Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2012 4:27:02 PM
Over a year ago, I wrote an essay based on a line from Randy Pausch’s novel, “The Last Lecture.” This book chronicles the last messages and lessons of a computer science professor who wants to impart to the world before he dies of pancreatic cancer. At first, I was a bit hesitant to read it, as it wasn’t even fiction. However, I learned about a month later that Pausch had sadly passed away (July 25, 2008). Google featured a small message in memoriam to the college professor. After learning more about him from Google, I was inspired to give this book a chance. I was not disappointed.
Pausch has had the unique pleasure of being able to accomplish many of his childhood dreams. Readers follow his dreams from its origin up to its completion, even if they aren’t always achieved in expected ways. Along the way, Pausch imparts pieces of his wisdom. The lessons conveyed to his readers have a universal appeal that can apply to children and graduate students alike. My favorite takeaway from “The Last Lecture” is overcoming brick walls. Pausch repeats the idea that all of his dreams could only be achieved by defeating obstacles and never giving up. Pausch explains how he constantly kept up his resolve and what he did to surpass the various brick walls. For example, he wanted to be an astronaut when he was younger, but later simplified this goal to experiencing zero gravity. As a teacher, he discovered he could not accompany his students in flying inside the reduced gravity aircraft. Instead of surrendering, Pausch discovered he could join the group as a media representative of Carnegie Mellon University (the university he taught at).
By leading through examples, Pausch helped me understand that the brick walls were indicators of how badly I wanted something. I experienced a brick wall first hand when I auditioned for the Bergen County Band. I’ve auditioned for this band with my alto saxophone since 7th grade, and had never made it. I felt extremely discouraged. My music teacher, though she proactively gave me music and encouraged me, could not dedicate the time to review music with me and make sure I was hitting my music scales correctly. Because I was struggling, I considered quitting. However, after I read “The Last Lecture”, I realized that the tough auditions were designed to separate the most passionate musicians from the more apathetic players. I practiced harder than ever, sought out guidance from other musicians in my band, and eventually made it into the County Band for the first time.
There are many other important messages in Pausch’s book, but I don’t want to spoil any more than I already have. Pausch has lived an incredible life that many of us, as young adults venturing into a time of maturity and professionalism, strive to mimic. He’s had an amazing family, inspired a huge audience, and ultimately lived out his childhood dreams. And he’s inspired me to do the same.