Last night I was making dinner when I saw an email from my dad. He wrote to tell me he saw that Sally Ride had passed away and wanted me to know because I'd wanted to be an astronaut when I was a girl. I stood in my kitchen, tearing up at how sad I was at the loss of a hero and how touched I was by my dad caring and knowing me well enough to know I'd want to know that.
I admired Sally Ride as a girl because I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. I had a poster of all the Apollo mission astronauts on my wall where I'm sure other girls my age had New Kids on the Block. Even though every person on that poster was a man, because of Sally Ride, I knew that it wasn't impossible for me to become like one of those men. She made it okay for me to follow those boot prints.
As I got older and moved my childhood aspirations to other things, I continued to admire Ms. Ride because of her passion for math and science. Yes, she wanted to help young women move up in those field, but she also wanted to help young men. She was passionate and shared that passion every day in how she chose to live out her life's work. I moved away from the math and science fields, but I continued to pay attention to her work because she cared in a way that made me care.
Now, as a art historian, I'm in a very female-dominated field. However, 100 years ago, it would have looked like science and math fields do today. My hope is that Sally Ride's legacy will continue, that others will step up to fill her shoes, and one day math and science fields will look more similar to my field. More importantly, may we all follow her footsteps in living out our passion. When we live our passion, we help the world in so many ways by bringing our best selves to the forefront.
Thank you, Sally Ride, for being who you were. For sharing your self, for sharing your passion, and for inspiring so many. May your legacy burn bright.
*only a few tears were shed in the writing of this post