Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How easily can I be replaced?

I came across an interesting question on a discussion forum this morning: how easily can you be replaced? It's a hypothetical question which has more relevance than "would it be possible with time travel to kill your own grandfather?" even though we're not really equipped to deliver concrete answers to either one.

In thinking about this problem, I was worried that it would make me depressed. At first glance, I'm totally replaceable. Certainly, I could be replaced in terms of economics: I teach a few lessons here and there. One wouldn't have to go very far to find a musical replacement, either. Years of auditions have shown me that there is a small but persistent community of bass trombonists who have more or less the same skills I do. I've contested with them many times, and it often comes down to who has the luckier day.

But those thoughts were mainly about filling my place with someone completely different. What would it take to actually REPLACE me? As in, what would the list of requirements be to actually have someone take my place AS me?

In a lot of automatic (but still very important) ways, I am not replaceable. To my family (surely) and my friends (hopefully), I'm individualistic enough that I could not be easily replaced by someone else. Perhaps my replacement would use enough three-syllable words to earn the same "must read the dictionary for fun" cracks I've experienced. Maybe he'd tell stupid puns and get eye-rolled all the time, too.

I'd need to be replaced by someone who loves learning and understanding more than just about anything. It would need to be someone who had spent the majority of his adult life so far in school for a degree that may not EVER lead to a career, but who wouldn't let that get them down. It would have to be someone who draws happiness and satisfaction from helping other people. It would be someone whose friends know they can count on for just about anything and any hour (I'm still working on incorporating the 2AM-7AM bracket).

It would have to be someone who enjoys learning enough to put up with listening to people fight, simply to find out what they're passionate about. A person who is interested in every scrap of paper that his friends would put up on their metaphorical refrigerators. A person who looks at all the things he doesn't know how to do well, like cooking, running, organization, painting, programming, memorizing, composition, electronics, and think about how much exciting room for improvement he has!

It would have to be someone who can handily accept the sincere apologies and treat it as water under the bridge, while still never forgetting the circumstances in case it became important later. It would be someone who paradoxically loves people who are passionate and hates the arguments between the zealous.

A person who learned the hard way that there is only so much he can (or should) do to help friends fix themselves.

A person who, even after studying politics and national issues for years, wonders why we all can't be a TINY bit more accepting of each other. A person who appreciates any pay for a musical gig, no matter how small, because that means getting away with money for something he'd gladly do for free.

I've barely scratched the surface, so don't start cloning anyone based on this list alone. Whoever that is would end up a poor replacement for me.

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