I spent a good part of this afternoon, bookending an impromptu visit from my sister, reading Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture. If you’re unfamiliar with Pausch or his story, he is a 46-year-old professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Prior to that news, delivered last August, he agreed to take part in “the last lecture” series, the premise of which is, “if you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would it be?” (Watch the hour-long lecture here, or read the book.)

One of my favorite of the questions that he poses is an underscore to the lecture, and the book, which follow the premise of “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. This was posed just two weeks ago when he gave the Charge address to the 2008 graduating class of Carnegie Mellon.

We don’t beat the [Grim] Reaper by living longer. We beat the Reaper by living well, and living fully. For the Reaper will come for all of us. The question is, “What do we do between the time we’re born and the time he shows up?” Cause when he shows up it’s too late to do all the things that you were always gonna kinda get around to.

I’m thinking about this, remembering all of the things I really, fervently, with all of my 10-year-old heart and body and will, wanted to accomplish with my life. To be a great musician or actress; to explore the world with an interest and wonder for human stories, for understanding why the world is the way it is; to learn so much that I’d be able to teach something to others; a vague sense of wanting life to be “better” — all imagined and dreamed while climbing trees to watch the world from higher up.

I have a fantastic role to play in “making the world a better place.” I’m engaged in teaching and learning every single day, although not in the formal, pedagogical sense I was once certain of pursuing. I’m consistently building my skills as an orator in a way that matters, rather than via speech tournaments for the sake of competition, as in high school, or standing on a soap box, like politicians. My curiosity is a great asset for developing new theories and plans, and I’ve kicked my anxiety about “what other people think” far enough to the curb that I don’t fear gaining experience by making a wrong decision (which has happened on a rather large scale with one of my programs this year).

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

And yet, all of these dreams are only being fulfilled by my professional life.

In the other aspects of my life, though, I haven’t found what I’m looking for. (Heck, in some cases, I haven’t determined what I’m looking for.) But I recognize that I’ve settled for some things that I shouldn’t be content to settle for. I’m still in my twenties, but youth is no guarantee of long life or limitless potential — as Randy’s story (and others that I hear every day) state so clearly. This is not acceptable.

I’ve been puzzling over a variety of options, a number of thoughts, and just general “what if” scenarios lately, and in one thing, at least, have come to a decision: I’m moving to New York City. If my boss doesn’t make the request by September’s new fiscal year, I’ll start the conversation myself. (Pattie, Nicole, Clay — thanks for the encouragement!)

Everything about this post has a tone of determination and doldrummy-overcomingness — which isn’t what I feel at all. I’m bouncing with excitement and opportunity and ideas and hopes and wonder. All of the negatives are surmountable, all of the positives are exponentially awesome, and I’m ready for more than a bit of adventure.

…these vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
And make a brand new start of it…