What’s your Sputnik moment?


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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36 Responses

  1. Will says:

    Really? Nobody’s chiming in? OK, I’ll go first. My “Sputnik moment” came when comparing salaries with a few other buddies who recently graduated college. All I had to fire back with was this blog.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    I spent most of my first 10 years out of high school in Sputnik moments.

    Everybody else graduated in 4 years. It took me 5.
    They all graduated with stuff like “accounting” and “computer science”. I graduated with a degree in Philosophy with a minor in Religious Studies.
    Everybody else was married by 23. I was married at 26.
    Everybody else was a homeowner by 28. I was still living in an apartment until I was 33.
    Hell, I didn’t even have a real job (defined as “an employee”) until I was 35.

    I didn’t bother going to my 10 year reunion.

    (For the record: my life kicks so much ass that I sometimes wonder if I didn’t die at some point in the past and am on a journey of discovery that I am in heaven. It just didn’t look that way on paper for much of it.)Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      Everybody in your group was married at 23 and you considered yourself lagging at 26? That’s mindblowing to me.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to Jaybird says:

      For the record, Jaybird, I don’t think there’s anybody else associated with this blog I’d rather meet in person and get their life story over a few beers than you. (Jason doesn’t count, obviously.)Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Boegiboe says:

        I blush.

        You’d probably leave the beer session thinking “he swears like he’s brainstorming for an episode of Deadwood but he was only talking about tabletop dice games!” or similar.Report

  3. ThatPirateGuy says:

    I don’t have a a sputnik moment to chime in with.

    This isn’t because I am awesome it is because I lack ambition and I am completely happy to work my 8 hours then go home and play with my toy soldiers. I don’t feel the need to go beyond that.Report

    • North in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

      Agreed. Mind you I play with soldiers who exist only as either electrons on screens, lines on paper or concepts floating in my players minds for the most part but it is the same for me. I never planned to be a star; I wanted to be a banker.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to North says:

        I play with electrons based soldiers too, I am very fortunate in that I am able to play with the pewter and plastic ones in addition to that.Report

  4. North says:

    I gotta echo Jaybird. My job doesn’t delight me but I don’t loathe or even dislike it and I find my pay sufficient. My health and life is good and generally filled with happiness and I was raised in the rural wilds of Canada with a class full of peers who went on to become salt of the earth primary industry workers, corporate drones like me or social reprobates as far as I’m aware. I’m blissfully free of sputnik moments. Maybe if I desired children I’d feel one since many of my peers have em. But I don’t.Report

  5. tom van dyke says:

    Sputnik didn’t end up making the USSR any richer. So much for central planning.Report

  6. Will says:

    You guys are no fun.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Will says:

      I’ll share a passage that changed my life, Will. May it help you as it helped me:

      What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence–even this spide and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

      Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”

      That’s from Nietzsche’s _Gay Science_.

      If you are living your life in such a way that you would see this creature as a demon rather than an angel then you are doing it wrong.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Thinking about this question. I find that I cannot think of incidents where I wish I had been more angry, and more rude.

        Only ones where I wish I had been less so.

        But over all by this definition I am doing it right.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

          I can think of a few. Or, at least, I can think of some where I’d have rather been more cutting, more intellectual, more willing to grab an opportunity and ram it up the bastard’s ass sideways. Instead of just bellowing inchoate fury and storming off. There’s some fights I’d love to do over again.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Will says:

      Sure we are we just like dice more than achievement.Report

  7. BlaiseP says:

    I once had a Double Sputnik moment. Since I was a little boy in Africa, SK has been in my life, a handsome, athletic boy, one of those Nordic types who effortlessly breeze through life. We were always reasonably good friends and our parents were friends as well. In moments of fury, my parents would should at me “Why can’t you be like SK?”

    Years went by, we went to the same high school and the same college for a while. His father was my physics professor. Marriage, kids, life happened. The lesser child of greater sires, I did my duty and did it reasonably well.

    Last year, sitting in the back yard of his elegant home in Scottsdale, over a few scotches, I told him of my parents’ constant comparisons to him.

    He narrowed his eyes and stared. Finally he blurted out “My parents were constantly comparing me to you!”

    Life’s been pretty good, all things considered. You couldn’t make my life up. My children have outrun me and I am proud of them. Yet everyone lives in the shadow of their childhood: one of the great treasures of advancing old age is how my childhood has come back into focus. I’d gladly return to the age of 30. But not for love or money would I return to the age of 13.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

      But not for love or money would I return to the age of 13.

      When I was a kid, a lot of grownups said “these are the best years of your life!”


      I have done the numbers and I can honestly say that every year since 27 has been the best year of my life (and the only ones that merit mention before that are 17 and 20).

      Hey! Any of you kids reading this website:

      IT GETS BETTER.Report

  8. My Sputnik moment came halfway through law school when I realized that all my friends who came from rich families were getting all the good jobs, and it didn’t seem to matter how smart they were. It was as if their grades were irrelevant compared to their wealth and backgrounds — which meant my grades didn’t matter, either, because I didn’t come from a rich family already stocked with lawyers working at one of the prestige firms. Then I looked back on my college friends, and across town at my B-school friends, and realized that the same thing either was happening for them or had happened to them already.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Transplanted Lawyer says:

      Uh, so does that mean that you crashed the glass ceiling of class exclusion and nepotism with a decade-long crash project of lawyerly self-development, ultimately culminating in one small step for you, one giant leap for plebeian-originating legal professionals across the country? Or does Neil Armstrong not walk on the moon in your legal career?Report

      • Out of any given group of 10,000 kids joining the military from unremarkable backgrounds, maybe one gets to be Neil Armstrong and the other 9,999 wind up with careers that don’t put them in the history books. Are they less intelligent than Armstrong, less brave, less hard-working, less committed to their careers? While we rightly praise and admire Armstrong, it seems both unlikely and unfair to condemn his peers and classmates as mediocrities just because they didn’t become legendary astronauts. This is true in the military, it is true in law, it is true in the arts, it is true in pretty much any track for one’s life one chooses to pursue. I don’t deny that opportunities for dramatic advancement exist; I maintain that they are rare and exceptional.Report

  9. Okay, I pretty much wonder “What the fish have I don’t with my life?” every time I have a set major back (which is pretty much a weekly event,) but on moment stands out above all the rest.

    It was the Spring after 9/11. The New York loft office? Gone, let the lease run out in January. The coop apartment? Rented for the foreseeable future. The house in Montauk? Sure still have that, but it was a dilapidated fixer-upper when we got it, and it still was in April of 2002; only now money is tight (I haven’t had a paying gig in nearly a year) and not having digs or a work place in the city isn’t helping.

    I am in my 1992 Honda Civic CX, east-bound on highway 27, right near Cyril’s Fishhouse. There’s a big dent in the driver’s side door because some asshole hit me at the airport and then drove off yelling “Nobody saw it! You can’t prove a thing.” (I got his plate and a photo of my paint on his bumper, but when I went to the cops I found out he was right.)

    Anyway, I’m eastbound, doing the speed-limit, cause I have a fetish about that, in a car that I used to be really proud of (first/only car I’ve bought new) but now it’s looking pretty hump, and some guy driving an ENORMOUS black BMW is about 6″ off my rear bumper.

    This is pretty much par for the course if you drive the speed limit on the Napeque stretch — some asshole with lots of money, but no time, thinking he’ll improve the quality of his life by driving 75 instead of 55 and arrive in Montauk two minutes sooner. And most of the time I feel pretty damn smug about it when one of these jaggoffs is on my tail, “I’m not in a hurry because I’m already here, asshole.”

    But not this time.

    This time my car feels little and shitty. My life feels little and shitty. I feel little and shitty. I feel like a complete loser. (A month later I got a commission to do a commission to do a small film about 9/11, which righted us financially, and was a pretty good little film too. )

    That was what, eight years ago? And I still remember it vividly. I can remember it like it happened this afternoon.

    @Jaybird They don’t invite me to the reunions. Not the 10th, not the 25th. Can you blame them?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      I have found that everyone that I would want to see at my high school reunion is already someone with whom I spend the occasional poker night.

      I don’t think that there is anyone I’d actively want to be seen by that isn’t on that same (short) list.Report

    • It’s also a road that people die on every year because they’re driving too damned fast and/or passing recklessly. About every five years it’s one of our high school kids. So really, fuck you.Report

    • Heidegger in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      DensityDuck says: “M]ost of the time I feel pretty damn smug about it when one of these jaggoffs is on my tail”

      Jaggoffs?! A great word–are you from Pittsburgh by chance? They also say, yins, lookie, gum bands, “That’s no day at Kennywood”–which is Pittsburgese for, “That’s no day at the beach. There are many, many more–I’m sorry I lost all those linguistic little gems–moving to Michigan when I was a child, pretty much neutralized all those fun, idiosyncratic words.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to Heidegger says:

        “Didja jeet yet?”
        “Stillers play in Picksburgh!”
        Pop not “soda” wtf!
        Isaly’s chipped-chopped ham sammiches!
        Iron City Beer (IC)
        Chicken on the Hill
        Bobby Clemente, the Gifted One
        The Jaggerz
        At the Picksburgh airport in the center of the main mall area is a larger- than-life cast bronze of Franco making the “Immaculate Reception” at the moment of that historic catch. You can not tell if the tip of the ball is resting on the ground or not. And, so it goes…!
        My ’64 prom: Jimmy Beaumont, lead singer of the famed “Skyliners” came and sang his hits acappello-sp, what a voice. After Jimmy sang we all went into the gym and danced to the “Stereos” from beautiful Steubenville, Ohio who, while totally inebriated, sang all there ‘hits’ and never missed a beat.Report