Monday, July 28, 2008

Keeping the dream alive

Today, thanks to this pointer from Stephen Downes I found myself watching Randy Pausch's 'last lecture' on YouTube. I found it enormously motivating as he talked about realising childhood dreams.

Which makes today's contribution from my Calvin & Hobbes feed all the more apt.

Quite apart from the relevance of the story line in this cartoon, I love the fact that Hobbes just happens to be a tiger... and a stuffed one at that. I strongly recommend that you watch the lecture, but, just in case you don't have time, let me explain:

  • Randy makes an oft quoted assertion: "You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger-Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us." Now Hobbes and Tigger are very different in character - Hobbes is far more cynical after 6 years as Calvin's constant companion. In fact it is Calvin who is the more Tigger-like of the two. Nevertheless.
  • Also, Randy had a love for winning stuffed animals at fairs - he built up quite a collection over the years.
Unlike Randy, I didn't have a very happy childhood, and I can't remember ever having had any ambitions. I'm not sure if those two facts are related. My life seemed to be a permanent state of 'now' - I couldn't picture myself as an adult. During a conversation with a friend when I was around 8 or 9 years old, I calculated how old I would be when the magical year 2000 came around and expressed disappointment that I would be so old as not to be able to realise how significant it was!

But before you take out your violin... I found the now fascinating. I still do. There is just so much in every single moment. I still don't do much long term dreaming or planning and seem to sorta kinda fall into a lot of things that seem like a good idea at the time. In this, I completely relate to Tigger.

However, it remains my determined ambition to encourage my sons to dream. To see a future with themselves in it. And my greatest longing is to live a life that makes a difference - to find a way to use such skills as I have in service of those who need them.

Does that sound twee? Tough! It is what it is.


V Yonkers said...

My husband is always the pessimist while I am the dreamer. Like you, his parents were not very supportive in thinking about the what if's (probably because they were just trying to get through the what is). In addition, he grew up in a poor urban environment where they were encouraged to find a profession that would make them secure. Thus, he studied business when his real desire was to study architecture. He was told not to even consider it as a profession as he would end up living in poverty.

Like you, he lives in the present. But like you, he encourages our kids to dream of the possibilities as he does not want them to give up on their dreams before they even start.

Anonymous said...

@v yonkers Thanks for the comment, Virginia. Perhaps you already know this, but I grew up in a poor urban area, too. I'm sure research has been done on the impact of these factors on people's ambitions, etc. It would be an interesting study, but I wouldn't want to get too close to it, since I suspect it would cause me to have a bit of a pity party!

The one ambition I had was to be a mechanical design engineer, but we couldn't afford university and the banks refused to give a study loan to a girl who wanted to study engineering.

My mother just wanted me to be a teacher or a secretary or a nurse. Something 'safe' and suitable for a woman. I wasn't until years later that she realised how limited her own view had been of what a woman could achieve if she wanted to.

V Yonkers said...

My dad had also grown up in poverty, but his parents had a strong belief that their children would be able to do what they could not. My father ended up getting a full scholarship to Yale, and always impressed upon us that if he could do it, anyone could.

I feel a responsibility (working in at a University) to both my students, the children of my husband's friends, and the friends of my children who might either be in a tighter financial situation or be the first generation university goers to let them in on the ins and outs of the university. Supposedly in the US, guidance counselors in the secondary schools are supposed to do this. However, in poor school districts, there are less guidance counselors who many time are concentrating on much greater problems (such as a large drop out rate). Only a select few are given the information that will help them access resources.

So my husband will constantly say, "you need to speak with Gin. She'll know!" I also try to put them in contact with resources to fund their education and try to expand their mind as to professions beyond the "safe" accounting, military, or nursing. I tell them to first figure out what they are good at and what they like doing, then we go to the internet and find the various professions that require that type of work. There is a growing number of sites that then will identify what courses you will need in secondary school, and what you can study to be part of that profession.

After the family vacation this year, my daughter decided to she would like to work in a Zoo or with dolphins. Boy, was I surprised at the number of schools that offer those programs! So the sky is the limit for her (until she decides on something else she likes).