Have you ever had a vision that you felt so strongly about but nobody else did? Everywhere you went all you heard was, “No it can’t be done?” Did all the rejection make you bury the vision and dreams you had for YOUR life? After watching Jeff Bezos take flight this week on the Blue Orbit, I could not help but talk about somebody who inspired me deeply on that flight. You may have never heard of Wally Funk, but this week she made history. She is the oldest human at 82 years of age to fly into space. What makes her amazing is despite the odds, she never buried her life’s dream to go to space, but it took her 60 years to get there!
The Evolution of a Vision:
Wally began training as an astronaut in 1961 for NASA’s Mercury 13 space program. This program was a privately funded and was the first of its kind to train women to go to space. Wally went through all the training and was at the top of her class. Unfortunately, the Mercury 13 program was canceled and Wally was never again accepted back to train as an astronaut for NASA.
Although filled with disappointment, Wally never quit. Being a woman meant she had endless barriers to overcome when it came to the aviation industry. Instead she refocused her vision and concentrated on creating greater access and equity for women. Wally once said, ”Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it, and I like to do things that nobody’s ever done before.” Wally did just that. She became the first female Aviation Administration Inspector and the first female Air Safety Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Visions rarely take you in a straight line to your dream. There are many detours and hills and valleys. Visions may take years to evolve and do not just drop out of the sky with the exact answers or road maps you are looking for. In fact, rarely do I hear of visions going as planned! Like Wally, you may have to take multiple detours and experience endless dead ends before you reach your ultimate dream!
How Contributing to Others Gives You Hope:
Wally did not give up on her life-long dream of becoming an astronaut. After the Mercury 13 program was canceled, she applied four additional times to become an astronaut at NASA. Every application was denied. Despite all the rejections, Wally continued to fly. Even though it looked like her dream to go to space may never come to fruition, she helped many other people to achieve their vision to fly an airplane. Wally logged in 19,600 flight hours and trained 3,000 students to fly. She was one of the first 100 women to be given the FAA Gold Seal Airline Transportation Rating and was the first female flight instructor at a US military base. She never gave up on her dream to be first at anything. She also never gave up hope of going to space or helping others to learn to fly. One of the best ways to keep your hope alive is to contribute to others realizing their dreams. Giving others hope always energizes and inspires your own.
How Living Your Vision Gains Attention
Wally could have been overcome with rejection and given up on her vision to go to space, but that was not in her DNA. Because of her refusal to give up and countless ways she removed barriers for others, Wally’s vision to go to space lived on. She became a legacy and her life made an imprint that got the attention of Jeff Bezos. She wasn’t just lucky nor did she get there on a wing and a prayer; Wally earned that attention! When your life speaks loud and clear, your vision will be heard. Wally was invited by Jeff to be on the Blue Orbit flight. On July 20, 2021, Wally Bunk achieved her life-long vision to go to space. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched her fly on that spaceship. I could hear her shouts of elation as she saw and felt space for the first time at 82 years of age! She came off the spaceship after it landed walking on air with arms and spirit flying high. She waited 60 years to go to space and finally realized her vision!
Wally never became an astronaut as she had planned for NASA, but she will be remembered as a person with extraordinary resilience. She devoted her life to creating equity for women in aviation and made history as the oldest person to go to space. She gave many people hope along her life’s journey and contributed to many people’s dreams to fly. Visions do not always happen as planned or under our timelines. What Wally’s journey to space has taught all of us is to remain open to detours, never say never, and keep following your vision. Wally reached her vision at 82 years old. However, I believe she is just getting started and cannot wait to hear where her next vision will take her!
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