Honor those who passed by chasing your dreams | TheUnion.com

Honor those who passed by chasing your dreams

On Feb. 1, the world suffered a horrific loss as we watched pieces of the space shuttle Columbia plummet back to earth. A shared sense of loss quickly made its way across the globe as the lives of seven astronauts were remembered. People from America to India to Israel mourned the loss of the seven brave, dedicated souls. And although all of the scientific findings and information Columbia had gone to gather may never reach the ground, there is still one lesson it is imperative we learn from the crew of Columbia, just as we must learn from the firefighters of New York and others who have lost their lives in the midst of merely doing what they loved and living life.

Each time tragedy occurs and lives are lost, it seems the one common thread tying the events together is the message of families who have lost loved ones. In the aftermath of Columbia, the families urged NASA to fix what was broken and move on, solely because that is what those who passed would have wanted. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the families of firefighters found comfort, though in small amounts, in the knowledge that those individuals died while doing what they loved. In cases of terminal illness, families are often inspired by the ill who have an intense will to live and finish their lives with a bang.

So, you ask, what do you have to learn from any of this? The brave souls of the world have but one message they wish the world to hear: live your life. Realize that today might be your last and take advantage of the now.

It is all too often that we, as a society, hear this message and brush it aside. Each of us lives in a hurried world where work and coffee often take the place of fun and sleep. Where what each of us really wants to do often gets stuck in line somewhere behind what we feel we need to do. Where opportunity slips past while we take the easy way out.

But what if it all really were true? If the next breath you took was your last, would you really have licked all the brownie mix you possibly could off of the bottom of the bowl of life? Or would you have simple stuck the best part in the dishwasher? Nobody wants to be the stick in the mud who missed out on a perfectly good chocolate feast for fear of a few extra calories. Same goes for life.

It seems to be natural human instinct to live safely. People go with the daily grind and do what they feel is the most rational. Personally, I think rational kinda sucks. Do you really think the guy who invented the “Funky Chicken” or the man who first tried snowboarding was being rational? Of course not! No rational individual would bust a move called the “funky” anything on a dance floor. None the less, these guys took a chance and came up with something cool. The point being, it’s ridiculous to worry about looking like a raving lunatic or losing some pride when the outcome of taking a risk could be so much greater than the loss.

I by no means expect us all to create a snow sport, but work with me here and apply it to yourself. Why not hunt down your dream job and get it? Why not try surfing if you’ve always wanted to? Why not say the heck with finishing your homework and get a night’s sleep of more than four hours? So what if none of it’s normal or rational. Life in itself doesn’t exactly make sense, therefore why should all of our actions?

I honestly think it is in the best interest of the world to heed the message of the adventurous people who give the world some spice. We live in uncertain times where we control nothing but ourselves, so why not take advantage of the ability we have been given to pursue dreams and live the lives we have imagined?

The astronauts of Columbia, the firefighters of New York, the climbers of Everest … They got it. They understood the fragility of life itself and did what they could while they had the opportunity, and if you ask me, it would be a darn shame to see their legacy forgotten.

Honor those who have passed. Get out there and take a chance, chase your dreams, think outside of the box. Go live your life, and live it big.

Natalie Russell, a Grass Valley resident, is a junior at Nevada Union High School. She writes a monthly column. E-mail her at

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