I don't envy lottery winners or Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. Or rock stars, or poker champions, or celebrity chefs. I can't even imagine their lives, and how do you envy what you can't imagine?
But I do envy John Glenn, seeing him on TV lately and hearing him on the radio about how it felt to be the first American in space fifty years ago, and then at age 77, into space again, the oldest person ever up there. He also went into politics and became a U.S. senator, but that's not the part I envy.
He's ninety now. Sounds old, but (not that much older than I, I'm afraid) he seems to be in good shape and clearly has all his marbles. Our small difference in ages was enough to put him into the heart of WW II. I barely squeaked out seven bombing missions in Italy while Glenn flew Corsair fighters in the Pacific and F-86 jets in the Korean War, where he shot down 3 MIGs. I salute him for that but its also not the part I envy.
Glenn said that the day he flew into space and orbited the Earth is still vivid in his memory. I try to imagine that mind-boggling experience and certainly envy that. As a private citizen and US Senator, he flew his own private plane. When he mentioned that he'd recently sold it, I detected a hint of regret, especially when he went on to say that he still had his FAA pilot's license (me too!), and still loved to fly. "I'll never get over that," he added. Glenn's lifetime of flying—that, I envy.
Yet it's not green-faced envy because I get a good feeling thinking about a man who was never ground bound, which is how I felt after I'd stopped flying and before I began dancing. Flying and dancing are more related than most people imagine. I'd go so far as to say one is a form of the other Both pilots and dancers have a tendency to divide people into those who can and are, and those who can't and are not.
Sometimes I dream that I might have made it into space if I'd switched into a slightly different groove. But I enjoyed my own groove too much to switch. So it's not truly envy, more a kind of abstract what-if. But my admiration is wholehearted, along with a curious pride I feel just thinking about John Glenn, a guy who really had the right stuff.