a little help?

There are two things I imagine would keep me happy professionally: being a preschool teacher or teaching literature to high school or college students. Of course, I imagine because I’ve never actually had any experience doing either one. What I know of these I know from being the student, and from the three year old hurricane who sleeps over at my house three to four times a week.  How can getting paid for playing with kids or reading and actively dissecting books not be a good thing?

‘There’s no sense of propriety or convention with children. They haven’t learned cliché yet. Everything a kid says is exactly what he/ she is thinking. Sometimes those thoughts make literally no sense. Other times they’re startlingly sincere.

A 3-year-old never says “Keep in touch!” without meaning it. There’s no small talk. Everything’s urgent, even when it’s about the color of a fire truck or what the best flavor of ice cream is. ‘

– Josh Gondelman, The Time I Quit My Job Teaching Preschool, or A Farewell to Legos

This is one of the reasons why I think it will be amazing to work as a pre-school teacher.  I have very little patience for the adult need for propriety or convention, especially when it leads to inefficient and roundabout ways  in accomplishing something, and that strikes most people as insensitive and uncouth. I find that with children, who call things as they are, I have more patience. Also, I often find them witty, with or without stimulus. 

If, on the other hand, I were to become a literature teacher, that would be all sorts of interesting as well. It must be a challenge and a constant learning experience, a joy to be expected to read and write all the time. In college, I once rearranged my whole term schedule just to get into Dr. Marjorie Evasco-Pernia’s literature class, and I consider that one of the best decisions I made in my years of higher education.

The decisions that followed, unfortunately, were not as stellar. They weren’t asinine though, at least not the ones that pertained to professional choices. These were the ones that led to my obtaining a license to practice medicine at the age of 23, which I suppose is an accomplishment. I suppose not because of false humility, but because I often find that people either think that I am not as smart as I actually am, or they imagine me to be more astute than history has proven me to be. There are about eight to ten people who know the truth, and most of them are on board the same boat, asking the same questions I’m asking here.

Some people find themselves to be doing something that is not their passion, and then there are those who have yet to identify what their passions are. There are those, like me, who imagine their passion to be one thing, only to discover that it is, entirely, another. The thing is, most people who complain find themselves in monotonous, thankless jobs, and stay there for reasons that run the range from practical to philosophical. I share these reasons too, only I find myself a physician, a profession I respect and find not without its merits and challenges. It demands from me compassion, excellence, and commitment — all of which are values I hold in high regard. It appeals to both my ego and superego when I manage to accomplish something worthwhile and unquestionably significant. But sadly, and perhaps this is the most important of all, I am not passionate about it.

Forgive the succeeding statements, in which I will be skipping from one train of thought to another.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

– Howard Thurman

This immediately struck a chord. What makes me come alive? Literature. People. Advocacies, although I’ve had some issues with this one over the past few years. But then, another author I surprisingly found readable (surprising because I usually discard self-help books about ten pages into the abundance of exclamation points), Rick Warren, wrote in The Purpose Driven Life:

‘It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.  It’s  far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.’

Of course, this isn’t acceptable to everyone, but I could see and even acknowledge the logic in this. He also wrote that to define one’s purpose, it helps to identify what you are good at. This is where it becomes confusing, and forgive me if it’s too self-serving, because while I have a long way to go before I can claim to be brilliant at anything, I consider myself,  at the very least, to have considerable potential in literature and medicine. There are other variables in the equation, such as my minor love affairs with art and volunteerism, but for now, let’s place them under the umbrella statement of ‘the roads not taken’.

For now, I need to answer this: what’s next? I can go into residency, which births the questions of what program, which hospital, and so forth. This eventuality is not a matter of yes or no as much as it is a matter of when. I’ve narrowed it down to Internal Medicine, ORL or Pathology, and a tiny little voice nags Pediatrics. But, I don’t want to commit yet, because the last time I made an offhand career decision, well, it wasn’t easy.

I can also moonlight for a year, and take the time off to take short courses in creative writing and do volunteer work and run myself ragged around the so-called roads not taken. But, isn’t that a bit like dipping your toes into water and not being able to dive into the pool?

Oh, I don’t know. But I must really decide soon.

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