About a year ago, I wrote a blog post honoring the great Alex Trebek. At that point, he had been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for a year. I was constantly impressed by the fact that his diagnosis did not at all diminish the charm and wit that he was famous for exhibiting during his time hosting Jeopardy. Even though I knew Mr. Trebek was a hell of a fighter and thus wasn’t going anywhere for a while, I wanted to reflect on the immense impact that he had on my life. I discussed in the blog how he fostered my love for learning and for knowledge, and I encouraged other people to find someone that makes them as excited and curious about the world as Alex Trebek made me.
Flash forward to last night, I was on the phone with my sweet boyfriend, and the topic of curiosity came up. He described to me a podcast he had listened to that talked about how the American school system essentially destroys kids’ natural curiosity. As he talked, I started to feel really bummed, for I realized that my own curiosity had really vanished over the last few months. I don’t know if it was the pandemic, the craziness of school, or the challenges I’ve gone through mentally over the last few months- All I knew was that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt the love for learning that I used to feel on a daily basis. I used to watch documentaries about US presidents in my free time, listen to psychology Ted Talks on my runs, and stay very up to date with the news. I realized during that phone call that I don’t do all that stuff too often anymore. Before I knew it, I was in tears. I said to Andrew that I just miss the feeling of wanting to want to learn something, and though he reassured me that such wording meant that my curiosity is nowhere near gone, I don’t know if I fully believed him. Nonetheless, I calmed down and told myself that I would try to work on getting that love for learning back once finals ended.
This morning, I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional during the previous night’s conversation. Then, I saw the news about Trebek’s passing, and everything made a whole lot more sense.
I’m not a big believer in signs from the universe, but this felt like one. It would have been easy for me to deem last night as simply an instance of me being overdramatic. It would have been easy for me to make excuses and blame my rigorous course load for my lack of desire to learn in my free time. It would have been easy for me to keep putting off re-finding my love for learning. Mr. Trebek did not let me do that though, and I’m really appreciative of him for that. Though I would give anything to somehow bring him back to the physical world, Trebek’s death reminded me for good that I can never afford to lose that curiosity ever again. After telling my parents the news and letting myself cry some much needed tears, I put all my homework aside and just listened to a podcast. It was about climate change, a topic that I have opinions on but honestly do not know much about. I learned a lot in those 15 minutes, and it felt so good to be learning it for me and my curiosity. Not for a grade or to impress others with my knowledge- just for me. I’m promising myself that I’ll make time every single dang day from now on to explore like this. It creates a sense of fulfillment that I cannot quite put into words, and I’m very thankful Mr. Trebek helped me discover it back then and remember it today.
Rather than try to reword my message from a year ago, I’m simply going to copy and paste a section from that post that I especially stand by and want to reiterate to honor the beloved host:
“To anyone else whose screen this post pops up on, I hope you find someone who encourages you to learn the way Trebek has encouraged me and many others to. We can’t be experts on everything, but there’s a world of knowledge out there for us to delve into, and we owe it to ourselves to take in as much of it as possible since it’s right at our fingertips most of the time. Trebek once said, “My life has been a quest for knowledge and understanding, and I am nowhere near having achieved that. And it doesn’t bother me in the least. I will die without having come up with the answers to many things in life.” We can’t learn everything, but we can learn a whole damn lot. And when we make our lives centered on a motivation to learn more and more, we become better, more empathetic and aware people and contributors to this crazy, opinionated, and often ignorant world. So whether it’s turning on your tv at 7 o’clock every night and taking in information from a Jeopardy category, reading the daily news from a variety of sources, or simply meeting new people and hearing their stories, I hope you choose to learn. It’s not my place to say so, but I think that’s the kind of world Trebek wants to be proud to call his own.”
I don’t think I knew back then how much I would eventually need to reread and internalize my own words, but here we are.
My heart is really sad knowing that such a remarkable man is gone from the physical world. I struggle with the fact that someone as genuinely good of a person as Alex Trebek had such a painful end to his life. He got 80 years, which is more than a lot of people get, but if there’s anyone who deserves to live forever, or at least not die from cancer, it’s Alex Trebek. The man was in the studio filming Jeopardy episodes up until ten days ago- Who else in this world has that kind of dedication? He focused on his contestants up until the very end, never drawing more attention to himself than he felt beneficial. He was the kind of person who you might not know personally, but you simultaneously feel like you know on a bigger level. I know that viewers all over the world will take his legacy and let it live through them, but it still doesn’t feel like enough.
In an interview, Trebek said that he wanted to be remembered as “A decent guy who did his best to help the contestants perform their best.” I think it’s safe to say he will be remembered for much more than that. Viewers all over the country and world will remember him as a polite, insightful, appreciative, and hardworking man. I will remember him as all of that and more. I will remember him as one of my heroes, the person that taught me what it means to want to understand the world, and an epitome of the kind person I will always try to become.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Trebek. You will be so very missed.