About a million years ago in the seventh grade, I met a small, observant girl with dark bangs. We both played the flute, we both liked to write, we both had a fairly sly sense of humor.
Which meant, for middle schoolers, that we were slightly beyond potty humor. Only slightly.
Cady Coleman was someone I admired in school because she was wicked smart and had the kind of industrious work habits my parents could only dream of for me. Through middle and high school, we often found ourselves in the same science, history and literature classes, but over time Cady went deep into the sciences and I went deep into writing. (I only took physics, as an example, because there were 23 boys in the class and only two girls. That particular sort of math still happens to appeal to me.)
After high school, we went our separate ways – Cady to MIT to study chemistry, me to Virginia Tech to study writing.
Around our tenth reunion time, I learned that Cady had become an astronaut. A real, honest-to-goodness astronaut. At NASA.
And you know what? I wasn’t that surprised, because in my mind Cady embodied all the characteristics you’d want in an astronaut – smart, resourceful, resilient and diligent.
Over the years, Cady has been up on three missions – she’s the 333rd human to go into space – including a six-month stint in the International Space Station. For that mission, she was launched the day after her 50th birthday proving that age has nothing to do with anything whatsoever.
Cady was my guest this past week on the WiseWork radio show, and she was her usual charming, self-deprecating, wise, insightful self. Would you like to listen to the thirty minute show?
When Cady describes what it’s like to be launched, what it’s like to orbit the Earth and to see our bright blue ball from space – you can sense her awe and passion.
When she talks about how her family couldn’t afford college but how she made it work for herself, you’ll see grit and determination.
When she talks about the road she walked to get to the place where she could join the astronaut corps, you’ll be inspired.
When she talks about how she leaned in, you’ll be intrigued.
And when someone walks into her office looking for cake right in the middle of our interview, you’ll hear her kindness as she directs her colleague to the fridge.
I am all about working smart with heart, and Cady Coleman exemplifies how any of us can dare greatly enough to reveal our passion for our work. And feel fulfilled as a result.
Thousands of people have listened to the show since last Tuesday. It’s really making an impact – and for that I’m exceedingly grateful, because Cady’s story deserves telling. You can listen by going to BlogTalkRadio or iTunes.
Cady – that flute playing, science-loving, funny, smart seventh grader who sat one desk over from me in so many classes – went on to become one of a handful of American women who’ve been in space. What a privilege it is to see, firsthand, what’s possible for any of us who dare to work smart, with heart.