Aspirations And Exasperations, Then And Now

crispydoc Uncategorized 14 Comments

Middle age shifts your perspective and broadens your frame of reference. Time has helped me accumulate multiple examples that demonstrate the evolution of both aspirations and exasperations.

Then: Stasis is death. Seek novelty in every experience. Always keep moving.

Now: Repetition creates opportunity for eventual mastery. Ritual lends comfort. Routine is a blessing. Roots form only when a seed stays in the same soil.

Then: Please my academic mentors, apply to fellowship, obtain grant funding, obtain another degree, land a coveted junior faculty position in a geographically desirable location near family, earn a reputation as a beloved teacher, gain tenure. Also meet a partner and start a family that will unconditionally support me in my academic pursuits.

Now: Be the best partner I am capable of being, raise moral kids whose company I enjoy, find person with whom I can connect deeply in my community, find small meaningful ways to mend a broken world. Also spend a few days a month in the hospital to pay the bills.

Then: Doctor.

Now: doctor.

Then: I'm tired of ordering an opiate despite the warning that this patient has reported an allergy to codeine. The system deleted my "template favorites" file from the dictation software during the latest upgrade. My quarterly metrics make me feel like a widget on an assembly line, and seem to suggest that despite my hand-holding inclinations I need to spend less time per patient to buff my stats.

Now: Aggravations, no less obtrusive, seem manageable based on their reduced role in my life.

Then: Travel is my real life, an escape from daily drudgery and the chance to be my best self. More is better.

Now: Travel is a complement to the life I've built, at times an escape, but never  a substitute. It reminds me of my extreme good fortune in the ovarian lottery as well as my obligation to others.

Then: Compared to most of the world, I am blessed.

Now: Compared to most of the world, I am rich. This confers privilege and potential that I'm tasked not to squander.

Then: After I reach X I'll start to live my ideal life.

Now: How can I subtract an aggravation each year so that my actual and ideal lives more closely resemble one another.

Then: When I retire...

Now: What will I do with my day?

Then: I'd take fitness more seriously if I didn't have work.

Now: Fitness is incorporated as part of my routine.

Then: Enough is a moving goalpost.

Now: Enough is a goal within reach. The interesting part arrives after you reach it.

Comments 14

  1. This is called growing up. This is called understanding being average is a legitimate way to be. This is called personality integration and grasping to be who in fact you are, and becoming OK with who actually you are in the face of who you pretend to yourself and others to be.

    A journeyman is a person who has acquired competence and skill through their blood sweat and tears, enough to deserve recognition and success, but not enough to be called a master. Master is yet to come. Master happens when you’ve seen it all and solved it all, suffered failure and over come the failure and own the experience. My father (given it’s father’s day) was a professional engineer meaning he had the stamp from the state to qualify plans as sound from an engineering perspective. It like licensure for engineering and carries letters like MD, They are called PE. You can charge for being a PE because no project gets insured without the stamp. My dad became a Master engineer during his career. At the end of his career he was the one management, the bosses, and younger engineers turned to for advice because he had done it all and successfully completed the journey. My dad got to be a professional engineer and an engineering master not by accident. It was a deliberate path and required substantially more work but he saw the value in the process and embraced the experience. He was successful in his family was married to the same woman till he died. Launched 4 successful kids created something of a legacy, I can still go to several mid west universities and see buildings he built and designs he concocted. He built enough of a fortune to live comfortably, retire comfortably and support my mother in her old age. Her daily hamburgers are the result of his deliberate planning.

    This is the nature of life in America. You can become and then be, who you want to be, and succeed, in relative freedom, but you won’t get there without a plan and the work it takes to implement said plan. You won’t get there if you truncate the process. You will never be a Master if you quit when you’re a journeyman and you won’t deserve master status if you quit to go live on a beach at 35. You’ll just be a loser with a million bucks. A kind of sycophant tycoon pretending to be the Master of the universe but actually leveraged out the yin yang teetering on the brink of destruction. It IS the stuff burn out and suicide is made of. The pathology is trying to substitute a projection for reality. Instead of living in a grounded state where chaos and entropy is manageable, you live in an excited state where everything is reactive. The journey is to get to ground and acquire some degree of mastery along the way.

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      “The journey is to get to ground…”

      That’s a perfect image, a bit of current that can either wreak havoc in tissues where it does not belong and might cause damage or go to ground and transfe charge to a destination that can handle it without suffering harm.

      Reminds me of Wallace Stegner’s wonderfully titled, “Angle of Repose.”

  2. The now individual has grown far wiser and realizes what truly matters in life.

    The then person is one that has a storybook idealism that unfortunately typically is unattainable.

    I too have seen this shift in my own personal life. If only this wisdom could have been incorporated earlier but still there are a couple of good decades left to implement it and have a worthwhile life.

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  3. Hey CD,

    You are a writer while I simply write.

    I am forever grateful that my bar was always so low. I pretty much skipped most of your “then” stages. I always found the academic route annoying at best and careerism at its worst.

    Hope you had a wonderful Father’s day CD.

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      Dr. MB,

      Thanks for your always kind words. My latest refrain to the kids when they go at one another’s jugulars is to remind them they always have the choice to tear each other down or build each other up. You always build me up, for which I’m truly grateful.

      I had a couple of genuine academic heroes I looked up to, and while they were not without warts, I sought to please them and for a couple of years try on for size a version of their lives that turned out to be ill-suited for my goals.

      I’m not surprised you were able to withstand that desire to imitate the academics who trained you – that inoculation against needing to please others or conform to their expectations is valuable and something I’m trying to figure out how to confer on our kids.

      I worked on Father’s Day (as did my wife), but it was by choice – a life in the ED results in caring less about being off on an actual holiday. Instead, the day before, we took the kids to ice cream and played a family strategy game (Settlers of Catan) for a couple of hours, and ate delicious food prepared at home. A perfect day together.

      In exchange for having given a new mom in my group the opportunity to celebrate the day with her husband and newborn, tomorrow I’ll make it to a milestone event for the daughter of a friend I’ve known since we were in preschool.

      Appreciate your patronage,


  4. “How can I subtract an aggravation each year so that my actual and ideal lives more closely resemble one another.”

    I love this. It prods me along the path towards my ideal life NOW, rather than some point in the future when I’ve accumulated X or attained X milestone.

    Your Now is killing it! Congratulations on an enviable present state of being.

    — TDD

  5. I really like this. It’s a really thoughtful way of putting into words a phenomenon that many of us are going through (or have). Your THEN statements are full of “what I want” and your NOW statements are full of “this is what’s important; what I understand; what I am”. As the Buddhists suggest: the key to contentment is in not wanting. Not that I have this figured out! – in fact, coincidentally – and proof that I’m struggling to understand it – I have a blog post on the same theme in the works!

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      You’ve scooped me many times with a well-written post that neatly articulated some concept my brain could not fully wrap itself around.

      Looking forward to your post. And not worrying about wanting to be first to blurt out my thoughts, incomplete or inelegant as they might be.

  6. Is it wisdom or selection bias? Every young person pities older folks and older folks grieve the foolishness of the young. Who hasn’t felt the age they were, at every point in life, was not the best age to be? Wiser than their younger selves and more vital than their future selves.

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      Final sentence is absolutely wonderful, Steveark.

      The belief that fewer years are ahead of you than behind you is sufficient motive for a shifting perspective.

      As Gasem is fond of saying, you never step in the same river twice.

  7. I love this post. It might make a nice recurring blog series. Then/nows are seen regularly in daily life. I will try to come up with some, too.

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  8. This is interesting because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about daily habits. I’ve read various books over the years about habits and the latest one was “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. You might find it a fascinating read.

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