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Everything is Illogical

Elana Wood

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You know when people tell you that you can accomplish anything? When you’re told that regardless of any barrier put up against your favor it is still possible to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. “If you can dream it and work hard, then you can do it” must be the most common encouragement that us students receive from our teachers, peers, parents, and most other mentors in our young lives.

This driven mentality is very difficult to achieve though because it often seems that whatever we want to achieve goes against what most people consider to be logical. It seems that there is always criticism no matter the route we choose to pursue. Whether it be taking “too many ap classes” that will leave no time for fun, or that a career in the arts isn’t a practical decision, people will always have things to say against what we choose.

Unfortunately, listening to everything that people tell you (whether it be positive or negative) will not ultimately fix your problems and lead you to a career of both financial stability and happiness. All you can really do is what you love at a given time, and if it grows into something more then you can roll with it. If not, I wholeheartedly believe that doing what you love will inevitably lead you closer to what you were “meant” to do.

Katherine Johnson is a figure alive today that I believe went above and beyond in doing what I just described. She is a role model to me and surely many others not only because she’s an absolute badass, but also because she made the absolute best of a bad situation and is now one of the most celebrated pioneers of her field.

Katherine Johnson was born in Virginia in 1918, she is the youngest of four kids and had to endure the unfathomable maltreatment that segregation put upon African Americans. She developed an insane talent for math at a very young age. Katherine was enrolled in high school at the age of ten and graduated at the age of fourteen. She graduated from the University of West Virginia at eighteen with degrees in French and mathematics and immediately began teaching at an African American public school.

Katherine absolutely did not stop there, she was one of the first three students and the first female African American students allowed to integrate into the UWV grad school in 1938. By 1953 after two applications the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (superseded by NASA in 1958) had hired Katherine as a “computer.” She worked as an aerospace technologist by analyzing flight tests and calculating trajectories.

During her early years at NASA Katherine was a standout, her passions for learning and math drove her to the top of her field regardless of the rules initially set against female aerospace scientists. At the time women at NASA weren’t even allowed to sign their names on calculation reports. This changed because of Katherine. In 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American to enter space on the Freedom 7 mission, a mission which Katherine had calculated and analyzed the trajectory for. In 1962 John Glenn refused to fly on his orbital mission around Earth without the verification from Katherine that the math was correct, and she made sure it was. Katherine also assisted in calculating the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and the Apollo 13 return plan.

Katherine completely ignored racial and gender barriers and wholeheartedly did what she was truly passionate about. She was “aggressive and assertive” and stunned all those who would have initially doubted her abilities as a mathematician. She is a pioneer in Space Science and Computing and was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barrack Obama in 2015. NASA has repeatedly recognized her contributions to science, most recently by building the forty thousand square foot Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.

Being successful doesn’t mean being famous. It just means that an individual took what they loved and found a way to make a career out of it. Taking a risk or doing something illogical in the name of something that you really love will only bring you closer to a career that you are completely satisfied with. Every plan that we come up with will be met with criticism from those around us but it doesn’t mean that what we really want isn’t possible.

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Everything is Illogical