Chris Hadfield @ the Toronto Reference Library

Chris Hadfield was on stage for an interview last night at the Toronto Reference Library. My friend Fiona and I weren’t up in the Appel Salon where it was held, but in the overflow seating downstairs in the TRL’s atrium – it was nigh impossible to get a ticket online for the free event, as it sold out within about 30 seconds on Eventbrite. It was great of them to set up the livestream of the interview to watch downstairs, though!

Having recently read his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth, it was nice to hear him speak about a lot of the book’s content in person. Chatting about what it’s like to be in space, how lucky he was in his all over the place career trajectory to make it into the CSA’s astronaut program, and other bits and bobs in general about working for NASA and his jobs on the ground in mission control, and the like. There’s a pretty decent summary of what he covered in the Torontoist today (along with some nice photos) if you’re so inclined to read.

What I enjoyed most was the more off the cuff discussion of just life things. Trying to be good to his family – be a ‘zero’ and not stroll in after long absences trying to be the focus and centre of attention; having patience and knowing that your trajectory for anything might not be a straight line, but you could learn something valuable along the way; to not hold up any one event or time in your life as your zenith, that everything has to live up to or else you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. What I enjoyed most of all was his talking about ‘bucket lists’, related to that last point.

In his opinion: when you make a bucket list, you are limiting yourself. You might tick a few things off over the years, and look into the bucket and think “Is that it? There doesn’t seem to be much in there..” Instead, fill your bucket every day. Start empty, and with even the small accomplishments, add them – woke up on time? Check! Had a really nice shave this morning – check! Little things need to be enjoyed in the moment. He spent new year’s in 2000 installing kitchen cabinets in his home – it wasn’t rocket science, but it was good hard work that involved his family and resulted in something practical and great that everyone could use. A simple accomplishment but he still thinks back to it. It was very inspiring to think about all the little things in these terms – be happy with your accomplishments of any sort, and you will be happy when they’re greater but not disappointed if they don’t ‘measure up’ because you’re not bookmarking things as pinnacles of your life.

So clear and common sense, it was such a great way for him to wrap up – and had nothing to do with being an astronaut! I think he should take on (in his retirement) speaking at high schools and colleges to really make an impact at the point in young people’s lives where they could actively take this stuff on before they have too many regrets. His book covers it to an extent, but I think it’s far more engaging hearing him speak.

Afterward, there was a book signing. I had read an e-version of the book so didn’t have something to sign (and couldn’t really justify the cost of the book for the express purpose of a non-personalized signature) but I accompanied my friend Fiona while she waited for her copy to be signed. Even though he wasn’t personalizing or taking photos with people, he was standing up to look everyone in the eye, greeted them all and shook everyone’s hand. So refreshing to see this after having seen many impersonal, rushed and disappointing signing lines in my time. He even took the time to shake my hand as I waited off to the side for Fiona, not minding I didn’t have anything to sign! I would’ve liked to let him know I enjoyed the book very much, but I think he knows folks are into it.

Thanks for the inspiring evening, Cmdr. Hadfield!

Fiona getting her book signed by a real astronaut fella!

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