(Excerpt from Textbook: Important Figures of Aeroscience and their Influence on Modern Living)
When I heard that there would be practice sessions for the school's Competitive Sprint-Flying Team, I was beyond excited. I believe it's every young flier's dream to be the best at his or her visible talent, the thing that separates them from other kids, the majority who must remain earthbound. Of course, I was no different. As a child I thought I was the definition of speed. I was sure i would secure myself a position in the school's prestigious team. I remember thinking, just before the race, that I would somehow fly faster than any of the other students because of my pure desire to be recognized at my local school. To be the community talent, I told myself I deserved it. Soon, I would learn my destiny was to be something else, something much broader.
When the coach blew the whistle, I jumped forward. I took to the air as if it were the most natural thing. Extending my muscles, I breathed in fresh air and adrenaline. The first few minutes were great, I saw myself rise to third, second place in the masses of flying children. Very good, I thought to myself, but not enough. I wanted more. To be clear, the coach had specifically said that the first fifteen would qualify. There wasn't much pressure and no extra points were given to those who placed higher on the roster. That didn't matter to me though, I wanted to be in the number one slot of those lucky fifteen. And so, I pushed myself even more.
It became so intense, I lost sight of everything else. It was just me and the other kid, neck and neck. I don't even remember who he was, I bet he wouldn't remember me or this event either now. We were so close, I hadn't noticed how hard I was forcing myself to continue flight. Being very young, I had no formal physical training. It all happened at once, my muscles stiffened up, and my flight pattern became very shaky. Immediately, I fell. I had given up all my energy for the first half of the race. With none left, I plummeted to the ground now far, far below us. I thought I was surely falling to what would be my imminent death. Soon, fortunately, I would learn my destiny was to be something else.
The assistant coach saw how much I was straining and had prepared herself already. She saved my life, and brought me again to the solid pavement of our school field. I saw that the race was now finished, and even the slowest children were landing now. All eyes soon became fixated on me. Even though no one said anything, I felt instantly ashamed. They all had looks of confusion and were grouped together, away from me, the kid who messed up. I left quickly, running away and trying to hide the tears running down my face. No, I may not have qualified for the school's Sprint Flying team, but I do not look back on this event with remorse. I did not realize it at the time, but I had learned an important lesson that day.
I could not take on what I could not support, and I can be satisfied with what I have. True we all aspire for greatness, but if we lose our happiness in pursuit of it, what good does the finish line do us? When I returned home that evening, visibly upset, my parents were rightly concerned. They asked me about the school's qualifying race and I told them everything. In their wisdom they explained to me the different talents of everyone, and that I was still good even if I had errored. That helped me feel better, and it gave me an idea. That night I confess I hardly slept, I had to draw out and design my idea. It took me much longer to perfect it.
Perhaps it was very strange for those who saw me in my youth with collections of broken things and paper scrawlings all around me, that's fine, I don't blame them. If they asked, "What are you doing with all this?" or "Don't you have some better way to occupy your time?" I don't remember. When I finally finished my first project I went to a grassy hill near my home to test it. For some reason, a few of my friends had shown up to see me. Even some adults were present, though I think they were there more to protect me and the others than out of curiosity. However; I was sure that my idea would work.
I focused on the machine, and started the motor. The sound it made was really terrible, but just as well, it began to work. I extended the wings, which I think were just junk pieced together, and I began to run. The first jump required total faith on my part, could this replicate my flight without any force on my part? To my surprise and even more the surprise of the small group below me I was flying without a single effort to my own muscles. There was only one speed, but it seemed much faster than I had flown before. Now that I look back on it I don't think it was really impressive, in the moment though, I knew, I was the definition of speed. All eyes were looking to me, but this time in joy and wonderment.
When I constructed artificial wings, I had changed more things than I intended to. Now, nearly forty years later, I still can't believe my small contraption made possible a new life to all of us. I learned my place that day, as an engineer, an inventor, an artist even. More than designing things, I see my opportunity as one to benefit society. Through my creations, I have seen lots of good in this world, improvements for flying and non-flying people alike. I hope someday I can see someone else continue this vision.
About my common nickname, if that's what I am to be called, I did not choose it for myself. I suppose I cannot stop them from doing so, let it be then. The Cloud Painter seems to have many meanings to many people. If it were to mean something to me, then I suppose it would be this; that the drawings I happened to make has painted a new world for us among the clouds. I refuse to be accredited for the movement though, this new world is not one were I rule, nor anyone else. Instead I believe it should be governed by all those who desire, desire to rise above old limitations and make their place among the stars. Truly, it does not matter whether one has been born with the ability to fly physically or not. I don't think this is even about flight anymore, we have seen many new sky cities requiring all sorts of other, new skills.
I know that the creators of tomorrow are here among us, listening to me this evening. It may be possible that they are the same age as me when I ran that race here at my former school grounds. I thank the council for giving me the opportunity to speak to you all tonight. I appreciate that you've all honored me so greatly, but this really isn't about me. It's about all of you now, and what you will due with this bright new future. Now I must say goodbye to everyone, and may we reunite again someday. Until then, Goodnight.
The above speech was the last public address by popular figure "The Cloud Painter" given at the dedication ceremony of the Institute of Engineering and Design, circa 2034. All Rights Reserved by The Council of Airborne Technology and Industry. To be used for educational purposes only.