In Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Stephen Hawking writes back to Oskar Schell after the boy’s possibly ten thousandth letter. ‘I’ve been able to explore the origins of time and space with some of the great living thinkers. But I wish I were a poet.’
Man after my own heart, Stephen. At eight, I knew the exact page of an illustration of the digestive system in one of my mother’s nursing textbooks. I guess it didn’t exactly surprise anyone when, ten years later, I ended up in medical school. Except maybe Gerard, who said he always thought I’d end up in law school. Er. Yeah. So after a series of events both fortunate and un-, here I am, seven months shy from taking the medical boards, with the full realization that this is not what I want to be doing for the next twenty years.
If I didn’t have to worry about breaking bank accounts, I would change careers in a second. And while I can’t know for sure if I would be good at it, I would love to teach literature to high school or college students. I don’t know if I can come around to it, but I would write a novel that will shape people as novels shape me, and allow me to live off on its royalties as Jennifer Aniston lives off on Friends. And ultimately, I dream of working at Pixar, ideally as scriptwriter or story developer, but really, I’d take anything. It’s Pixar.
Fundamentally, I want to write. I always managed to buzz along by convincing myself that writing was something I could do even without a degree, whereas medicine was not. I always thought I’d keep writing even when I was doing something else, but I’ve been quite lazy. I try to keep up with my reading, but most of the time I just end up catching up on sleep.
There’s the hope of being able to do it all. Since I’m not really pressed for time, I have that luxury. Each day takes its toll, though, and I often end up wondering, not if it’s worth it (because to our patients it is), but if I will ever have the time to go down the roads not taken. For some reason, things always turn out in such a way that, no matter how big the opportunity to quit is, I end up staying. It’s a combination of chance and choice, cowardice and commitment.
If I couldn’t do it all, if I have to make a choice, it seems to me that the choice is between what people need and what I need. And then I came across Mr. Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It’s hard not to feel alive when you’re suturing people, when that special kid thanks you, and you see them get better. But, I don’t know if I’m just tired, it doesn’t affect me as much as it seems to affect everyone else. I don’t get the warm, fuzzy feeling when patients thank me. Don’t get me wrong, it feels okay. Maybe it just has something to do with the fact that I am not exactly warm and fuzzy right now. If I somehow manage to find resolutions to my internal crazies, maybe it’d work.