Jewish Journal


August 21, 2013

Did You Get The Memo?



By Dean Steinberg

So, if all goes according to plan, in a few weeks I will no longer be just Dean, I will be Dr. Dean. So what, you ask? Lots of doctors bopping around town, I agree…but how many of them have five (yes five, that’s not a typo) d.u.i.'s under their belt. The only person I've ever known who received six d.u.i.'s in California, when all of them received a guilty sentence  (none dismissed or reduced to wet reckless or driving while impaired) got 15 years in prison for that sixth one. A bit of an incentive for yours truly to stay on the good side of MADD.

How many of those Docs failed algebra one, got kicked out of two high schools, didn't learn how to read (or even fold) a map until their thirties? I could go on and on about the crazy miracle that occurred, which allowed this previously Mac-size dump truck to be in a position where I might actually help someone and do some good in this world. But, the simple fact is the reason I was able to finally accomplish something fairly cool, something I had dreamed about since I was thirteen and first sat on the shrinks couch, which had been otherwise unfeasible, is I finally got the memo. The one I never received growing up. The one which, if had I received and internalized, may have saved myself years of pain, grief, frustration, and the ever-popular, massive pop psychology term (I can't go a day without hearing) LOW SELF- ESTEEM; that memo---life's accomplishments, and ultimately happiness, is about showing up.

It sounds simple, and it is…despite at times, being incredibly difficult. That was my problem, I got simplicity mixed-up with difficulty. The difficulties such as, why show up and be present? There is always someone else also showing up who is smarter, more focused, better looking, more popular, etc.. But actually, it's true!

The hardest course in my doctoral program, statistics, was jam-packed with young, brilliant math whizzes, many of them Asian, who amused themselves during class by texting each other, while I poured over every word the instructor uttered, desperately trying to make sense of something. They were probably texting how stupid I was. Despite this miserable experience, (pulling my fingernails out with a pliers would have been more enjoyable), I never missed a minute of class. I showed up. In all honesty, I was far less anxious walking into Hill Street Court to surrender to go to prison, then I was walking into that Statistics final exam. But, I showed up. 

Okay, I will add an addendum to the showing up. I guess this is the big piece, which makes the simple act more difficult. In showing up, whatever the effort requires - getting through traffic, devoting ones ever-so precious time (mine was usually otherwise spent watching Sopranos re-runs), even getting my ass out of bed - this effort, and effort by and large is not that hard for something I want and is attainable. Hell, I'd walk to Pacoima for quarter gram of dope. But in this effort, is the undeniable self-admission that what I am doing is something I really want, and anybody with half a wit knows it's far easier to stomach not getting what you want when you slept through it, compared to when you actually put in the effort. That sucks! That hurts! And for me avoiding sucking was worth not showing up for three decades. I did however finally realize the erroneous memo that I did get which allowed three decades to slip by, that memo......"don't sweat it, you can do it tomorrow".

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