Skip to Main Content

Advertisement

Skip Nav Destination

Knowing Nothing Has Meant Everything

November 30, 2023

December 2023

Aaron Gerds, MD

Aaron Gerds, MD, is the deputy director for clinical research at Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute and associate professor at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

 

 

It’s hard to believe another zodiac has gone around and we are at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting once again. Amid all the hustle and bustle, it is a great time to reflect. And as an MPN (myeloproliferative neoplasms) doc is prone to do, I’ve been thinking about Janus, the Roman god of doors, gates, and transitions, who looks both forward and backward. Take groundbreaking science, mix it with a community of colleagues, add some beautiful southern California weather, a couple of tacos, and BAM! I am fully invigorated to charge headlong into the next year. Looking back is a quieter exercise for me, as an internal swell builds as I listen to presentations, look at posters, and consider how far we have come during our latest trip around the sun.

Coinciding with my annual reflection, I was graciously invited by ASH News Daily to participate in their 10 questions section. One question got me thinking. “When starting my career, I wish I had known … BLANK.” Jokingly, I led with, “The Texas Rangers will win the 2023 World Series so I can make some carefully placed investments at the sportsbook.” Of course, this would be in violation of some rules of time travel – right, Biff? Stalling with this silliness allowed for more thought. Then I got to a real answer: nothing.

The concept of traveling back through time is an interesting one. Contrary to what the Back to the Future movies would have us think, Stephen Hawking believed that traveling back in time isn’t possible. He developed tongue-in-cheek evidence to support his point of view. On June 28, 2009, he held a party, but nobody showed up. It was a party for time travelers, so he sent invitations to the prospective (or retrospective) partygoers after the event, providing the exact coordinates in space and time. He did this with the hope that the invitations would last long enough for the development of time machines, thereby allowing attendees to go back in time to attend. Because no one showed up, he concluded that time travel is not possible. Of course, there are alternative explanations, such as that the invitations did not last long enough or simply that the future guests did not like the look of the party and decided not to attend. Until Marty McFly appears, this may be the best prospective evidence we have regarding time travel.

Maybe our inability to travel back in time is a good thing, as it may be better not to know the future. Like a good health care employee, I got my vaccines in October ahead of respiratory viral season. I know some like to watch, but after the nurse unsheathed the needle, I looked away so I couldn’t tell the exact timing of the stick. In this way, the reduction in pain is commensurate with reduction in anticipation. The GI Joe cartoons of my youth claimed that knowing is half the battle, which is true! To really make a difference, the bad event would not only need to be foreknown, but there would need to be an ability to avoid it, or at least lessen the consequences. Even when anticipated, some things are unavoidable. Like a vaccine injection, if I had knowledge of every bad thing that was going to happen in my career, the anticipation of those events would be paralyzing.

A lot has been written about resilience in the past few years. Resilience is not only an important tool for emotional and mental well-being, but it can also be a great teacher. Knowing and then avoiding may lessen the opportunity to grow. If we don’t get knocked down, how will we get back up again? In my experience, a lesson learned the hard way tends to stick with me the most.

The statement “I wish I had known” also carries an undertone of regret. Regret, a counter to resilience, can be dangerous when it hangs around and stymies forward movement. Dwelling on missed opportunities and past mistakes can trap you in a cycle of self-doubt and second-guessing. Without a time machine, the past cannot be changed, and it is important to muster the courage to seize the opportunities in front of us, unburdened by the weight of what may happen. We must live in the here and now, appreciating the journey rather than fixating on the wrong turns and wishing we had known.

So, what do I wish I knew when starting my career? Nothing! Not knowing anything good or bad has allowed me to be uninhibited and get to where I am today. However, the one thing I did know was that a career in hematology would be rich: rich with learning, rich with friends and colleagues, and most importantly, richer by being able to care for patients with blood diseases.

Aaron Gerds, MD
Editor-in-Chief


The content of the Editor’s Corner is the opinion of the author and does not represent the official position of the American Society of Hematology unless so stated.

Have a comment about this editorial? Let us know what you think; we welcome your feedback. Email the editor your response, along with your full name and professional affiliation if you’d like us to consider publishing it, at ACNEditor@hematology.org.

 

Advertisement

Connect with us:

CURRENT ISSUE
February 2024

Advertisement

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal

Advertisement