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The Last Lecture: On Being a Benevolent Alien

Memento Mori Life Chart image:

A great honor was recently bestowed upon me. And while I don't usually get to mix my daily routine with my creative routine, the two inevitably overlap. A few weeks ago, the graduating class at my university asked me to give a "last lecture."

The concept of the Last Lecture originates from the legacy of Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch. And while I can safely assume I'm going to stick around on this planet for a while longer (knock on wood), providing outgoing advice to students I've worked with and gotten to know over the past four years certainly gave me pause. What type of wisdom could I impart on this group?

Well, here you have it. A summarized and somewhat altered version of my Last Lecture. I began with the concept of memento mori. I talked about... okay, never mind that. Let's go first-person POV and jump right in!

4000 weeks is roughly equal to 77 years, or the approximate average life span of an adult. It's humbling to stop and visually take that in...

...especially when I've already made it about halfway through the life chart. In my mind, the time between the photo of my sister and me on the left to the recent photo of me on the right happened very quickly.

In fact, it seemed to go about this fast:

It's hard to think through all the twists and turns that it took to arrive here. But, invest in some excellent friends, gather your coolest family, and you'll find reminiscing becomes a little easier. What moments are the ones you stop on? I bet they're not the times you went to bed early and skipped that concert because you had to work the next day.

The twists and turns most likely encompass the concert itself. And while I'm not advocating to always live deliciously, I kinda, sorta am.

But also, live responsibly so you make it all the way through your memento mori chart.

Creativity is a life raft. Artwork by Fred Charles.

You'll need to find yourself an anchor, or a life raft. Mine is creativity. It's my go-to when life gets tough and I crave human connection. It's inspiration and aspiration. Creativity keeps me afloat.

Unlike how I depicted my straight line timeline from birth to the present, life is not actually a straight. You'll want to embrace the curves, twists and turns. And most importantly - don't pass by those closed doors. Stop and knock, because more than a few of those doors are waiting for you to arrive.

Be forewarned, if the door looks too big and too heavy to open, it's probably-scratch that-MOST DEFINITELY the right door. Aim for the surprises. You never know what's waiting right behind them. This is how you learn who you are and what you're made of.

When the right doors open, you'll find yourself in the state of FLOW. And trust me, it's exactly where you want to be.

Now, you may be flipping stations to find music for the journey. Might I suggest punk? It's "not a style of music. [It's] the state of your mind."

Punk is creativity. It's a DIY ideology that knows no bounds.

"Often we encounter work that has something about it that is especially noticeable or offbeat or unconventional. Whatever it is, it sticks out in an otherwise unified narrative.

Our first inclination may be to excise or smoothen the thing that sticks out.

Let's be wary of that inclination. Often the thing that sticks out does so precisely because it's what the story wants to be made of.

I once found a broken skeleton ring atop a leaf with a heart-shaped cutout. Need I explain more?

That ring wanted to be exactly what it was. We need to be exactly who we are, without pretense, but with heart.

Sometimes, being precisely who we are meant to be can save a life.

Inevitably, the lifeline is going to trend to memento mori. But, I can slow it down. Want to know how? Never stop being astonished; not by anything. Whether it's all the open doors you've left in your wake, how far you've traveled, how punk you've become, how many skeletal hearts you encounter, always aim for the surprises.

Image generated via AI by AJT and FC.

How will you accomplish this? By being a unique and benevolent alien. When everything is new and shiny, it will always be beautiful. People will look at you because you're different. Embrace your individuality. Smile at them. Lead them. Teach them.

You never know where it may lead you.

Leave us a heart or some last lecture-level advice!

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1 Comment

What in the motherfuckin tailpipe are you trying to to say to me? Like seriously.

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