Always Be What You Is

Today’s number: 17.3 stone

When I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of cartoons. They were great back then. Superheroes. Herculoids. Foghorn Leghorn. Tom and Jerry seriously murdering each other. The later Saturday fare (Archies, Smurfs, The Banana Splits, et. al.) always seemed to feature insipid characters trying to indoctrinate the viewer to be Good Citizens. I’ll take mindless violence anyday.

To this day, for reasons that are unclear, I remember a particular cartoon from the 60’s: “Tooter Turtle”. It was definitely in the Indoctrination category than in the Fostering Future Felons genre, but it made an impression on me, perhaps through sheer repetition. In each episode, Tooter Turtle (a stupid turtle) would insist that his friend, Mr. Wizard (a lizard), would turn him into something else. Tooter would ask to be a knight or a hunter or a sky diver and Mr. Wizard would oblige. Tooter would then experience an episode (possibly hallucinogenic) where he would see what it was like to be this alternate identity, would get into trouble and would end up with the same moan: “Help me, Mr. Wizard!”. The wizard would hear him, incite his magic incantation (or, perhaps, inject the turtle with Thorazine) and Tooter would return to reality. Mr. Wizard would then repeat his oft-repeated mantra, “Be just vhat you is, not vhat you is not. Folks vhat do zis are ze happiest lot.” You could tell the Wizard was wise due to his German accent.

“Always be what you is” (attributed to “Dennis Ross” but clearly ripped off from Tooter Turtle) is a good motto to live by. To me, it’s a corollary of “don’t regret your mistakes” and “never look back.” Let me explain.

We are the total sum of every decision we’ve ever made and every random happenstance that has affected us. Just as the flap of a butterfly’s wing could have caused hurricane Katrina, so might have any change in our past decisions and circumstances caused us to become different people.

If I’d not sold Microsoft stock to build a house in 1993, I might have an extra $5M in my bank account. If I’d not eaten all those cookies, I might weigh 30 pounds less. If I’d taken my father to the doctor more often, perhaps he’d be alive today. Perhaps, but then, again, I wouldn’t be me. Oh, I’d have the same DNA and many other recognizable characteristics but the things that define who I am, at this moment, would be different.

Perhaps, I’d be in a different job. Perhaps I would have left Microsoft early and started a company and made a killing in the dot com days. Perhaps I would have started and lost it all. Perhaps, being 30 pounds lighter, I’d assume myself to be healthier, would have never exercised and would have died from a heart attack 5 years ago. Perhaps, I’d be agonizing over putting my father in a nursing home.

Unless you are truly despondent and have absolutely nothing in your current life that you would keep (in which case, you need more than a change in mottos), you should accept the wisdom and folly of everything you’ve ever done. You are the sum of every decision you’ve and every random happenstance in your past. There is no more point in regretting your mistakes than in wishing you were someone else. Always be what you is.

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