To be perfectly honest, it took me a while and quite a bit of effort to get through the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. Maybe it was because I saw the movie twice before finishing it, thereby breaking one of my cardinal rules pertaining to book reading and movie watching. Or perhaps I am suffering from a diminished ability to focus due to my over-consumption of digital media. But my difficulties may relate more to the non-linear and disorganized way in which it was written and edited, as if the story was more of a series of vignettes loosely connected by a common theme. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the information and insights the author provided. It was a good challenge for me to focus and read not for entertainment alone, but for the benefit of learning.
Moreover, Shetterly wrote this description of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson that deeply moved me:
"She seemed to absorb the short term oscillations of life without being dislodged by them, as though she were actually standing back observing that both travail and elation were merely part of a much larger, much smoother curve." -Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures
Reading this masterful characterization of Johnson, using terminology from her world of mathematics to describe her essence, stirred my imagination. My mind immediately formed the idea for the art print below. This visualization of life's oscillations, the ups-and-downs, along the large, smooth curve of life serving as a reminder to me for how to live.
Shetterly's story about the history of NACA, its significant contributions to the development of modern aerospace technologies, the early days of NASA, and the women of Langley's West Computing Group changed me. It helped me to further understand the value of pursuing dreams, even when the challenges seem insurmountable. Layered in this story is inspiration that would otherwise be hidden from our world. Whether we are aiming for the moon (or now Mars), overcoming personal challenges such as the death of a loved one, finding a new normal after a relationship has ended, struggling with self-doubt, or pursuing a passion despite society's demands and expectations, there is a valuable lesson for each of us in Shetterly's work. Let us not be swayed too much by the oscillations of life. Instead, let us treat life as a long, smooth curve upon which we are riding.