I love you, Carl Sagan

Last weekend I was at my parents’ house. My mom threw my brother a college graduation party. He went to conservatory for classical flute so he performed at the party, and it was really awesome. I am so proud of that kid.

Later that night, Bear and I were chilling in my childhood room, and suddenly, in a burst of inspiration/fearlessness, I decided to go through a few of my old journals, which are stacked in a big wooden trunk in the far corner.

It was a mistake, of course.

Who knows what I was thinking at any point between the ages of 13 and 22. Not me. Not my journal. But the whole time, it’s obvious I think I’m being very profound. Very, very profound. I make lots of observations about the way the light falls through the branches of the trees outside my window. And how this relates to the fleeting nature of existence. And then I go on to say  that so-and-so definitely still has a crush on me. I know, because he called and he said so. And the fact that I am bad at math is constantly making me cry. Also, oh my god, the color lavender is AMAZING. It is the BEST color. I am so depressed. Why do I have to be so mature in a world full of immature people?! Is my piano teacher mad at me for not practicing enough? Here is a list of all of my friends and their hair colors and their heights.

Two (related) themes that I didn’t expect and definitely didn’t remember emerged in my journals.

1. Outer space

2. Carl Sagan

Apparently, as a fourteen-year-old, I was obsessed with the idea of eventually ending up exploring outer space. I wrote all of these melodramatic things about how earth was too small for me, and I felt constrained by humanity, and the galaxy was swathed in mystery and my mom was being a pain and making me take this stupid class and it was all too much and I longed to be pushing the boundaries of human experience and knowledge, in space.

And a lot of this was probably because I was in love with Carl Sagan.

Yes. Carl Sagan.



He was the cutest. Irresistible in his sharp turtlenecks, with his gleaming hair. He was cooler than every teenage boy I knew. Cooler than Brian, who was sending me misspelled poetic love letter after enthusiastic  misspelled poetic love letter.

I wrote: I asked Jake and Gabe (my poor, long-suffering brothers) who was cuter: Brian or Carl Sagan. They said Brian. But I disagree.

Oh, how I disagreed. Carl Sagan was everything a girl could want in a guy. He was brilliant, first of all. He was a famous scientist! An astronomer! Astronomy was the coolest kind of science! He had a charming smile. He was brave (once he cut his finger on television, to procure a drop of blood and show the world how cells worked). He was kind (why else would he take the time to explain how the world worked to everyone?). He had great hair.

Carl Sagan came up a lot in my journal. He was always mentioned by his full name, because he was so important. I wrote about Carl Sagan and outer space in the same breath. The world was too small for the likes of Carl Sagan and me. We needed more. We asked the big questions.

Almost everything I knew about Carl Sagan I learned from Cosmos, his TV series about space, evolution, biology, and the possible future. Life, basically. The biggest topic of all. For me, Carl Sagan lived inside his show.

“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff,” said Carl Sagan romantically, in his halting, nerdy, yet comfortable voice. He patted the tree fondly, explaining genetics.

He was wearing a camel-colored jacket over a crisp denim button-down.  He smiled amiably.


How could I not fall in love with him?

So he was a little old for me ( in the show he must’ve been at least forty). So he was actually already dead (I didn’t know this until my dad told me, later, and I couldn’t believe it– how could cancer have outsmarted a man so brilliant?). My Carl Sagan existed in a separate realm, as a pure object of my affections. I casually compared the boys I met to him. I thought that he was perfect.

Eventually, I grew out of my Carl Sagan crush. I accepted his death. I went on to date boys my age, who were unable to describe the universe in a series of breathtaking metaphors, but who made me mixed CDs and took me very seriously.

I guess there was always something missing, though. As there has to be, when you’re very young and haven’t met the kind of person you could spend the rest of your life with.

There was something about Carl Sagan that no one else had. Not that I was thinking about him by then. But when I look back, I can see what it was.

It was that combination of hard, scientific inquisitiveness and wide-eyed wonder. It was the place at the intersection of intellectual doubt and undying hope. Cynicism meets romance, dedicated fact-collecting collides with the faint sketch of a gorgeous bigger picture. I love that.

It is so hard to find a person who embodies those things at once. Someone who doesn’t believe in things because other people do, who is willing to question everything, but who is also willing to make himself utterly vulnerable. Someone who is viciously sharp-minded and accepting at the same time.

I didn’t ever learn very much about what Carl Sagan was really like, but that was what he meant to me, based on his slightly bumbling, eager, and utterly competent appearances in Cosmos. To me, he was a gentle, nerdy guy who could run the world, who could understand everything at once, who was a force to be reckoned with. And he never even needed to raise his dorky voice.

It’s funny how I managed to find that guy, in real life. He’s Bear. And of course, I quickly married him.

He doesn’t ever wear turtlenecks or tweed. His hair is short and blondish, not long and dark. He is big and burly, not dapper and slim. But his mind. His mind is all of those things I described before. He is science-minded, but open-hearted. He loves without question, even though he seems to question everything else. He is infinitely practical, but willing to think creatively about anything. He is a little bumbling and hesitant, but completely competent at the same time. He looks unassuming, apologizes a lot, and knows everything.

Today is his twenty-eighth birthday. When I met him, he had just turned twenty-five. I was twenty-two.

When I was fourteen, I was in love with Carl Sagan and outer space.

In a way, I guess I still am.

I found my own Carl Sagan.

And given the chance, I think I’d still be a space explorer. Not just an astronaut. But someone who can cruise across galaxies in her sleek little starship.

Or maybe I’ll just be a writer. That’s another way to explore any world you can think of.

So this is maybe a thank you, for all the inspiration. For the hope. For the support in the pursuit of something bigger. To my first love, Carl Sagan. And to my forever love, Bear. Happy birthday!

(that’s almost infinity, right?)

*   *    *

Who was your first crush?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in anything off the shoulder. I feel proud of myself for feeling comfortable in it.

P.S. Carl Sagan also wrote “Contact,” a novel that was made into one of my favorite movies of all time.

Fantastic, adorable reader cake pic for the gallery! God, that looks fun. Send me yours soon!

 ”The cake was flour-less dark chocolate cake with a layer of marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate sauce. At this point I was almost too stuffed to finish (which was why I was laughing, they couldn’t believe I ordered dessert after the huge meal we had), but refused to give in because the cake was just that good”– Keisha


Kate on June 5th 2012 in relationships

34 Responses to “I love you, Carl Sagan”

  1. Angela responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    love, love, love this. Now have a crush on Carl Sagan.

  2. Alpana Trivedi responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Hello, Kate. I’m asked a LOT about what my “type” of guy is. It’s asked usually in regards to looks. Personally, I don’t know, because I’ve never based who I like on that. People keep telling me that we’re hard-wired to do so. Maybe we are and in that case, I may be a “glitch” in the system we call biology. LOL

  3. Life [Comma] Etc responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    My first crush was OF COURSE Mulder from the X-Files, for many of the same reasons! My friend and I would write his name and variations of nicknames for him on those little foldable paper footballs. Looking back, I can see that was the only way to “score” with Mulder.

    Forgive the adolescent pun!

  4. Erin responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Gosh, I do love me some Carl Sagan. I was also fairly heartbroken when, after seeing Cosmos, I learned that he was already dead. Like, I missed it? I missed him entirely? How utterly unfair.

    My first “crush” that I can recall was Atreyu from the Neverending story. After that, I remember pining after Wesley Crusher from Star Trek TNG for virtually the entire time he was a part of the show. I guess I’ve always had a thing for the shy bookworm turned hero.

  5. Melanie responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I LOVE that you were in love with Carl Sagan, and that you say you found your Carl Sagan in Bear.

    I had a childhood crush on Dudley Moore that no one could understand. It was from the movie Arthur. No wonder I grew up to be a lush! Haha.

    Cute cake pic!

  6. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Alpana, I share your glitch…there is no “pattern” in my history of mates…I feel people more than I see them…my first serious crush was on Donny Osmond, who is not dead…OMG..I just admitted that on ETDC…oh well! Bear is way cuter than Carl Sagan, by the way :)

  7. Emily responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    yes yes yes. the love of nerds has an origin story. i love it.

    if you haven’t seen this yet… you are welcome…


  8. Samantha Angela responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    @Erin: Ahhh…Wesley Crusher

  9. Lacey responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I always had crushes on animated characters when I was younger. But I do believe my first serious crush (Like sigh-over-him-dreamily crush) was Wesley from the Princess Bride. Not even the actor. Just Wesley.

    Mmmm. Dread Pirate Roberts.

  10. You Can Call Me Jane responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Bo Duke and later Captain Picard. I obviously watched too much TV. Happy Birthday to your Bear:-).

  11. Kate responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    @You can call me Jane
    Oh, Captain Picard…I loved him. And Data. And Worf.

  12. Kate responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    I am watching it right now and dying of joy

  13. Complainathon responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    I was in love with Peter O’Toole when I was 13 and he was – I don’t know… 50? 60? 100? After staying up until 2am watching Lawrence of Arabia. Those EYES.

    Then I saw him interviewed on Letterman or something and he was ancient.

    I was crushed.

  14. GYM responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    i had the SAME CRUSH as a kid/teenager!

  15. Kate responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    This cracked me up

  16. San D responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I was known to swoon myself when Carl Sagan said “billions and billions”.

  17. morgaine responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    I grew up to be completely straight, but my first crush was Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. I thought she was the most powerful person, real or fictional, I had ever seen, and gender was merely incidental after that. I was just *attracted* to her, in every sense.

    (I still think she’s incredibly gorgeous. I have an embarrassing amount of Maleficent-themed tchotchkes.)

  18. Anna responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Oh god, my first crush? So, here’s the thing: I grew up an army brat who’s super-brilliant older brother was a comic book/superhero cartoon/ superhero movie fan. He would read me his comic books; so, obviously, I had a huge thing for both Batman and Captain America. Still do. XP

  19. Mallory responded on 05 Jun 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    I loved reading this. My ‘crushes’ are so different from each other that deciphering what I want/need from a partner is hard to say. I basically take the things I need from my friends & family, partner included. No one person has it all & I think that is perfectly okay for me!

  20. T.K. responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 10:22 am #

    @Kate, this is just the most perfect ( and impeccably spelled ) love poem ever! Thank you for sharing with us. You were too freaking adorable for your own good when you were a kid :) . It made me smile, and I could really use that today.

  21. Jeremiah responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 11:44 am #

    What a delightful paean to Carl Sagan. When I was reading everything I could find about marijuana a few, well, a lot, of years ago, I discovered that he said he’d written much of his best stuff while smoking marijuana, or after having done so.
    He described how it seemed to free him to express more of the wonder he was trying to convey.
    Maybe it made his hair shiny, too.

  22. Ginger responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 11:56 am #

    @Life[Comma]Etc nice to see another X-Files fan ;)

    I read this: ‘It was that combination of hard, scientific inquisitiveness and wide-eyed wonder. It was the place at the intersection of intellectual doubt and undying hope. Cynicism meets romance, dedicated fact-collecting collides with the faint sketch of a gorgeous bigger picture.’ and thought that is exactly why I’m still in love with Dana Scully. ;) Mulder too, but I’m more of a lady’s lady. Love this post!

  23. Kate responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Scully ROCKS. I love her outfits. They’re always sort of bulky. She looks less dressed up than other TV women.

  24. impossiblealice responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    That’s pretty much like the current crush I have on Brian Cox (the scientist, not the old actor!). I LOVE Brian Cox.

  25. Life [Comma] Etc responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Follow up: now whenever I see Sagan, I think of your writing!

    So, here is my gift to you (if you are not a Brain Picker fan already):


  26. Kate responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Totally just subscribed!! Thanks!

  27. Mandy responded on 06 Jun 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    And, happy belated birthday to Bear!

  28. Caitlin responded on 07 Jun 2012 at 11:29 am #

    This is probably my most favorite post of any blog anywhere of all time. You are literally the only person I have ever encountered who also has a crush on Carl Sagan, and for the exact same reasons you cited. And how much do I love that you wrote a love letter to Bear on his birthday in which you called him “your own Carl Sagan”? So unbearably romantic, I can hardly stand it.

    (Did I just out myself as a huge nerd with this? I think I did!)

    P.S. Happy belated birthday to Bear!

  29. Eat the Damn Cake » don’t you dare use that tone, young lady! responded on 19 Jun 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    [...] my parents. I still am. I wrote these obnoxious entries in my journal about how much I loved them. When I was reading old journals aloud to Bear a few weeks back, at my parents’ house, he was like, “Are you even being serious right now? What [...]

  30. Eat the Damn Cake » getting behind the wheel (of a real car. But it’s also a little bit of a metaphor) responded on 16 Jul 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    [...] is something about being married to a guy who seems to have memorized an endless list of rules that govern the complicated mechanics of the co…. I relax a little. I am free to occupy myself elsewhere. I am free to think bigger [...]

  31. Eat the Damn Cake » horrible fragility responded on 14 Sep 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    [...] I am at least in love and at least it is with Bear. And I am writing, which is the thing I’ve always wanted. And I looked at a terrible picture [...]

  32. Eat the Damn Cake » I decided to have a baby responded on 07 Nov 2012 at 11:57 am #

    [...] “We are not naming our child after someone you had a crush on.” [...]

  33. Jenny responded on 13 Feb 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I just recently developed a crush on Carl Sagan myself, and I googled “crush on Carl Sagan” to see if anyone else “gets it” too, haha. Glad to see I’m not alone :) You nailed it with this blog. I’m lucky I have found my own “Carl Sagan” as well in my husband – he was the one who introduced me to Cosmos.

  34. Eat the Damn Cake » religion and burgers responded on 19 Sep 2013 at 10:38 am #

    [...] thought about it. I mean, I don’t know, of course. But I sort of know. Because I’m willing to let Bear feel however he actually feels about stuff, even if it’s differe…. I’m weirdly easy that way, I guess. He’s easy with me that way, too, though. I think that’s [...]