New Beginnings: Ecce Stargazing Guru

Well, after spending about and around nine years in the dark at Carter Observatory, doing what I always called the awesomest job in the world, I heard a siren call and did what felt right. So Saturday I had my last planetarium presenting show (s) in this shape and form. And just like in the movies, on my last shift, a lady came to me and grabbed me by the arm after the show. (Need I say that nobody ever grabbed me like that in nine years of working here.) She looked me in the eyes, leaned towards me and said:

“I loved your show. I can see how much passion you have for your job. I hope you will always keep that alive!”

and then, vanished through the door, smiling … I did not even have time to blink before she disappeared so the melodrama moment never quite took off but I did think “um, oops actually this is my last show…”

Haritina at the planetarium console
Haritina at the planetarium console

And then, really my brain was busy thinking about the siren call I heard. The siren coached me to seek inside myself and see what was the biggest lesson that I have learned in my life. That was to be my gift to share with other people.

Seriously, I had no idea what the biggest lesson of my life might have been so it took me a while to compose myself and think about it. And I failed finding an answer of course. I had some thoughts tho. For instance I thought about the areas of my life where I felt the most upset and realised that I should have never let anyone tell me what I can or cannot do. Okay this did not come out that well but what I meant was that if one sets his or her mind to something, well, we can do anything! That’s what I have learned.

Then I also learned that communication is a bitch really (really!) hard field. We think that when we talk to people they understand exactly what we mean but in fact they understand what they understand.

So what’s the biggest lesson that I have learned?

When you don’t follow your heart you end up bitter and twisted and stuck.

How to get unstuck

Such major breakdowns can only be counterattacked with something of total awesomeness:

“Dream lofty dreams and as you dream so you shall become.”

But it’s easy to quote inspirational quotes taken from tiles I’ve bought from California House & Garden shopping centre, now living by my bedside. Nevertheless, the message on a tile did its job. After looking at it for months every morning I finally got it. It turns out that it’s actually that easy. What is it that I dream about? Where was my attention and on what kind of stuff? Was it on the things that I could not do or was it on things that I could achieve? Because I realised that every time I dreamed of something I wanted to achieve, I have achieved it and every time I worried that something would fail it did.

Reading about how to train my (dragon) daughter to stand up to being bullied (yes now blame it on kids’ psychology – Phillip Zimbardo, the Lucifer Effect, a book for people with tough guts) I understood that a major reason why kids get bullied is because they believe there is no other choice. Extending this to the rest of activities we undertake, how many times did I do something because I had no idea there were better alternatives? Or because I had no better information available?

To know that there are choices everywhere and in everything we do

So probably that is the biggest lesson I learned in my journey. Catalyst to my inspiration to start writing about things that I saw on my way to the present. A further stock take revealed that if I love 3 thing these are stars (I always have), talking about stars and understanding how the human mind works. And the fourth would be to find out if there is any way to stop people fighting and instead inspire them to collaborate and live in peace. Can we? And so I have this dream  to tell everyone how I believe that we are made of stardust. And because of that, anything is possible. Because of that, we should look at things that make us similar rather than separate us. Things that will see people working together to see their dreams come true. And to not be afraid. Or be afraid and do it anyway (I think it was Commander Hadfield who said that, or someone very famous). Like public speaking. Or teaching. Or telling visitors why it is that here on this latitude we live under the most beautiful sky in the world. Because the stars will always be here to guide us. As every planetarium show or talk about stars has a bit of magic in it. That’s how it always felt to me.

And the encounter with that lovely lady on my last planetarium show did feel like a prophetic tale. But sometimes you have to go away from the familiar places, create a pattern interrupt as they say, in order to find the really important answers, like I did find a lot of my answers away from my ancestral home. And then I appreciated it even more.

In the process, I’ve turned into a This is my own title for the science communicator job. And so the story starts: ‘once upon a time, in windy Wellington, lived a stargazing guru. She loved many things, but the most she loved the stars. So much that every night with clear skies she would look up to the sky… The more she was looking out to the stars, she knew that she was really looking in to her heart.. ‘

The most famous coffee cup that lasted the refurbishment
The most famous coffee cup that lasted the refurbishment


Carter is and has been one of my 3 favourite places on Earth. (By the way I’m back working there, says me from the future who is now rewriting this blog entry. I can’t live without that place, I know 🙂 ).

So out of the old Carter, I’ve taken with me the memory of the TimTam coffee cup, which lived there since 2005, when it came in with a pack of biscuits of the same brand. We acclimatised it as the stray cup of the Observatory (as we never really had any cats). That cup and people holding it have ‘seen things, you people wouldn’t believe’ – to paraphrase my favourite line (Blade Runner). I’ve had there an amazing journey. I feel so grateful for it. I used to say that I know about every single speck of dust in that place, that’s how much I love it…

Being there has changed my life. Forever and for the better. I became who I am today also because of it. I have changed Carter too. From working at displays to creating programmes and events. But now once more Carter Observatory is different. It’s got a space place for everyone inside it!

Come have a look and see for yourself!

It’s a magic world up here!