Recovering from two desperately needed weeks of vacation, about half of it on the Big Island of Hawaii. The whole place constitutes one of the wonders of nature and what people are capable of doing with it. While the geology and geography intrigued me, so did the history. These natives were isolated for centuries but they set up their own form of royalty and religion, making the public subservient to both. They created litmus tests such as places of refuge to absolve their inhabitants of misconduct, irrespective of what the misconduct might have been. Life and talent did not seem to have a very high intrinsic value nor did what we think of as rational assessments of theology and justice. While it was a schlep for us to get there with modern jet service, whalers and coffee farmers and entrepreneurial ranchers managed to get there as a specific destination in the mid 19th century. People limited to that environment of natural and social fragility must have acquired early in their lives the coping mechanism of IT IS WHAT IT IS. Prospects for challenging either volcanoes, daily rainfall, or a social system that did not regard intellect highly were futile.
We do a little better than they did. Short of libel, I can express pretty much what I want with little fear of serious adverse consequence. My house keeps me sheltered in inclement weather. We still have natural disasters best handled with insurance to mitigate risk. With all that, there is still a place for IT IS WHAT IT IS.
While on vacation I exercised most days, ate breakfast all days except one while away, immersed myself in new experience from different microbrews to scenery that exists nowhere else. I was not the slave of the clock, though there were a few time dependent items like scheduled tours or local events. Eventually the days on the calendar move along, customary routines return and IT IS WHAT IT IS takes a different perspective, particularly in December as we transition to a new calendar year and I create my semi-annual list of projects that I might like to tackle in the ensuing months. In the week since I departed the Big Island, I've not exercised at all, got up too late to enjoy my weekly large breakfast on Saturday, acclimated myself to the usual irritations of the lens of my new glasses popping out and the cell phone failing, taking with it some of my Hawaii photos. IT IS WHAT IT IS Not that there is any real barrier to exercise, breakfast, special coffee or microbrews. But there are also obligations to show up at work, take the best care of the people entrusted to me that I can, grumble about the schedule the management put in place, attend services on shabbos morning most of the time, do the dishes, keep the clutter manageable. Theoretically I could retire, could become secular, could hire a household organizer but then I would lose much of whatever accomplishment I have, unless I replace these things with other things that I'd like to do more. But with my house paid for and my kids on the path that any parent would like them to be on IT IS WHAT IT IS seems a good place to be even if I might like some other things to be different than they are now.
This past week I received a Facebook message that a high school classmate who I did not know well but certainly remembered had been killed on the same Connecticut Highway that I used to drive along. She drove responsibly only to be struck head on by another car driving the wrong way on the interstate. I knew where she lived and that she was a pediatric nurse. Knowing that some medical classmates had settled in the area, both radiologists, I checked to see if either of them were at the hospital where the ambulance transferred her. It was not to be, but it did prompt me to do searches on a number of my classmates, now all with decades of medical experience. We all come up on Google in some way as various rate a physician sites keep a list of all licensed practitioners, solicit patient feedback and try to sell that to consumers. It has never reality caught on. In addition, most hospitals have staff listings with physician pictures such that a search engine can not only find them but show the effect of thirty years on appearance. Once I did these two I just kept going, looking for classmates who made a splash in med school and those more obscure. Most just ended up on the rating sites and sometimes staff sites. A few did exceptional things, a few roamed from place to place, a few got promoted either within their medical center or at a new one. Some accomplished much in early to mid-career only to find that their bibliography's last entry was twenty years back. Some went the other direction, working for a while, then getting an MBA or new fellowship. My own search may be one of the few where people can make an assessment of me as a person.
I feel a little envious in a way of people who latched onto universities and NIH, advancing as they matured within their organizations. I might have like to have done that but I also don't see anything on those searches about those classmates having family lives or acquiring prominence in the community. IT IS WHAT IT IS People will make their marks in their own way. We are not all destined for the professional limelight. "and all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas."
Then again, IT AIN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER either. As the calendar year and my last set of semi-annual projects draw to a close, most did not get done but most got worked on intermittently. Who is rich? One who derives pleasure from his portion? Avot 4:1 My friendships, blog followers, and professional aspirations may not have reached goal, and they may not have been destined to, but the effort generates its own measure of satisfaction. I have the friends currently available, my blog has its share of hits, and a certain accomplishment accrues from my work, even if less than I hoped. And there is another six months ahead to work some more on these things and a few new items.