the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Rocket Man

Today, I was reading about self-acceptance.

Wikipedia definition: Self-acceptance is defined as affirmation or acceptance of self in spite of weaknesses or deficiencies.

The power of this concept is striking, but how does this affect the way we thing about our hopes and dreams?   And if we do have certain weaknesses and deficiencies, does this there are some things we can do and some that we cannot do.    If we know we are terrified of snakes, should we try to conquer the fear and become a zookeeper, or just say no to that trip to the Amazon?  We tell our children that they can do anything if they dream hard enough, but at what point do we stop telling ourselves the same thing, and accept our position in society?  Do we give ourselves to a certain age, say 35, to achieve all of our dreams, and if not, should we just accept our lot, and be happy be with it.

It amused me that the first thought to came to mind when thinking about self-acceptance was my own childhood dream — to become an astronaut. You know the story — child of the 1970’s, Apollo, Star Wars, Star Trek, Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.”  Who is the most important Neil in world history? No, not Neil Sedaka.   It’s Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. When I would hear his name in elementary school, I would feel a tinge of pride.

My Facebook update this morning: What do people think of the term “self-acceptance? New Age BS or the key to it all? Does it mean accepting your limitations? Don’t we live in a culture that says we can do it and have it ALL if we believe in it?

After receiving a number of intelligent (and not so intelligent) comments, I wrote:

Should I give up my dream of ever being an astronaut, considering my allergies?

Judy replied:

I think that sounds like a plan, but allergies don’t factor into it – unless you majored in aeronautical engineering and became a pilot recently.

She was right.  Tough love.  I will never become an astronaut.

Did this realization make me make me sad?

Not really.  To the adult-self, being an astronaut seems boring.  My interest in space has lessened over the years.  I ignored last week’s Venus passing the sun for the last time in our lifetime so I could watch “The Bachelorette” on TV instead.   Our interests change over time.

Before I sat down to write this post, I create two lists on my laptop:

List #1 –Dreams and Follies that I Still Hope to Achieve

List #2 — Accepting the Limitations of Who I Am and What I Should Give Up as a Dream

LIST #1 was easy.

1) I can write a best-selling book. Didn’t Jenny Lawson just do that? Why not me?

2) I can run a marathon. If I wanted to, I could train hard enough.  Of course I am lazy and unmotivated.  But if I WANTED TO —

3)  I can have a three-some with two hot babes. Why not?

The list of  possible dreams came flowing from my brain right to the keyboard –from being a father to ringing the bell at NASDAQ.

And then it was time for the list of my limitations.  What are my faults?  What will I never be able to do?   Can I still be happy accepting myself as an imperfect person who is just not good enough in so many ways?  Does accepting my foibles mean not trying to change them?

This is where the trouble began.  It was impossible to write this list.

1) Because of my physical and educational and emotional limitations, I will never be an…

I wanted to write… astronaut, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe Ray Bradbury, RIP, would understand how I felt.   If I wrote it out, it would become a reality, and that would mean killing some childish fantasy, one that I don’t even want to achieve anymore. The “I CAN DO ANYTHING” mentality of American culture is so ingrained in my blood, that making a list of my limitations seemed almost… well, anti-American!

“Why can’t I be an astronaut?” I asked myself.

I immediately came up with several ways that I could become an astronaut.  I could buckle down and get a Masters in Astrophysics. I could move to Houston and get a job with SpaceCamp. I could become a traitor to my country and become Iran’s first astronaut, pissing on the American flag from space as a publicity stunt in support of the Iranian regime. I could focus on making A LOT of money for the next twenty years — I would need BILLIONS of $$$ — so I could buy my way into one of those Russian space trips for hire.   These scenarios are unlikely, but they are POSSIBLE.  There was no reason to kill my dream.

Will I ever become an astronaut, the Rocket Man of my childhood, the second most famous Neil in space history?! Probably not.   Perhaps my biggest limitation, the area of self-acceptance that I need the most work in, is about my own lack of self-acceptance.

If I were smarter, I would remember my first trip to Denver, Colorado — the Mile High city, and how I ended up spending all day in an “oxygen bar” because of my inability to deal with the high altitude.

Do I really want to go into Space?  Do I want to pee in my suit and drink that awful Tang?

Perhaps I am still a child at heart, not ready for adult self-acceptance.

I still believe that one day I will be an astronaut.

Or at least write a story about it.


  1. Stesha

    I’m 35 years old and still think I can become a champion gymnast.

  2. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    The second most famous Neil in history. Oh lord, you kill me.

    I never tell my kids they can do anything. They can do many things, but not ANYTHING. Money, opportunity, health, and just plain luck all matter. There are limits we can change and some that we can’t.

    When I was a teenager, I wanted to backpack the Appalachian Trail, learn to rock climb and ride horses and ski. For reasons simple and complicated, those dreams never came to be. The biggest reason is that I *said* I wanted to do them but never took any concrete steps to make them happen. And in not taking any concrete steps to make them happen, I had to ACCEPT that I liked the *idea* of being a person who does all those things, but the reality of who I am and what motivates me revealed these were truly DREAMS, not GOALS. Dreams are for dreaming. Goals are for doing.

    • Neil

      When I tweet you from that russian spaceship, V, I’ll be the one having the last laugh!

  3. Kyra

    My favorite part of a person are their dreams. Why would anyone want to lose that? Nothing fascinates me more than to hear about other people’s dreams. Keep dreaming Neil!

  4. the muskrat

    I remember talking to my little brother right before he started college (and I was a rising junior) about how the whole “you can do anything” bit we’d always been fed by teachers and parents after years of making all A’s was really not true, and that it had led to over-thinking paralysis of what it was that we should do, given that we’d been given this great opportunity by God or fate to do anything. I decided at that time that I won’t say the same to my children, and I don’t (but I sure as hell don’t try to limit their options to professions that “befit” their gender, since I have mostly girls, and I think such thinking is ridiculous). I’ll never own the chain of pet stores I wrote about in kindergarten or be a running back for the Crimson Tide, but I don’t give a shit now. I’ve taken what few talents I do have, made a few good decisions, taken a couple risks here and there, and have created a decent life for myself that I wouldn’t trade with 99% of the people I know. I don’t think being satisfied with that is un-American.

  5. erykah

    Last summer I turned 35 & was hit w a mini mid life crisis. I hadn’t reached any milestones, I thought I would have & be so much more. What ended up happening was a renewal of my spirit & thoughts, the realization that it is never too late & that I actually had achieved so much, just not in the world’s terms. I may be silly at heart but I will never give up on the one dream that means the most for me..even if I never get it, the value was in inspiring me to grow & love

  6. Juli

    In the very near future, The Powers That Be are going to recruit migrants over sixty years old to settle Mars. (These colonists won’t be able to return to Earth. But apparently they will be able to communicate with Earth.)

    It’s never too late for dreams. You gotta have a dream.

  7. MissingMolly

    “There’s a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves, and it becomes either good or sour inside.” -Pearl Bailey

    Okay, I’m going to be mushy because that’s the way I am sometimes. (Hi there, self-acceptance.)

    “Can I still be happy accepting myself as an imperfect person who is just not good enough in so many ways?” Everyone is imperfect, and you ARE good enough.

    So there.

    Our dreams morph over time. Maybe I wanted to be Pegasus when I was little, but then I realized that I’d never have hooves and sprout wings.

    Okay, I admit I never wished to be Pegasus. But I did want to have wings and fly. And I also, like you, dreamed of being an astronaut (especially if I could go to Space Camp)–that is, until I realized that I have severe motion sickness, which kind of makes living at zero gravity difficult.

    So….astronaught. At which point I moved on to dreaming about being a marine biologist. Still that pesky motion sickness thingy, though. Huh.

    Ultimately, I chose a profession that included performing tasks that don’t actually make you barf, but nevertheless make you *want* to. (Have you ever smelled an infection caused by a suprapubic catheter? Just sayin.)

    Perhaps the key is distinguishing between dreams that we can attain and unrealistic fantasies. Fantasies are fun, yet I’ll never be a winged creature.

    These days I gaze at the stars, track the constellations with my sky map app, and am a sporadic beachologist. In other words, I watch shit happen.

    I still dream of being a mom to a living child, though. I also fantasize about Molly coming back to life. However much I want it, only one of those things is possible.

  8. Froster

    What a co-incident! I also believe that everyone is an innocent kid in mind!! So, we shouldn’t spoil our dream whatever it filled or not it should remain for just anyhow what gives us a happy feeling by dreaming. I hope you’ll be reach your dream one day and be an astronaut for sure. Good luck.

  9. Megan

    Here’s the thing: I actually do believe that we can do anything, and I tell my son that all the time. But. I add: If you are willing to work at it. I say this to him because he has to work at even the smallest things like hanging up his clothes, but it applies to all of us.

    You can achieve anything you want if you are willing to work your ass off for it. And that, I think, is the difference between the astronaut, the gymnast and the rest of us. They want it so badly that they are willing to do the hard work for it. Talent and innate ability count for something, but if you aren’t willing to study or practice, etc., then you don’t really want it. You like the idea of it.

    Like I always liked the idea of being successful in business (which one I have no idea), when the truth is I hate being in an office. What I was (and am) willing to work for was being a writer.

  10. Misty

    I once decided, that because we lacked the funds to purchase a tractor that I would solve this by getting a better paying job. The first better paying job that came to mind was a doctor. I’m smart enough to be a doctor, I decided. I already have a bachelor of science, so that would shorten the time in school. It was possible. But then I’d have to stand before the medical licencing board and tell them the reason I want to become a doctor is so I can buy a tractor. Which sounds pretty silly, so I scrapped that idea.

    I try to be accepting of who I am, and try not to go against my nature. So long as dreams fit with that, I keep dreaming. But for the record, I could be a doctor, I just choose not to be. I’d rather just own a tractor.

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