COMMENTARY

Advice to My Younger Self

Allan M. Block, MD

September 21, 2022

He's 24 years younger than I am, recently married, no kids. Just starting out as a neurologist. He also has a full head of hair, something I'm admittedly jealous of.

He's always in a sweater, something that seems oddly out of place in Phoenix, Arizona.

He's the picture on my hospital ID.

Dr Allan Block

I don't go to the hospital much anymore, but he still sits in my car, greeting me whenever I open the center console to get my sunglasses or phone charger. He looks very enthusiastic about starting his career. I clearly remember the day I had the picture taken, as a newly-minted attending getting his first hospital privileges.

Sometimes I talk to him. Usually it's just silly advice ("bet on the '16 Cubs"). Other times I wonder what he'd do in certain situations, with all his youthful enthusiasm. I'm sure he wonders the same about me, with my 24 years of experience.

To a large extent we are the same people we started out as, but time changes us, in ways besides the obvious (like my hairs jumping off like lemmings). We learn from experience, both good and bad.

Looking back at him (or even the older pic on my medical school application) I have no complaints about where life and my career have taken me. Would there be a few things I might have changed if I could go back?

Realistically, maybe one or two, both involving my father, but neither of them would likely change where I am.

But as far as medicine goes? Not really. The things I liked then, that got me into the field? I still enjoy them. The horse hockey? Yeah, it's always there, probably has gotten worse over time, and it still bothers me. But there isn't a job that doesn't have its share of cow patties. It's just a matter of trying not to step in them more than necessary as you do the parts you enjoy.

Sometimes I look at my younger self, and wonder what I'd really say to him if we actually met.

Probably just "good luck, enjoy the ride, and ditch the sweater."

We measure our gains out in luck and coincidence
Lanterns to turn back the night.
And put our defeats down to chance or experience
And try once again for the light.
– Al Stewart

Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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