If this was my last chance to make a blog post, my last chance to say what I wanted to, my very last time to have an audience with anyone, what would I say?
I want to believe that this is NOT my very last blog post, but if it is, then I want to make it meaningful, I want to make it count. This blog post is a tribute to Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and has been given only a very short time to live. This is my tribute to Randy Pausch’s last lecture, a powerful, funny, life-affirming and empowering talk. I would strongly encourage everyone to watch this lecture. No matter what else is going on in your life right now, make the time to watch this video and think about your own mortality and how you can make your time here on earth matter.
Here is a clip from the Wall Street Journal:
So what would I say if this was my last blog post? I would want to say to everyone – live thoughtfully and deliberately, leave this world and everyone you meet better than you found them.
I am grateful to have been here. I am grateful for everything that I have been through, the good and the bad. I am grateful that I have been loved, and even more importantly, that I have loved. I am grateful that I have been cared for, and that I have had the privilege to care. I am grateful that I have lived.
If there is one thing in this life that matters, it’s life and people. It’s all about life, and living, because when people die, that’s it, it’s over! Nothing you say after someone is dead matters! No accolades or tributes really matter anymore. Bear in mind that I am talking about this side of our existence. If you believe in life after death, then of course there is more. But if you just want to consider this life that we know and are aware of, then all that really matters is life, and the things that pertain to life and living. This might sound like a “duh, ofcourse” kind of statement, but think about it for a minute, because I don’t think we take the time to think about life and things too much anymore.
My generation, and the generations after mine, have been overwhelmed with a barrage of stimuli from electronic games to 24 hour TV shows, to hundreds of channels, to fascinating gadgets, to online social networks that have developed the status of cults… that we have forgotten what it means to use one of our most precious abilities – self-reflection. Without self-reflection we go about every day without thinking about the less apparent but more pertinent things in life. We are so focused on making money (I know I am), on making friends, on maintaining certain appearances, on being the most popular, or the cleverest, on protecting our egos and our self-image, and so on… (you can fill in the blanks yourself), that we forget about what it means to be human, to be alive, to be part of a world, to be a human among humans, to look outside of ourselves, to look around us, at the people around us, at our actions, at our impact, at what effect our presence has on the human beings around us. We are so centered in our own existence that we forget that this is largely a symbiotic world, and we are symbiotic creatures. I cannot walk into a room without somehow affecting the energy in that room. It’s just not possible. And if someone walks into a room, I pick something up from that person, their energy. If you don’t believe me, just think about it, or do an experiment. Try to be aware of how people react when you enter a room. You will notice that most people will notice that you’ve entered. They may look at you, or it may just be a subtle shift, maybe in posture, or a quick glance, or a brief pause in conversation. But they notice. Similarly, when someone enters a room you are in, take time and listen to yourself, something inside you will say… there’s someone here… something has changed. Ofcourse, for our own survival we have learned to tune out a lot of this energy, especially in a large gathering, but even then, there’s always something, an energy shift, in the presence of another person.
My point is this, what is your energy? Are you aware of it? Are you consciously working on it? Do you bring cheer or tension? Do people light up and smile around you, or do they get tense and sad? Do you leave people better than you found them, or worse?
Here’s the thing… an encounter with another human being will NEVER leave us unchanged! Something ALWAYS shifts. It may be small and subtle, and maybe in the larger scheme of things, inconsequential. Or it may be big and life-changing, as when someone is violated. But most times it’s on a more ordinary level, but it leaves an impact. And many times, you don’t even need to say a word, your very presence can make a difference, cause a shift, positive or negative, on the people around you. I touched on this in a previous post “About angry people…”.
As a nursing student, I have become more and more aware of this fact. Every morning on clinical days I walk into patients’ rooms, and I immediately pick up on their energy… are they discouraged because of some news the doctors gave them, or because of that new infection they have now, or the fact that they’ve been here 10 days already? Are they cheerful and energetic because they’re getting discharged today? Are they anxious and tense because they don’t understand what’s going on? I pick these things up from my patients almost without thinking about it, because I have tuned myself to listen to what’s not said. And I always wonder what they pick up from me. Sometimes they tell me, sometimes they don’t. But everyday I hope that they pick up a positive energy from me, a hopeful energy, a caring energy. I hope that no matter what their prognosis is, no matter what they have or haven’t told me, I hope that they pick up that I am here for them, that for today, I am committed to their care, to doing everything that I possibly can for them.
Here’s another thing about that energy – you can’t fake it. It’s internal. It’s a part of your core. It’s a mirror of your soul. You can’t fake it. You shouldn’t try to. You may fool some people, but you won’t be able to fool everyone. Most people are amazingly sensitive to the cues we send, to our energy, even when they’re not conscious of it. Haven’t you ever heard someone say… “so and so is very pleasant and nice but I just don’t trust him, there’s something about him…”. Haven’t you ever felt the same way?
Can you change your energy, can you control it? Yes you can. And it starts with self-reflection, and with taking the time to think, and step outside yourself, and look around you. Taking the time to engage yourself with the world, and the people in it, and to truly reflect on caring and being a person who walks through life thoughtfully. Truly asking yourself “What if that was me?” and then thinking about that deeply. What do I want? How would I want to be treated? How would I react to this? Don’t just say “thank God that’s not me!” or “I wish that was me!” Go beyond that, ask yourself what would make you the happiest in that moment in time, and then if you can, determine to do that thing for that person in that situation.
You might think I’m crazy, but if you’ve been interested enough to read this far, then it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Next time you find yourself interacting with another human being, ask yourself the questions above, and then act according to the answers you come up with. You might suprise yourself.
Learn to tap into your inner core, to be aware of and work on your energy, and to walk through life thoughtfully and deliberately. Don’t just live day by day, don’t just let life happen to you. Be the master of your inner self, live well, live intentionally, live thoughtfully.
If this was my last blog post, that is what I would say.
Many thanks to Dean for bringing this to the forefront of my thoughts. My thoughts and prayers are with Randy and his family.
Watch Randy Pausch’s last lecture.