Impossible?

I have a horrid feeling that what I’m about to write might come across as some kind of schmaltzy nonsense, but heck, I’m going to take that risk, and talk about “impossible”.

Sometimes there are avenues that we don’t explore because we decide, subconsciously perhaps, that they impossible. Perhaps it’s not even that clear – we don’t even think about them, because they are a couple of jumps outside of the world that we personally inhabit. When I was younger, it never occurred to me that I could go to Cambridge University. It wasn’t that I actively thought it was impossible, it was more that it never occurred to me to think in terms that put me and Cambridge in the same sentence. Cambridge was where clever people went. *Really* clever genius incredible people. Right?

My form tutor once called three of us to the front of class at the end of tutor time. He asked us a simple question, had we considered applying to Oxford or Cambridge? I laughed. I remember it all so clearly, I stood there and I laughed. I felt a tingle of excitement run through me at the same time though and he followed it up with the words “because you are the sort of people who should”. I felt so proud and amazed right then. *We* should apply to Oxbridge? Someone believed that I was good enough to apply? I didn’t care about getting in, I didn’t even think about that, the fact that someone thought that I should apply – that in itself was a miracle.

To cut a long story short, I did apply, to Cambridge, and despite a few hilarious events, I was offered a place, and was for some reason let in.

This isn’t meant to be a blog about Cambridge, it doesn’t matter what the experience itself was like, the important thing for me, was that something that only happened to “other” people, happened to me. I did something “impossible”, and you know what? It changed my life.

Suddenly, I started asking questions. Instead of accepting that things are impossible I started thinking “why not?” and “someone gets to do that, so why not me?” and so on. I’ve done some slightly strange things over the years, completely based on “why not”. I relish the challenge of “impossible” things. If I don’t manage them, it’s okay, they were kind of impossible anyway, but if I pull something off then it is so exciting, I’m amazed at it. It fills me with the joys of life and I push myself to do the next crazy thing. I’ve had a travel piece in The Times, a package on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4, a viral fox, spoken at conferences, reported from Obama’s inauguration, won an award for the World Service project Save Our Sounds, met amazing people and travelled the globe.

I pride myself in being able to say “I make things happen”, but I’ve been a bit too caught up at work to make my ideas into new realities of late, I’m a bit stuck in a rut. Something has to happen.

Yesterday I got an email. It was from Chris McKay at NASA. He told me they were going to the Mojave desert next month to do some stuff and taking some grad students along, was I interested in joining them? I thought that it was amazing, fantastic and lovely, but I wouldn’t be able to afford to go, certainly not at such short notice…

That was yesterday. Yesterday I was just pleased enough to have been asked if I was interested. Today I’m getting itchy feet. I’m asking myself ‘why is it impossible?’ Don’t I thrive on impossible? Don’t I always say you only regret the things that you don’t do?

I’ve been invited to go to a desert, by NASA. Perhaps it’s about time I started making the impossible possible again.

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