For My Father

Ten years ago today, my father passed away. The world lost a good man that day. A gifted surgeon, a loving father and husband, he was a man of many talents. He had a ranch and an old WWII era jeep. When we were kids he used to let us drive the jeep around on his ranch.

When I was very young he used to let me sit on his lap and steer the jeep while he ran the petals. I can remember the first time he did this. I sat there and did nothing as he let the jeep run off the road. He told me, “You have to steer the wheel”, as he put the jeep into reverse and backed up onto the road. It was a great lesson to me, and one I will never forget. You have to steer the wheel.

Later in life, when I was a teenager, I was driving the jeep at my uncle’s ranch and he was in the passenger seat. I managed to hang the jeep up on a rock by doing something foolish. As we were miles away from anywhere we had to walk back to the ranch house to get help. I remember we walked all the way back in silence. He was furious at me. But still, I could hear him say, “You have to steer the wheel”.

It is like this in life as well. You have to steer the wheel. You have to take control of your life. Make decisions and act on them in order to get what you want. It is imperative. You cannot just float through life as a piece of wood floats downstream. You have to grab the controls. You have to steer the wheel.

You may ask, “Yes, but what if I don’t know what I want. Where I should go?” My answer to this comes from Joseph Campbell, who said, “Follow your bliss”. In other words, do what makes you happy. Pursue your interests. Do what your heart tells you to do. This is especially true in your job selection. You will spend most of your life working, so you really want to be doing something that you want to do.

In my own case, I always wanted to do something with computers. I felt that computer science was the future, even back in 1979. Eventually, I was able to make a career of it, and even managed to blend in my father’s medical interests in as well. Through bioinformatics, I have been able to satisfy my own desire to work with computers while also playing my own small part in furthering genomic and cancer research. It has been both challenging and fun, and while I have not been directly saving lives as my father had, I hope that indirectly I have contributed to others well–being.

So grab the wheel and steer. You may be surprised at where you end up. My hope is that whatever you choose, you will end up will benefitting society as well as yourself. Whether it will be helping disabled children or winning the Nobel Prize in something, I am sure you will make a difference in the world. And in this way we will all benefit.

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