Have you seen this yet? He's Professor Randy Pausch of Carnegie-Mellon University and he's dying.
Prof. Pausch wanted to share some life lessons with his students in the time he has left. Not every dying man has wisdom to impart. These days, I spend a fair amount of time around the terminally ill. Some want a warm sweater on even the most stifling day, many cry for their long-dead mothers, and nearly all reach out a hand to strangers passing by, desperate for human touch from just about anyone. It's difficult to hug some of them, impossible not to. None speak of great accomplishments or obstacles overcome. I hear only regrets.
But Dr. Pausch isn't so desperate, at least not so far as we can see from this video. Instead, he's sanguine about his life's course, grateful even. He doesn't want our pity, so I'll honor that. Instead, I'd like for the writers reading this to focus on one lesson in particular Dr. Pausch has learned in his 46 years.
Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.
As a writer how many brick walls have you encountered? How many unfinished manuscripts do you have, how many rejection letters for that book under the bed, how many days and weeks have you spent wiping away the tears, drinking away the grief because you've slammed headlong into that damn brick wall. Again. Do you still want it so badly your gut twists, so much that you fall asleep at night dreaming about your writing, wake several times through, and then in the morning linger in that dream state because reality is too much to bear. Do you want it that much? Do you?
Well, then you'll probably find a way over, under, around or through that brick wall. Because you're a writer. That's what writers have to endure. It's not exciting or romantic, but when you get beyond the wall, you'll know you've earned it. Each of us has a brick wall in our path -- or a journey peppered with them. This is the life we chose, the one that chose us. Accept it, embrace it, learn from it and know how badly you want it.
Watch the video and you'll hear Randy Pausch share his childhood dreams, discover how he achieved nearly all of them. His lesson to each of us is that bricks and mortar are no match for our dreams. Not even close.
I promised I wouldn't pity Dr. Pausch. It's hard not to do when you see his three young children. So much lost, yet so much found.
No pity, Dr. Pausch, instead thanks for extending a hand to us.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007