Dream Big. Really Big.

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In 2007, Randy Pausch ‘82 delivered his riveting Last Lecture. In the lecture, Randy urges listeners to pursue their childhood dreams.

“Dream big. Dream without fear,” he said.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the message until the spring of 2011. I was a sophomore in college and was looking for ways to procrastinate during finals week. I stumbled upon his Last Lecture and it changed my life.

After watching Randy’s lecture I realized that I’d been making one of the worst mistakes that someone could possibly commit: I put my dreams on the back burner. I was caught up in school and grades and lab reports that I lost sight of why I was working so hard in the first place.

One of my dreams growing up has always been to share something with the world. Yes, it’s a cliché. Yes, it’s lame. But it’s true. I never knew what I’d share. I looked for some sort of talent that I may have had.

I tried singing. My parents begged me to stop. I tried different instruments. My brother begged me to stop. Sports. Teammates begged me to stop.

I gave up on the dream for a while.

Then, the summer of 2011 came. Brown University and the Watson Institute graciously funded a tropical medicine research trip to the Philippines for me. My plan was to go for science, but I knew that maybe I’d finally find something to share with the world.

Randy Pausch rekindled my dreams. A couple weeks after watching his lecture, I bought a DSLR camera. I didn’t know what I was doing. For reasons I can’t explain, I was spending my money on a camera I didn’t know how to use. I figured that I’d probably be able to catch some cool footage in the Philippines and that I should bring it along, just in case.

During my free time in the Philippines I talked with the local kids. The glimmer in their eyes and the fire in their bellies were infectious. Some of these kids lived in homes without electricity or running water, but that didn’t stop them from dreaming big. Really big. I had an ‘aha!’ moment (thanks Oprah). I needed to share their dreams with the world.

When I had days off from work I would visit schools and ask kids to share their dreams with me. Remember, I’ve never used a DSLR before so my footage was terrible.  Slanted videos. Blurry videos. Shaky videos. Bad, bad videos.

After my first day of recording I sat down at my computer, eager to look at my footage. I figured it couldn’t be that bad. I watched a couple of clips and noticed there wasn’t any sound. I realized that I forgot to turn on the microphone on my camera. I cursed and sweared. A lot.

What a giant waste of time, I thought to myself. I spent hours talking to village chiefs, principals, teachers, and students, yet all I had to show for it were a bunch of shaky, soundless videos. I started to think that maybe this dream wasn’t really for me. But, I remembered something incredibly valuable that Randy said in his Last Lecture.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

Ain’t that the truth. I regathered myself and gave it another shot, or two, or three. I still screwed up, badly, but I never gave up.

After a couple of tries I finally had footage that I felt wasn’t terrible. It was worth using. I spent the next few days trying to figure out how video editing software worked. That was a painful week. Nothing made sense. So. Many. Buttons.

But, after plenty of unsuccessful attempts, I came up with a short video capturing some of these kids’ dreams and aspirations. They reminded me never to lose sight of my childhood dreams again. I hope they do the same for you.

470 Stars

PS: To all the children who I didn’t get to include in the video,

Guys I’m sorry.  You all had amazing answers and I would have loved to use all of your responses but the clips were so bad that I just couldn’t use them (my fault). When I come back I’ll make sure we do it right next time.