Déjà Vu All Over Again

The conversation became very interesting when Mr. Salida asked me: “Would you go to Knox all over again? Would you use your sane skillset for the same major? Would you pick the same career?” Essentially would I do it all over again?

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Sunset near Carlsbad, NM.

I’m frequently amazed and frustrated by my own cerebral cortex. I’m surprised what I remember, and am concerned that the minutiae is choking out more valuable information.

I have a good friend who lives to make top ten lists. I have a list of categorical favorites., But I can’t rank things from 10 down to 1. For some things (like Jazz, my favorite musical genre lately), I can only tell you an era and people I like (1940s to 1960s, and a big fan of the Miles Davis Quintet and Vince Guaraldi).

I was in the shower this weekend, and my mind got wandering to favorite comedians. Here’s the list:
All around favorite – Mike Birbiglia
Best story teller – Gabriel Iglesias
Funniest about things that anger the person – Chris Rock
Best political comic – Lewis Black
Guilty pleasure comic – Ron White
Most underated – John Mulaney
Most brutally honest – Christopher Titus

Christopher Titus, if you listen to his work, puts himself under the exploratory knife more than any comic working. It’s painful, it’s funny, it’s cringe worthy. His bit about coming from a “messed up family” should be required listening, for everyone.

I was thinking about brutal self honesty since the end of our trip. Our family friend, Mr. Salida, had 90 minutes with me while I grilled dinner for him. He had gone through a different life/career change and was interested in the thought process behind mine. We were in different professions, but there is some commonality in our lives. I was amazed at how interested he was in probabilities of me doing career “X” or career “Y”. He was very numbers, statistics driven for a man of a philosophical background.

The conversation became very interesting when Mr. Salida asked me: “Would you go to Knox all over again? Would you use your sane skill-set for the same major? Would you pick the same career?” Essentially would I do it all over again?

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Outside of Salida, CO.

That’s a tough one. We talked for a LONG time, and discussed various aspects of the three items, but I never answered the question (and Mr. Salida became interested in other topics).
So, here’s some givens:

-If I don’t go to go to Knox, I don’t meet & marry Sonia. That would be an AWFUL outcome for me. Then I don’t have my kids. And to answer a question no one asked, I’d experience the pain of Sonia’s miscarriage all over again in 2007. No miscarriage, no Allie-Al. That’s a deal breaker.

-I’m not overly sentimental about the past. “We glorify the past when future dries up.” -U2, “God, Part II” We need to learn from the past, but take our lessons and lumps and apply them to future growth. The past, for me, is frequently regarded as funny lessons to reminisce about, but ultimately to progress from.

-Given my profession, even with the difficulty and pain of a 5-6 year window, too much actual GOOD came from it to regret it. I helped a lot of people, and a lot of people enriched my life.

But the question is there. And it’s valid. What did I learn? It just hangs in my mind.
I can’t answer in terms of “I’d do this but not that. I’d study this, not that”. But I can give an honest answer to the question. Here’s what I would do. Since this is a hypothetical scenario anyway, permit me a little creative license. And any scenario without Sonia, Andrew, or Allison isn’t in play. Sorry, folks.

40 year old me sees a Delorean pull up and I get in. I can go back in time and visit me once. I would visit myself sometime between the ages of 19-21. Why? I had met my future wife, had been accepted to medical school, was starting early research in Chemistry (analytical chemistry to be precise. Go ahead and make the jokes), was training HARD for cross-country and track, working part-time, and generally being too serious about everything. It would be good timing to shake up my little world. If you need a date, pick August 31, 1997.

I’d step out of the Delorean. I would hope 20 year old me doesn’t keel over in laughter at the sight of me, nor does he cry “How did I become you?” and run away sobbing.

I’d put my arm around my shoulder (that’s great syntax, isn’t it?). Or I’d grab me by the shirt. Or punch me in the nose. I’d say one thing.

“Take routine inventories and analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. You know some of them already. Always be 100% honest with yourself. Your hopes. Your dreams, your motives. Your abilities. The areas that need improvement. Your future depends on it.”

And then I’d leave.

I’d probably need to fire up the Delorean two or three more times between 1997 and 2015.

The point is that brutal honesty is most important with oneself. It is the only way to get true growth and progression. But I’d love to tell the younger me those lines. If I could have taken this words to heart, I don’tknow what specifics would be different. Do I go to medical school? Am I pediatrician? A teacher? An underwater camel racer? All maybe. But I’ll l bet I would have dealt with my anxiety sooner. I would have found my voice sooner. I’d have been a more confident person.

But I wouldn’t do it all over again. It’s too past focused. And I wouldn’t want to do junior high again. And I certainly wouldn’t want to experience the anorexia, high school wrestling years (freshman and sophomore) over again. And certainly don’t make me relive my wife’s cardioversion over again. Those days have a limit of “one lifetime only.” I hope.

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For part of the last trip, Allison and I would share coffee in the morning.

Author: Jason Kesselring

I am a 40 year old pediatrician on sabbatical, happily married, and a father of two wonderful children. I fell out of the Ugly Tree, and hit every branch on the way down.

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