My dentist was my guru.
As a kid, my brothers and I always went to the same dentist. Dr. Serwin was kind of a strange guy. Big beard. Big laugh. Smelled kind of funny. But he was a great dentist and I always liked him, even when he was drilling into my molars.
When I was in college I went in for an appointment and he asked me if I’d like to go out to lunch sometime. He said I was an ‘intriguing’ personality and he wanted to get to know me better. Weird, right? Of course I accepted and soon found myself debating and decoding all kinds of topics at his favorite lunch spot.
Over the next few years we went out dozens of times. I quickly realized that this guy was really just moonlighting as a dentist. He was also a full-on genius, philosopher, thinker, storyteller and artist.
He would deconstruct my consciousness over club sandwiches, challenge my notions of reality as we sipped iced tea, and poke at my beliefs just to test my conviction.
At that point in my life he was the only one who had ever really spoken to me as an adult, respected me as an individual and pushed me to go deeper.
Among many big ideas, he spoke about the absolute non-negotiability of time.
No one knows when they‘ll die. It could be fifty years from now or it could be this afternoon. If you’re lucky you’ll be fifteen years old for exactly one year. You’ll be thirty for exactly a year. Fifty-six for a year. If you’re even luckier you’ll make it to a ripe old age.
So here’s the thing. The tenuous world of a fifteen year old only lasts 365 days. You’ll never be fifteen again. You will never grow physically in the same way. You will never interact with the opposite sex the same way. You will never rebel against your parents in the same way.
By thirty you will have experienced things that you can never unlearn, good or bad. By fifty-six, your life story will be full of even more triumph and tragedy, dreams realized and lost.
It’s all good. Even if it’s not, it ain’t gonna change. Every year is an opportunity to live big, deep and strong.
Every hour an invisible clock in the sky (with your name on it) keeps tick-tocking away, whether you think about it or not.
Your time can be traded for money, destroyed in traffic, wasted on reality tv or granted to your passions and loved ones. Some of this is impossible to avoid. Some of it is pissed away without much thought. Some of it honored.
My guru dentist planted this into my head many years ago. I heard him clearly and I think about this often. Even now I thank him for his wisdom, his insight.
Dr. Serwin died of a heart attack at fifty-six.
How do you honor your time on earth?
Do you have any undercover gurus?
What have they taught you?