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I remember perfectly where I was when I embraced, with all my soul, my dream of becoming the world’s best heart surgeon. It was many years ago. I was half my current size. My face was twice as oily. My chief worry then was fitting in with my classmates, and not, as now, fitting in a person’s arteries.

In a mouthful, I was in the seventh grade.

One cool November morning, it so happened that our teacher, Mr. Simon, a man most disagreeable for his lack of generosity and abundance of sloth, couldn’t make it to class. In his stead came the substitute. A tall woman, she towered over her pupils as she introduced herself. Her name was Ms. Donne. None of us had heard anything about her. All that I could tell was that she seemed authentic. She talked and walked like the realization of being, as they say, comfortable in one’s skin.

After calling roll and asking us to sit, she put the clipboard down, and said, “Alright. I have been summoned to educate you in the history of the great state of South Dakota. But I shall take an atypical route with you first since I will probably never see you all again, nor you me, after this hour.

“Let me quickly impart to you a key lesson, one I earnestly wish someone had shared with me when I was a bumbling, fumbling 12-year-old.” She paused and pointed to the first person in the first row. “You, my girl, tell me your name and what you want to be when you grow up.”

“My name is Judith, and I wish to be a firefighter,” the young girl replied.

“Amazing. No reason why you won’t become one, and a great one,” rejoined Ms. Donne. “How about you, my boy?” She directed herself to the ginger next to Judith.

“I’m Mark, and I would like to be a jazz drummer.”

“There we go. Buddy Rich 2.0 in the making. Fantastic,” Ms Donne said. “And you, son?” She nodded towards the person who sat by Mark.

“My name is Smith,” I responded. “And—and—I don’t know.”

“That’s okay, Smith. We don’t know everything all the time. But what I’d like to find out is whether you are being sincere. Do you really not know?”

I hesitated, saying at last, “I don’t know.”

“See, but you do know. I can tell that you do. Come on, Smith, what do you want to be? And don’t think: Just say.”

“A heart surgeon.”

“A heart surgeon. Perfect. So, class, that initial trepidation of Smith’s is exactly what may keep him from one day repairing cardiovascular systems. For if he fails to grasp his dream, his dream must slip through his fingers like sand. You can become anything you wish—you just cannot doubt it. And why?

“Well, because there is no such thing as a bad idea—no such thing—when it comes to your life’s destination. Smith, see yourself as that heart surgeon. And can’t you see yourself as the greatest one? Well, do see it! because it is not a bad idea. Not at all. And that is what I mean to impart to you all. Know that when it comes to your life’s destination, there are no bad ideas.”

Keven Balderas

Keven obsesses, nearly to the point of madness, over a new interest every two years. So far, his interests have included Latin, drawing, skateboarding and photography.

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