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For the First Time

I don’t remember the first time I watched the Illuminations show at Epcot, but it’s impossible for me to forget that feeling. Because it’s the same thing I felt time and again, every single time I experienced it over the years. The best word to describe it is goosebumps.

Goosebumps, or goose-pimples are the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which may involuntarily develop when a person is tickled, cold or experiences strong emotions.

They’re just words, a definition that tries to assign meaning to something that we feel. But we all know that’s impossible. Or I hope we do. Everyone deserves to experience that euphoric feeling at least once, and hopefully countless times, in life. It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced that same goosebump induced feeling, but the memory of it never disappears. It’s always there, waiting patiently for us to re-engage with it.

Illuminations has been replaced by a new show, one that doesn’t personally stir the same set of emotions inside me. I miss that show, and I miss looking forward to that feeling I knew I’d experience whenever watching it. It happened at the same point for me during each presentation, when the floating globe opens up and fireworks shoot from its core in a way that makes my soul explode, radiating every positive emotion inside. Maybe, in a way, we become addicted to that experience, knowing when it will arrive, in control of it, and able to summon it at will, assuming of course that, in my case, I was able to travel over to Epcot at a moment’s notice for the evening production.

I became so immersed in how I felt that everything around me became fuzzy. It was just me, my emotions, and the intoxicating feeling that for a brief moment, absolutely everything was right with the world. It’s a drug of sorts, inducing false notions when we look at it with a logical mind. But sometimes I wonder if that’s the problem with humanity. We focus on logistics at the expense of empathetically connecting with others and their emotions.

This all probably sounds confusing and twisted, and as I read it back, it does to me too. But it’s what happened a few weeks back that summons these recollections and shifted my perspective ever so slightly. And it seems like a moment of serendipity that it was while I was looking up.

The Falcon Heavy launch vehicle from SpaceX is a not-so-small piece of surreal magic in an ordinary world. People watch it, not as much for the way it ascends into orbit. Rather, they are fascinated and mesmerized by the way its two first-stage boosters return to land simultaneously, like some scene from a science fiction movie that plays out in real life.

The double sonic boom alongside gasps from the crowd return me from my reverie. The two boosters from the most recent launch had just returned to land, and I more or less missed watching it, because my focus was somewhere else.

Earlier that day (arriving at a location on the Jetty Park Pier several hours early, to secure a spot to watch the launch), I had become acquainted with a young woman, a college student, who was there watching her first ever rocket launch with her father. She had no idea what was in store for her, and that’s what made watching it the experience it did.

It didn’t create goosebumps but watching her watch the launch and return to land for the first time, it made me feel something different on the inside. It helped me recognize that it’s not only what we feel, but how we recognize what others are feeling, a sense of empathy and connection to something bigger than ourselves.

For the first time—and ironically while watching someone else’s first time—I think I have a greater appreciation for that. It created a different set of fireworks inside me. A good reason for more of those goosebumps.


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