I can picture his face vividly, the expression that so clearly read “Oh well” with his shoulders tucked into his neck and hands up as if there was nothing else he could do.
I have best friends whose birthdays I don’t remember without a calendar notification despite celebrating them every year, but I can still imagine in detail that complete stranger’s smirk as he cut me off, bullying me into swerving towards a highway barrier so that he could get to his destination a little faster.
The complete interaction with this individual was made up of a whole 6 seconds, yet he’ll hold the tiniest of places in my brain for much longer than I’d like.
Try and think back to your version of that story. Everyone has at least one or two memories with a random stranger being unkind in such a trivial or inconsequential way that somehow still manages to stick with you forever because of the emotion it elicited.
Alternatively, you may have similar memories of someone showing unwarranted kindness in a similar vein. One day in my travels, I was sitting on the side of the road in Costa Rica, wondering if the bus that was supposed to take us back to Nicaragua was ever going to show up, given that it was already 5 hours late.
I remember the way the local man looked at me after I offered him some of the food we had just purchased, the look of surprise at the uninvited foreign hospitality. His face is ingrained in a few neurons as well.
In our busy world, it’s easy to forget how even the tiniest actions can impact those around us significantly.
It’s not hard to remember that in here.
In fact, my first realization of this came long before the mission even started. Having known one of the crewmembers previously, I felt comfortable in speaking openly with them. During one phone conversation, I brought up potential hesitations I had about the mission, given some of the information that we still hadn’t been told at the time. I expressed this sentiment in hopes of getting their opinion on the matter, but it had a much different effect.
A few days later, I received a message from that crewmember urging me to only accept the mission if I was 100 percent sure and committed. The nervousness I had caused them could be felt through their words, and I realized that my innocent expression of thoughts set aside a chain reaction in another crewmember’s mind and worries.
The mission training was weeks away, yet I learned in that moment that any words spoken could have drastic consequences for my crewmembers and their confidence and comfort.
As each mission day passes and our lack of new stimulus continues to grow, actions become ever-important. Each one has the potential to impact the crew with physically or mental/social consequences.
For example, if someone decides not to respect the boundaries of power usage, we could end up needing to utilize backup systems. This not only requires additional resources, but necessitates several crewmembers suiting up, going through an airlock cycle, and going on EVA to power those systems on and off outside of the habitat. This loss of free time can feel very intrusive, given that free time is our most natural resource here. This type of thing can extend to something as trivial as not cleaning your dishes and leaving a pile for someone later.
Words can be equally, or I would argue, more harmful or helpful. Negativity invites negativity, and it’s an easy experiment to run: Start audibly complaining about something in the middle of the room, and I guarantee within 2 minutes you’ll have most of the room joining in, completely focused on the things that bother them.
It works the other way, as well. When someone takes the initiative to create a fun night, or surprising environment, you can feel the moods change in the room, as if the emotions themselves have no choice. Bring the conversation back to focus on solutions rather than problems, and you’ll get some smart, targeted ideas. Even showing up to exercise time with energy and attempting to be a good workout partner make workouts more difficult and rewarding, which in turn improve crew health both physically and mentally.
In here, even your presence itself can matter. If you decide to retract from crew interactions, you’ll begin to define an unsustainable missing link in the chain.
If all this didn’t convince you of the interconnectivity of action and reaction amongst team members, let me extend an olive branch. Imagine for a moment that someone farts in the common area. Think about it, we essentially live in one giant Dutch oven.
I mean, really, I’m grateful that no one in our crew ever farts.
Who Cares, Brah?
The fact of the matter is this:
None of this is any less valid out there than it is in here. We’re all interconnected wirelessly.
Our words and actions greatly affect those around us from friends and family to people we pass on the street. We have the power to encourage and empower, or to degrade and distract. Small actions can have large consequences.
As any reader will know, I enjoy corny quotes. This one encompasses the thought well:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure. ” – Marianne Williamson
Every one of our tiny interactions having the potential to impact on an individual, potentially for years to come. That’s not an easy thought to accept, like the inevitability of death, or the existence of Spiderman 3.
In the right light, however, it’s an empowering thought that you have more influence than you’ll ever be told. To know that simply being present in someone’s life can be enough.
How good of a motivator is that to be conscious of being the best person you can be?
Oh, and don’t cut people off. That’s a jerk move.