Square Astronaut, Round Hole

My wonderful, top of the bucket list, 500 mile Camino finished over 3 months ago.  I write this with much affection, nostalgia and a twinge of sadness.  I’ve been asked since arriving home if I’ve managed to reintegrate into the ‘real world’.  My answer is, possibly not; because I’m guessing that my current view of what the ‘real world’ is differs somewhat from before.  I certainly don’t see it solely as ‘the daily grind’ now.  Yes, mundane tasks make up some of it but my new ‘real world’ is open, expansive and exactly what I make of it.  My world, and my possibilities, seem bigger now somehow.  I’ve been drawn more deeply for example into exploring my interest in space.  (No Mum, it’s not where I’m planning to go next, you know I wouldn’t pass the medical).  Let me tell you about someone I admire, and who you’ve most probably heard of, whose achievements I believe reinforce my trust in dreams and taking small steps towards achieving them.


Since deciding he wanted to be an astronaut at the age of 9, Chris Hadfield had envisioned his first spacewalk.  A cinematic moment with the soundtrack coming to a crescendo while he pushed himself elegantly into the magical blackness of space.  But ahead of achieving his childhood dream, while floating in the airlock, he faced a dilemma.  How best to get out without snagging the spacesuit or getting trussed up in his tether and emerging to the watching world like a roped calf?  He was facing a small, circular hatch but, with all his tools, oxygen tanks and electronics, he was a square astronaut facing a round hole.

Have you ever felt like that?  Square peg, round hole?  Trying to figure out how to achieve what you want to achieve when simply getting out the door seems unachievable?

This is why I love real, honest-to-goodness articles, blogs and autobiographies.  With so many outwardly successful people readily sharing their shiny ‘Social Media Selves’ and their ‘A Sides’ I love a good warts-and-all story of people’s experiences of the tough stuff, the hard slogs and the seemingly impossible turned possible.

Chris Hadfield ‘knew’ at the age of 9 that becoming an astronaut was impossible for him.  Astronauts were American; he was Canadian and Canada didn’t even have a space agency.  Yet, many, many twists and turns later he became top graduate of the US Air Force Test Pilot School, Chief CAPCOM and Chief of Robotics at NASA, has logged nearly 4,000 hours in space and been Commander of the International Space Station.  I could go on, in my space geek-ness, but I’ll leave you to check him out online.

As a Life & Career Coach I became quite enthusiastic about a particular paragraph in Chris Hadfield’s autobiography*, since it captures beautifully the concept of envisioning your dream.  But not just stopping at the dream.  Being focussed on that dream yet not becoming too fixated on the ‘how’.  Being focussed on that dream and letting it steer you towards seemingly small, positive changes and decisions.   He says that, although he didn’t fully believe that becoming an astronaut was possible, “my dream provided direction to my life.  I recognised even as a 9-year-old that I had a lot of choices and my decisions mattered.  What I did each day would determine the kind of person I’d become”.

What I take from his story?  Whether you’re a square peg facing a round hole and possibly even unsure as to how to get out of the door: dreams are your direction and your decisions matter.

No wonder he passed all those aptitude tests, bright man.



*Hadfield, C. 2015. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. London: Pan Books.

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