Dear Amelia Earhart

January 1986

Dear Ms. Earhart,

Well, it looks like I’ll be attending an aeronautical engineering school in Daytona Beach, Florida. Congressman Hyde did nominate me to the United States Naval Academy, based on my academic scores in school and the fact that I’m a pretty good gymnast. (I used to be better than pretty good, but I had an accident. A compound fracture that shattered my ankle bone and my confidence.) The nomination was just the first step in the academy admission process. Besides my declining gymnastic skills, my family and school counselor had some concerns about me attending the Academy. (My advisor doesn’t know, but I overheard her tell my gymnastic coach that there was a fair chance I might get crushed if I joined the service.) Huh? Pretty confusing, since not so long ago she told me girls could do anything. Other concerns are related to my mechanical skills (or lack thereof). Which, to date, include operating a push mower to cut the grass––I alternate weeks with my brother–– filling the car’s gas tank and occasionally putting air in the tires. Not too impressive, it seems. Perhaps I should have skipped typing and taken shop class (joking, my parents would have NEVER gone for that). Then, apparently, there’s a wardrobe issue. Worry about the fact that most of my clothes are pink and I have a strong attraction to sequins. I guess I understand their point as it relates to the mechanical stuff, but I don’t get how what I wear matters, since I’m pretty sure everyone in the military wears a uniform, don’t they? (I need to do more research.) My dad also pointed out the fact that there are only a few opportunities for girl pilots in the Navy right now. But with the required commitment of 11 years if I train as a pilot, I’m wondering if the movement the counselor told me about might convince top brass to reconsider and let girls fly more types of planes, and someday, maybe even participate in missions. Did you ever fly in the military, Ms. Earhart? If so, I’ll bet you have some stories to share. I think I’ll do some reading on your flight career and see what types of airplanes you flew and how you built up your flight hours. (I hope you don’t take this as me being a buttinsky, but since you’re not available in person, it’s my only option.)

I listened to everyone’s advice—my parents, Congressman Hyde’s office, my gymnastic coach and guidance counselor—and instead, I applied and have been accepted  to a civilian aeronautical science program this coming fall. Although this is an incredible opportunity and I’m soooo grateful, there is a part of me that wonders if I could have learned how to land a plane on an aircraft carrier. With that said, every day I pinch myself because I can’t believe my dad is actually letting me go away for college. (Total mindbender.)

Between you and me, now that this whole flight dream is becoming a reality, I feel a little nervous. I don’t know if I’ve taken the right classes to get ready for college. Come to think of it, I wonder if it’s too late to switch into that shop class. Oh—another thing, did I mention I’ve never flown in a small plane? Big airliners, sure, to visit my grandparents overseas in the summers. When was your first airplane ride? What was it like? Did you have the jitters? I know I mentioned I’m a gymnast, and balance beam is my best event, but I do get a little dizzy sometimes if I stand too close to the glass at the mall. (A mall is a bunch of shops under one mega roof;  I’m not sure if they were around in the 1800s.) Cross fingers that being afraid of heights won’t be an issue in an airplane.

My family has a trip planned when school lets out to go visit the college campus. I’m sure by then my excitement will outweigh any apprehension.

I hope you are well and your eyes are turned up to the skies.

Thanks for listening.


The luckiest girl in the whole world.

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