Morning—a host of high school students with glazed eyes stands under a streetlight; one stands apart and gazes at the stars. I am that dreamer. Every morning, I look towards the heavens, basking in the glow of the Greek and Roman gods. Orion watches as I get on the bus, Venus waves me off to a new day, and the Moon watches contentedly.
I wasn’t always a student of the stars. I was once part of the group, with glazed eyes and complete ignorance of the world above me. To me, the stars were just little dots in the sky—twinkling lights with no personality and no story. The celestial world was as alien to me as I was to it. Knowledge changed this—astronomy was the medium.
My baptism in astronomy came my freshman year in Science Olympiad. Wright Stuff, Fermi Questions and Practical Data Gathering were my events. The path had been set, and a deviation was something to be avoided at all costs. Much to my dismay, my coach placed me on astronomy. I responded at once with a torrent of e-mails demanding the reason for this dastardly act. She simply replied, “Try something new. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll learn something.” I had no time for this cliched explanation. I was a man of science who needed focus, not another distraction. Still, quitting was not an option, and I found myself grudgingly studying stellar evolution, spectroscopic analysis, and light curves. After three months of struggle and frustration, I see the result of my work: two shiny medals on my shelf and the value of understanding.
As I willed myself through the formidable stack of resources, I began to understand. There is more to the stars than a galactic connect-the-dots puzzle. There are stories, hidden secrets, and invisible mischief. Galaxies collide, forming a mass of chaotic matter. A white dwarf pilfers gas from its larger neighbor until it takes too much and explodes in a brilliant supernova. Neither star survives. Newborn stars bathe in gaseous nebulas, preparing for their celestial debut. This drama of the heavens teaches me that knowledge unleashes the extraordinary in the ordinary. The dark void of space is no longer an empty field but a template for the growth of the psyche. I take a step of the mind, and the gods materialize from the darkness. With a leap, the universe becomes my canvas—imagination is my paint. This art is a self-discovered one, and I withdraw into myself. Here, isolated within my mind, I find myself among the gods.