Yesterday I found myself at a conference, a meeting of students interested in or involved with space. There were talks by people from industry, a BBC man and scientists too. But it was definitely a student thing - the exhibition and recruitment by potential employers confirmed this. On a campus that felt overcrowded with buildings. Like a medieval walled city, but built in the 70s and 80s, in a largely inoffensive style. And then some modern redevelopments, from when a university's architecture again had to reflect it future-looking vision.
The attendees were young, mostly male, but not exclusively so. Generally bright, interested, but above all optimistic. And 99% of the room wanted to be astronauts once, at least 40% (those without glasses) still want to be.
And the optimism should have been contagious, but it mostly passed me by. Maybe I've become a cynic? Then I realised that the people around me were living the choices I did not make. The master's program I discovered too late, but still considered, the offer from the university I declined (the very university hosting the day), people staying in industry, or heading towards it with a mix of trepidation and excitement.
But they were interesting people, with interesting experiences, to the point where I felt distinct pangs of jealousy. I try to console myself: that I made my own decisions, they are being groomed into industrial bunnies, and that some might very well be jealous of me. But still. You're not supposed to be confronted with the roads you did not take.
I have to rush away from the dinner party, to catch my train. Suddenly it is dark, and raining fat cold drops. I make it, with 2 minutes to spare. As the train pulls away, I can see some late Guy Fawkes rockets explode in the sky.