An Injured Lion Still Wants to Roar

BY: Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

 

Continued from page 3

Given Jai’s reticence, I knew I had to look honestly at my motivations. Why was this talk so important to me? Was it a way to remind me and everyone else that I was still very much alive? To prove I still had the fortitude to perform? Was it a limelight-lover’s urge to show off one last time? The answer was yes on all fronts. “An injured lion wants to know if he can still roar,” I told Jai. “It’s about dignity and self-esteem, which isn’t quite the same as vanity.”

There was something else at work here, too. I had started to view the talk as a vehicle for me to ride into the future I would never see.

I reminded Jai of the kids’ ages: 5, 2 and 1. “Look,” I said. “At five, I suppose that Dylan will grow up to have a few memories of me. But how much will he really remember? What do you and I even remember from when we were five? Will Dylan remember how I played with him, or what he and I laughed about? It will be hazy at best.

“And how about Logan and Chloe? They may have no memories at all. Nothing. Especially Chloe. And I can tell you this: When the kids are maybe twelve or thirteen, they’re going to go through this phase where they absolutely, achingly need to know: ‘Who was my dad? What was he like?’ This lecture could help give them an answer to that.” I told Jai I’d make sure Carnegie Mellon would record the lecture. “I’ll get you a DVD. When the kids are older, you can show it to them. It’ll help them understand who I was and what I cared about.”

Jai heard me out, then asked the obvious question. “If you have things you want to say to the kids, or advice you want to give them, why not just put a video camera on a tripod and tape it here in the living room?”

Maybe she had me there. Or maybe not. Like that lion in the jungle, my natural habitat was still on a college campus, in front of students. “One thing I’ve learned,” I told Jai, “is that when parents tell children things, it doesn’t hurt to get some external validation. If I can get an audience to laugh and clap at the right time, maybe that would add gravitas to what I’m telling the kids.”

Jai smiled at me, her dying showman, and finally relented. She knew I’d been yearning to find ways to leave a legacy for the kids. Okay. Perhaps this lecture could be an avenue for that.

And so, with Jai’s green light, I had a challenge before me. How could I turn this academic talk into something that would resonate with our kids a decade or more up the road?

I knew for sure that I didn’t want the lecture to focus on my cancer. My medical saga was what it was, and I’d already been over it and over it. I had little interest in giving a discourse on, say, my insights into how I coped with the disease, or how it gave me new perspectives. Many people might expect the talk to be about dying. But it had to be about living.

Continued on page 5: “What makes me unique?” »

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