Facing the Past

I’m reading Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek, for two reasons: because I’ve enjoyed his blog, and wanted to check out more of his writing. And because I’m hoping he can help.

If you don’t already know, Just a Geek is Wil’s book about his shift from being “That Guy Who Used to be on Star Trek” to the writer, blogger, and all-around geek Wil Wheaton.

Here’s a guy who went from working on a show with millions of adoring fans, to being an out-of-work actor struggling with his bills, to a popular writer who’s given keynotes at PAX and has done hilarious cameos on The Guild and Big Bang Theory.

And here’s the thing: he quit Star Trek. He wasn’t fired, they didn’t replace him with someone else, he walked away. Walked away from certain success to an uncertain future. He writes about how that decision haunted him, like my decision’s been haunting me.

You see, I used to work at NASA. And not as a janitor or maintenance guy. I was an optical engineer, responsible for putting together instruments for the likes of the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. I was paid really well to do really challenging work with brilliant people.

But I quit. Five years after I started working as a wide-eyed college kid, my wife and I picked up and moved to Arkansas, leaving all that behind.

And I’ve been wondering if I made the right decision ever since.

So I’m reading Just a Geek, hoping Wil’s story will help me feel better about my own past, that learning how he grew beyond working on and then leaving Star Trek will help me put my own demons to rest.

‘Cause some nights I still dream that I’m back there at the Goddard Space Flight Center, working to expand our knowledge of the universe.

Ron Toland @mindbat