Look Around

What he did with what he was given, to me is proof that our life choices may not always be what we originally intended. Sometimes it seems like nothing we planned is going right. How could our plans fail?

The inspiration for Sherlock Holmes was Dr. Joe Bell and other literary personages. He had the ability to correctly diagnose his patients with just one look (plus their profession and where they lived.) Professor Challenger was based on a man of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s day, also. The larger-than-life explorer and bravura scientist who knew in his bones that man could travel to unexplored areas of the earth, find dinosaurs, and return to tell the tale. Conan Doyle had some amazing professors at Edinburgh Medical.

When Dr. Bell looked out into the theatre and saw Conan Doyle constantly writing notes in the midst of his medical students, he was so impressed he took him on as his assistant. But Doyle wasn’t writing medical notes. He was creating the basis for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Only he didn’t know it at the time. A few years later when he decided to birth the first scientific detective he pulled out those student notes.

Conan Doyle was studying in that medical school, but it turned out that it wasn’t to become a doctor that he was there. It was to be impressed by the phenomenal personalities he experienced at that time, and place. As characters in his stories he would share them with the world in a way that they would live on. But he had to make a major career change to achieve it. He had to give up the practice of medicine. He did so before any substantive remuneration from his stories. And while supporting his extended family and becoming a new father. Doyle expressed this leap into uncertainty as, “One of the great moments of exultation of my life.”

Maybe we are like Conan Doyle? Maybe we are tied to what we think or have been told is what we should be doing? Maybe we are here for another reason? Maybe like Doyle, we need to be cut free? If we think we are failing, think again and look around.

Maybe it isn’t failure, maybe it’s opportunity. For Conan Doyle to make this decision in the midst of all his obligations, he had to face death in the form of a long illness. From my experience, I know how facing our own death or experiencing the death of someone close to us, can be a life changer. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of grief, we can see our whole life clearer than ever before and make major life decisions that define the path of our lives. When faced with that transformative moment, like Doyle, I also changed my career to writing.

Conan Doyle created his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes from his old medical school notes and his friendship with Dr. Bell. Holmes proved to be such an astute scientist and trailblazer that he still inspires today’s forensic experts and detectives. Using his great mind and exceptional writing talent, Doyle created the longest living and most beloved literary character of all time. It was his writing that supported his family, not his medical degree.

So look again. None of it is failure. All of it is inspiration, imagination and just possibly a path to who we truly are.

Gretchen Altabef is an MX author of Sherlock Holmes novels. Mondadori Publishing has contracted to translate her novels into Italian. Ms. Altabef strives to emulate Dr. John Watson’s and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary style. The first, These Scattered Houses, is in Holmes’ own voice and resourcefully chronicles the last two months of his ‘great hiatus’. The second in the series is, Remarkable Power of Stimulus. After 3 years away, Holmes finds London awash in murders, No. 221B under siege, anarchists threatening Paris, and the return of Irene Adler. Fully aware he is being watched by Moriarty’s men, Holmes steps out of the cab into Baker Street knowing he will find Watson’s friendship and unerring aim are as dependable as the British Rail.

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