So, where are you from?

“So, where are you from?” It is a question I have been asked well over a dozen times in the last few months. While my answer is not as complicated as some of those I know, every time I gave my response, I felt somewhat of a cringe. What had prompted this question was a major transitional point in my life – the bridge all budding doctors face as they end their time in medical school and jump to the next set of obligations bundled together and termed ‘residency.’ While walking down this bridge, you are forced to meet many strangers, and in the dense fog of the unknown, you will occasionally bump into them and shake hands, stumble over them and fall down, or just miss them by a hair’s breadth and not really interact with them at all, except maybe other than to be aware of their presence and the potential encounter that could have been.

“Something inexorable seeds itself in the place of your origin. You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.”

– CB Kline, A Piece of the World

When asked this question of my origin, I felt it necessary to give some temporal and spatial rendition of my life, so as to frame myself and my experience of 26 years into a few short sentences and rehearsed chuckles. After every answer, though thorough, I was not sure if I was correct. Sure, I was born in the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I went to school there and then lived in New Orleans for a time. Despite this, I do not feel an intrinsic connection to that place. I lived on an island for 18 months for the first half of my medical education, but I would consider that rock in the middle of the sea anything but home. The largest continuous stretch of time after that was spent in Kansas City, Missouri for my clinical rotations, which was, of course relevant to mention for the purposes of an interview for a position for medical residency, but otherwise held no strong ties in my heart.

My better half, whom I met while in New Orleans, is situated in the quintessential Midwestern city of Omaha, Nebraska, where I have spent many wonderful weekends, though rarely longer than that. When I reflect on my origins, I feel as though the places that I have mentioned above, while encompassing my geographical history, do not do justice to my cultural heritage. My parents, immigrants from the western part of India, have always emphasized this part of themselves upon me, and I would be doing them a disservice if I did not mention that my skin is tan brown and I speak and understand Gujarati. Ironically, when I do reveal my origins – that I was born in the deep Southern United States – often I am told that I have not even the slightest hint of southern drawl.

Perhaps the reason I have been ruminating so much on the question of “where are you from?” is because, like many people in my shoes applying for the next big endeavor in their lives, I have become keenly aware of my sense of identity, which many can – and do – conflate with origin. The phrases “I am a Midwesterner” or “I’m a Manhattanite” certainly paint very different pictures, and when an interviewer is trying to ascertain the core components of an individual, the base layer painted by my city of birth can overshadow even the strongest of second or third coats if those coats are not painted thickly or skillfully enough. My origin and my identity, in my mind, are distinct, though not wholly separate. I suspect with the next iteration of my training – my residency – this will change, and I will adopt my program as part of my identity, mainly from the perceived effort and hours spent at the institution.

Ultimately, like in many arguments or discussions, the critical point – the “fromness” of a person – is very subjective and can be defined in many ways. Obviously, “where are you from?” is a fairly innocuous ice breaker, and I am thorough enough with my response to answer it properly and provide other points of discussion to move forward.


Thanksgiving 2016

This Thanksgiving was a true merging of families. It was at the comfortable abode of the Krantz Krewe in Cortlandt Manor, NY. As Amanda and I are getting married next year, I was grateful to see my parents and her parents at the same table during this time of year.


We all shared much love, and the memories we took away will be cherished.


Personality types

What you do is dictated by your personality type. I mean ‘what you do’ as the sum of your actions. For instance, a 35-year-old bright-eyed teacher and a 55-year-old power broker are not going to have the same take on life. The net result of their lives will satisfy each, of course. The teacher, young and happy, will be motivated to and content to instruct and influence young minds. The power broker will be happy with his copious amounts of money and clever business intuition. The teacher will not feel the slightest ounce of regret for not pursing financial glory and monetary acumen, and the power broker will not have any remorse for not spreading knowledge among those seeking it.

A problem arises, however, if that last statement does not come to pass. The thing is, it never will. A person who is truly driven to take up the call of [X] will pursue it. I give age references in the example because I think most all people understand where they are going, and if they do not, they spend time to figure this out and move forward. By 35 and by 55, people should be a far ways down their chose path of action. At age 25, for instance, perhaps the teacher was doing Teach for America; the power broker was possibly interning at valuation firms.

This is a universal principle I am highlighting. People will do what they want with their lives. On top of this, however, is how they pursue what they want. Goals can vary, but the means to achieve them do not. There are two ways to achieve things: (1) slowly and steadily or (2) directly and quickly.

  • The first approach is to grow trees. You plant a seed. Tend it, water it, and observe it to ensure its growth. Overdoing any of these things can be detrimental in the long run. If done properly however, this incremental approach will result in a tremendous or fruitful tree. This is good for a career, a relationship, a physique, strength training, diet, etc.
  • The second approach is to build a house. You know you want a house, it will only be made as quickly as you chop the timber, nail the boards, and lay the floor. This is good for projects, immediate tasks, learning concepts, endurance training, etc.

In order to achieve what you want, each tactic must be applied in the appropriate scenario. Here is where personality types come into play. You can only be successful at what are you are trying to achieve if you understand the difference between the two approaches. People who are always rash and impatient will always try the second approach. People who are largely complacent and passive will try the first. The perfect personality type, like most things, is a balance of the two. Rash and quick with some things, complacent and understanding with others. This balance is needed to properly achieve anything.

There are several things you can change in the world, but personality is not one of them (short of a lobotomy). If you ever find yourself spinning your wheels (as I have) and repeatedly doing a task poorly, personality needs to be taken into consideration. Make your personality work for you. Don’t change something you can’t.

I have noticed that I have bursts of wild motivation and desires of accomplishment and then spans of listless torpor. I’ve been working on finding a healthy balance of the two. Somewhere in the last year I think I became increasingly impatient and frustrated with things outside of my control (read: medical school). This was reflected in my actions. I would have wild bouts where I would try and do everything in my capacity. I was forcing myself to change and be ‘on’ all the time. I would swing from lab to the E.R. all while fasting, and then I would run on top of that.

During this I would be plagued with thoughts of where I ‘should’ be. I was in the wrong mindset. I would come off of this period drained and do deliberately mindless activity to compensate: browse online, watch videos, eat poorly. Not focus. Then, to absolve myself of this, I would repeat this process.

I now recognize that things are better treated as a continuum. I should listen to my body and be satisfied with the work I do. It is not a penance I am paying. Now, I am eager with my work because I am learning about the capacity of research. At some point (not that I have reached this) you know everything there is known about a topic and as a researcher or engineer you realize it is your drive to add to this body of knowledge or use it as you see appropriate.

Currently, I have been resting a mid-back injury, and training has taken a back seat. Every time I do pull-ups, my back is worse for it, so for now, they will take a break. I will not atrophy.

I say this insofar as to not be ‘disappointed’ by my lack of constant activity. To me, progress is the single most important thing in life. Progress is personally defined, but if must occur. As detailed above, progress can be slow or fast. As long as it occurs, I will maintain my sanity.