During the holiday break I took some time to organize a lot of old family pictures: deleting duplicates, merging those I pulled off my dad’s computer when he died (which was over 5 years ago), importing ones I took with old digital cameras that were in separate folders ... a bunch of stuff. Some were even childhood pics of me that had been scanned into digital formats. Lots of gigabytes. Lots of time spent watching the little “importing” wheel spin.
As I scrolled through them – literally 5,891 pics and 679 videos – I watched as it became more than a bunch of photos. I watched myself grow up, go through medical school, get married, raise a family. My hair went from brown to gray and receding. My kids went from toddlers to young adults about to leave for college.
It was the story of my life. Without meaning to, it’s what the pictures had become.
It was late at night, but I kept scrolling back and forth. My parents, wife, and others aged in front of me.
Looking in the mirror, or seeing others each day, we never notice the slow changes that time brings. You don’t really see it just thumbing through old photos, either.
But here, in the photos app (something entirely undreamed of in my childhood), I was watching it like it was a movie. Even childhood pictures of my parents. Them dating and getting married. Holding me after bringing me home from the hospital.
I’m certainly not the first to have these thoughts, nor will I be the last. We all go through life in a somewhat organized yet haphazard way, and only when looking backward do we really see how far we’ve come ... often realizing we’re past the halfway point.
Not that this is a bad thing. I mean, that’s life on Earth. It has its good and bad, and aging is part of the rules for all of us.
I suppose you could look at this in terms of our profession. We all (or at least most of us) start out as hospital patients. As we get older and become doctors, hopefully we need to see our own kind less often while at the same time seeing others as patients. As time goes by, most of us start to need to see doctors again, and as we retire and stop practicing medicine, we move back toward being patients ourselves.
For me, the pictures bring back memories and strike emotions in the way hearing or reading stories never can. They give new life to long-forgotten thoughts. Happy and sad, but overall a feeling of contentment that, so far, I feel like I’ve done more good than bad, more right than wrong.
I hope I always feel that way.
I hope everyone else does, too.
Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.