Dr. Randy Pausch spoke at Carnegie Mellon University yesterday, addressing his life as he prepares for his death. Within a few months, readers, it is likely that pancreatic cancer will claim him, turning him into another forgettable statistic.
It is unlikely, however, that those who were fortunate enough to know him will ever feel he's just another number or will ever forget him. After reading the Post-Gazette article on his presentation to the standing-room-only crowd, I doubt he'll be that to me either.
I'm currently teaching a psychology class where they're being put through the paces of goal-setting. I keep asking them for more details about their goals, pushing for them to make things concrete... and thus more attainable. Today I read them the article about him, discounting the fact that he bears the title of "CMU professor" because I don't want to give anyone reason to use his profession as an explanation for his achieving his goals.
It isn't, I told them, about titles. They don't mean a thing when it comes to your behavior.
Reaching your goals takes a high degree of discipline, regardless of your title or station in life. It takes a willingness to put yourself out there, to open up and say "here's my heart," and risk having it trod upon. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I exploded today in my English class. Why do people have to live down to the expectations of society? Why do they have to say "this is where I come from" and think that it's reasonable to repeat the cycle? All I want is for them to realize that they can do more then they realize.
Dr. Pausch is dying as admirably as anyone can. I hope that, when I'm his age, a young 46, I can look back at my life and find that I can go on with the same integrity he has today.