By Caroline Yablon | Copy Editor
Randy Pausch was 47 years old, a computer science, human-computer interaction and design professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had a wife and three young children and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Pausch was told he had three to six months to live, and his story should humble us all.
Pausch is known for his “Last Lecture” that he gave to his students at Carnegie Mellon in 2007 that became a hit on YouTube, today reaching over 19 million views. His captivating message, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” was about life and how to live it fully, specifically emphasizing childhood dreams and how to achieve them. Pausch died July 25, 2008, nearly 10 months after he gave his “Last Lecture.”
I was about 11 years old when I watched Pausch appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show to give a revised version of his “Last Lecture.” Since then, I have watched his lecture dozens of times, and every time I watch it, it makes me appreciate life more and more, striving to live like him.
At the beginning of his lecture on Oprah, he said, “I don’t like this, I have three little kids, let’s be clear, this stinks, but I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m going to die. I’m pursuing medical treatments, but I pretty much know how this movie is going to end, and I can’t control the cards I’m dealt with, just how I play the hands.”
He then went on to say,” I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t choose to be an object of self-pity, and in fact, although I am going to die soon, I’m actually physically very strong, in fact, I’m probably physically stronger than most of the people in this audience.”
Pausch’s life is a narrative of how we all should live our lives: as if we have six months to live. Not trying to control what road-blocks come into our lives or pity ourselves when they come our way, but instead, accepting that life is full of them and choosing to respond to them with a positive perspective.
A way of doing that is deciding if you are going to live as a “Tigger” or an “Eeyore.” Pausch described a “Tigger” as someone who is energetic, optimistic, curious and has fun.
As college students, so many things don’t go our way. Whether that’s not getting the desired grade on a test after we spent days at Jesse H. Jones Library studying, not getting into a particular sorority or fraternity that we hoped for, maybe feeling rejected by peers and the list goes on. Trials and mishaps will never stop popping up in our lives, but we get to decide how to respond to them –– which is so freeing.
We can be an Eeyore and sit in misery, pitying ourselves, or we can be a Tigger, confident and hopeful.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, it is so easy to sit in pity and cry, but Pausch’s life is a friendly reminder that I have no reason to sulk in misery, but have all the reasons to live, be happy and have fun.
“Never underestimate the importance of having fun,” Pausch said. “I’m dying soon, and I am choosing to have fun today, tomorrow and every day I have left.”
We need more Randy Pausch’s in the world, where six months to live doesn’t stop a man from living life to the fullest.
When we are having a bad day, think of his life and story and be a Tigger.