The Last Lecture

The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.
~Randy Pausch

It’s graduation time. University and high school students across the nation will be finishing their years and years of studying to cross the stage to accept their diplomas. I’ve often said that the day of my university graduation was the happiest day of my life, and I still believe it to be true 2 years later.

Growing up in Surrey in my high school we weren’t necessarily encouraged to go to universities like UBC or SFU. I think the highest dream a lot of our teachers and guidance counselors had for us was Kwantlen, not a bad dream at all, but looking back at those years I wonder what so many of us could have aspired to if we were only told we could dream of university in “the big city.”

I truly value education. I’m the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from university and I understand all the doors it can open for me. Sure, I joke a lot about my arts degree and that it’s hard to find a real career with it, but it’s my education. I paid a lot for it and took out a lot of student loans, but I believe in my investment. Because while I know a lot of people taking out loans for cars, homes or travel, what I learned in my four years in university can never, ever, be taken away from me.

I recently read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Last lectures in university are usually given by notable former professors or famous people (mine was given by Douglas Coupland, Canadian author, sadly I missed it) and they impart the wisdom they’ve learned to the graduating class. Mr. Pausch was asked to give his last lecture and it was indeed, his last lecture as he died from cancer a short while later. My personal favorite quote is noted above, another is below…

When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.

I definitely recommend the book to everyone.

And so I congratulate those who made it through their 4+ years of university. Hell, I congratulate you for just finishing one year. It’s not easy for anyone, but trust me it’s completely worth it. If I were impart the wisdom I learned from university and life it would be this: You can do this. It is worth every late night study session, every single midnight coffee run and every celebration for every 25 page paper completed. Because while the only thing you may gain from your degree is the ability to talk about random people and subjects at cocktail parties (I cannot tell you how many people I have confused by name dropping Franz Boas or Clifford Geertz and his important study of wink vs. blinks) you find this all very fascinating. And you will meet like-minded people while studying this and those people will become some of your best friends. All this will be worth every dime. Every tear. And every single moment of sleep sacrificed to attaining your dream.


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