for languages still feels like it’s come out of nowhere, like it must be only a phase if it came on this suddenly. But, even years ago, when asked what my favorite class was at my new high school, I would always inevitably mention how much I loved my French course. My friends poked fun at me when I discovered Duolingo and taught myself “Ich trinke Wasser” and “du bist ein Mann,” but I didn’t care, because the words felt new and different in my throat, and that was enough to keep me moving forward.

That spell of learning German was relatively short-lived (although I’m hoping to pick up a classroom course for my senior year), but my love for languages was not. I’ve been studying Spanish at home for over a month now, and although I am shaky and speak with an accent that better resembles French, I love it. Enough that I use it as an excuse to put off assignments. Enough that I’ve started looking into international studies and foreign languages as an actual future.

In January, I watched the Ballon d’Or ceremony, an annual presentation of individual awards for soccer players and coaches. Even among the star-studded lineup of footballers, one person that caught my eye was the hostess, Kate Abdo. A British sports anchor and journalist, she’s fluent in English, Spanish, French, and German. If that isn’t an existence to aspire to, I don’t know what is. ♦