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  • I have just learned through the grape vines that a fellow Carnegie Mellon alumni
    Susan Eitelman Dean has passed away last night of a massive stroke.

    I didn't know her personally.

    Normally when a fellow alumni, whom I have no personal relationship with, passes,
    I may feel sympathetic to them. I may even ponder for a moment the fragility of life.

    But this was different.

    While I didn't know Susan personally, I had one short exchange on a linkedin
    board for CMU alumni members
    some 3+ months ago.

    The thread was talking about Raul Barreneche, a CMU alumni who traveled a rather
    unconventional path through his life to achieve success.

    Hearing his story inspired me to want to share my own. But it was the beginning stage
    of me embracing my own vulnerability, and mustering up the courage to tell my own story
    to the public. Having never done that previously in a public forum, it was nerve wrecking.
    As a matter of fact, I felt shameful, because I felt self-indulgent. Who am I to assume that
    other people will be interested in my story?

    But something told me that this was a safe forum to try, and I went ahead and pressed
    the "Add Comment" button to share the story of how I have come to realize just how arrogant
    I have been for most of my adult life

    Then Susan replied,

    Susan: Great posts. I follow a similar multi-faceted path -- Mechanical Engineering &
    Psychology double at CMU, a Masters in Industrial Engineering focusing on
    simulation-based training, and a career that continued to cross-cut those fields on
    a regular basis.

    Special thanks to Seung for his post, though. In the past year, I've been challenged to
    figure out what I really want to do when I grow up. I have a plan in the works, and it
    veers widely from Engineering, Psychology, and all the other things I did in a traditional
    job. (It's too soon to mention what I'm doing publicly yet. 2012 Is going to be
    interesting!) Many of the things you shared resounded with my experience -- hiding
    behind knowledge, being overcome by anxiety trying to figure out what to do before
    trying anything.

    So, Seung, thank you, more than I can fairly express here, for your post. Sometimes
    I do wonder if I'm crazy for trying on the different hats that I have (and will continue to)
    try on. This morning before seeing your post, I had a moment where I realized that
    even if everyone else thinks I'm crazy for trying on this next hat, that I feel ok if they
    label me crazy (on the other hand, it's a nice challenge -- to show them this is going to
    work!). Reading your post galvanized my confidence: I have to try on the hat. It's just
    who I am. :)

    And thanks to all who have shared their unique paths. It's really comforting to hear all
    of the different ways our fellow Tartans a blazing unique trails! Keep it up! :)

    To which I replied casually,

    Slim: Oh, wow, thank you, Susan. It's so wonderful to hear that there are others
    that resonate with the story.

    Stay beautiful, Susan. Always! :)

    May there be trust, love, and hope on your path.

    But, neither "wow" nor "thank you" can adequately express how much courage Susan
    gave me in that instant. Nor could my wish for her to stay beautiful or to have trust, love,
    and hope on her path really give back to her what I have received.

    It may sound like a casual response, but this was nothing of the sort. She gave me the
    courage to keep telling my story, and to keep working on the project. I felt so much
    gratitude, because she helped me realize that telling my own story can indeed be valuable
    to others. Something I was advised not to do as a scientist.

    While I have never met you in person, the short exchange of resonance made such
    an indelible mark on me that I almost feel as if I have known you for a really long time.
    A million hours of meaningless interaction with others could never come close having
    the kind of impact you have had on my life. And for that I am eternally grateful for the
    brief exchange of resonance we shared.

    Thank you for your kind words, Susan. You will be dearly missed.

    May you rest in peace.

    Picture of Matt and Susan on their Honeymoon from Picasa
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