Recently my brother and I had an amazing opportunity to go to the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium. Basically that's a long way to say the Aero Astro department turned 100 so they threw a nerd party. John really wants to go into aero-astro, so I got him a ticket for his birthday.
It really was an amazing day, starting early in the morning learning about current research at the institute, moving on to a Q&A panel with alums in the NASA astronaut core, culminating in a Q&A with Elon Musk (founder and CEO of SpaceX).
Not gonna lie, we nearly pooped ourselves when we got the tickets (both of us are huge nerds if you can't tell)
I'll start with what we were most excited about; the Elon Musk talk. Well, it was underwhelming. I mean, the man is brilliant. He knows A LOT about rocketry and how to grow a business. However, dude has such a one track mind. If you weren't asking about colonizing Mars then he did not want to talk about it. Also, he didn't seem so much interested in colonizing Mars as much as sending people there and making sure the rocket makes it back to Earth. I'm not kidding. He literally said "well the people can hop off on Mars, that's their choice. I just want my rocket back; it's expensive."
So yeah. That was Elon....
The most amazing part was the astronaut panel. I sat in awe of the ten alumni who have literally become heros. Seriously, what kid didn't want to be an astronaut when they were little, and what adult doesn't still look up to them?
On top of that, I felt incredibly proud of my school. On that stage was only a third of the astronauts that MIT has produced with Buzz Aldrin among them. How crazy is that?!
On top of all of that, John and I actually got to meet Cady Coleman!
Cady Coleman is an MIT Chemistry alum, and has been with NASA since 1992 and has logged over 160 days in space including being part of Expeditions 26/27 to the International Space Station. It was truly awe inspiring and inspirational to speak with her.
The thing that completely floored me was how down to Earth (no pun intended) she was. I was stuttering and blushing just to be able to say hi to her, and when I told her she was a hero to me, she said something that really made my week.
She told me to be proud of myself and my own accomplishments. This really struck me and I've thought about it every day since. An astronaut told me that I do things worth being proud of! She was right. Everyday we do little things that advance ourselves and bring us closer to who we grow to be. There are no goals that are simply end point, otherwise life would either be incredibly short or incredibly empty. All of the sudden I felt like I could look to Cady as a peer and our time at MIT gave us a common accomplishment.
Seeing life as a series of accomplishments has allowed me to remain more positive and aspire to be someone with unique goals. It's hard to describe, but I've felt somewhat renewed by Cady's words.
I'm still a little star-struck by the fact that I actually met an astronaut and saw one of the leading technological businessmen of our time. Really an amazing weekend.