EDITORIAL - January 10, 2022
Right after a recent course on Furcations management by the French Society of Periodontology, one of the most brilliant and talented French periodontists asked me, while I was drinking champagne on a bateaux mouche along the Seine river (I can be even more mainstream, if you ask me), for some pieces of advice.
From his eager eyes, I immediately understood that his request went far beyond the ordinary practical suggestions, and that it had a wider perspective.
Essentially, he was asking for something that I deeply know and acknowledge, something that I would have asked myself at the age of 32 (yes, I have been 32, and no, it was not the Middle Ages); the question would sound something like: “Where should I go?”.
It was as if the colleague was willing to say: “I have a lot of energy, I am enthusiastic, I have a lot of grit, a lot of passion… How can I channel all this positive energy into something that will make me satisfied, happy, etc…?”.
I have to admit that I was struck by the depth of his question and his desire for direction. He was asking for that kind of mutual intergenerational aid that made both the academic and the healthcare systems thrive over generations. In practice, it works like this: “You have the strength and the will, I will tell you the way. When I am no longer here and time goes by, you will guide and someone else will provide the strength, the fire and the grit to follow the path, and so on and so forth, generation after generation.”.
Well, what to reply to a request so personal and existential?
Honestly, when I understood the depth of his request, I sipped my champagne and stared incredulously at my young colleague.
I pondered that instead of me giving him advice, I should have been the one to ask for it. In fact, I should be the one to ask “Where should I go? What should I become?”. At my age, I still believe that everything is yet to be fully comprehended and still has to be completely unraveled… how I wish I could ask: “I have a lot of strength, a lot of energy, how could I channel all this……”.
Well my dear friend, I feel exactly the same way: I have the same needs, the same doubts, the same burning desire.
There is just one difference, and this difference is not given by the higher number of years lived, but instead by the type of life that I was gifted with or that I was able to decide to live (provided that I was in any part or in any way responsible for this).
This one difference is that I know that the request is wrong.
Well, it is not the question itself, which is absolutely legitimate, what is wrong is the interlocutor. What I managed to comprehend over the years is that no one can really tell you which path to follow. I really would love to ask “Where should I go?”, but it was always clear to me that there was no one I could ask. I only had one guide: myself.
And this is the toughest test: the comprehension that in your life’s choices, in your life’s most important choices, it is your soul, the most remote and quiet part of yourself that you should follow. And it hurts, it hurts so bad. It feels like sailing in the open ocean: without any landmark whatsoever, you move on and on, despite everything.
I strongly believe that the crucial moment in mine and everyone’s life is the understanding that all this sense of uncertainty and dubiety should not be fled, thinking that someone could point us towards a clearer and more definite path for ourselves to follow. We really do not need projects used and worn by others, we really do not want second-hand visions. It would be easier, less painful and more reassuring… but it would not be authentic, it would not last or, worse, it would force us to live a parallel life… trapped between what the others wanted for us and what the circumstances led us to decide.
Accepting that this emptiness, this bewilderment are essential, accepting that going through all the pain is necessary to reach that peaceful place where, not our mind, but instead our soul, can freely guide us, is pivotal. We should never stop listening to our soul.
In conclusion my dear friend: screw everything, listen to everyone politely but remember that, in the end, the only person that can tell you where you should go is yourself.
You are your own master: listen to yourself.
Fuck the system