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A Response to Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture"

By chriscercone Dec 15, 2010 1041 Words
Chris Cercone
Peter Palumbo
Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture
Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Randy Pausch delivered a highly memorable and inspirational presentation in 2007, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” I thought it was emotional, powerful and gripping, as was the book about it, The Last Lecture.

Pausch frequently talks about his childhood dreams, such as being a Disney Imagineer, meeting Captain Kirk, playing in the National Football League, being in zero gravity and authoring an article for The World Book. The only one he didn’t accomplish, was playing in the NFL. He actually did everything he dreamed about as a child.

That is so crucial to living your life happily. I believe that anything and everything that someone is passionate about, even if it’s something from when they were six years old, should be pursued. I know a photography major at another school who has been taking pictures obsessively since she was seven. That’s what I’m talking about. Besides, who knows? Someday, you might be Randy Pausch, and really achieve your childhood dreams.

My childhood dream was to work as an anchor for ESPN. I still want to work in sports, as a college athletics video coordinator, video taping practices and games for game tape and the university archive. Sure, it was refined somewhat, but what I want to do is basically in the same vein as my childhood dream. When being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” my answer was “an ESPN anchor.” I still think about that from time to time, even though I’m a freshman in college. I think if you keep the dreams from your youth in the back of your head, you will actively pursue something that you really love. If you like what you do, you will be much happier, and happiness is the key to quality of life.

“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered by a dying man. Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most fatal diseases possible, and had just mere months to live. It really makes a person think about who they are, where they are, and what they truly care about. It even made me think about who I am as an individual.

I consider myself a very go-with-the-flow, low-key, mellow dude who doesn’t let anything bother them. I’m generally quiet and reserved, until someone mentions a subject I happen to be interested in. Just like that, some switch flips in my brain, and I become fiery, ready to talk about my passions until the cows come home. I also consider myself a relatively malcontent human who is upset with the stupidity of humanity. I truly despise ignorant people, who don’t read the news, or just remain generally uninformed. An ignorant remark from some idiot can ruin my day, and that’s the only thing I don’t brush off. That can be abrasive, but I know that’s how I am. The Last Lecture and “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” made me ponder how I am. Maybe I shouldn’t let human ignorance irritate me as much as it does, and I should see humans as mostly intelligent with a few bad eggs. Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, and I should change that. This book made me really think about my whole ideological viewpoint.

I have a lot of people that I care about, such as close friends, my girlfriend, my parents and other family. It really made me think about how you could possibly break the news that you are dying to the people you care the most about. I love Rebecca, the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with, to an unbelievable degree. If I were suddenly stricken with serious cancer, how in the world would I approach that? How could I possibly tell someone I love that I won’t be around much longer? Even getting past her, what about my parents, and my sister? Even my best friends? That is just an absolutely horrifying thought.

If I were on that stage giving my own “last lecture,” even if I wasn’t dying, I’d be able to handle it. I know what I would want to say. The first thing would be, stick to your guns. What I mean by that is stay true to yourself. Don’t give into peer pressure. Be the person that you want to be, not that someone else wants you to do. I know kids who took classes in high school, just because their parents wanted them to. Almost every single time, they were miserable in that course. In circumstances like that, put your foot down! Don’t let people tell you how you should run your own life.

Don’t dwell on everything. If something bothers you, don’t let it bring you down. Just move on, and forget about it. I tailspun into depression because I never felt like I fit in. For over a year as a junior in high school, I felt alienated, like I had no friends. I also wasn’t happy with my relationship status at the time (very, very, painfully single), on top of that. I was not a happy person, because I couldn’t get those thoughts out of my head. It made everything so painful for me, due to the fact that I couldn’t stop dwelling on them. I know now that that’s no way to live, and that for peace of mind, you cannot dwell on the things that bother you. I think everyone should learn to let down, and move on.

Reading The Last Lecture was not a deep and life-changing experience, but it was introspective and it made me think about my youth, who I really care about, and how I would let those people know that I was dying. It was one of the most interesting pieces of literature that I have read in a very long time. Randy Pausch was an inspirational figure, and I sincerely hope that his message will inspire people for years upon years to come.

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