Sunday, January 03, 2010

no one needs to know we're feeling

Holy Toledo (I do not know why I always pick Ohio when I am going the Holy route, just another one of those odd quirks that never really occur to me except when I write it down for a blog entry), it's 2010 and it's more than 10 days into 2010, and still, I haven't managed to string a sentence together. For shame, for shame.

I sort of stalled out for a few reasons. One, the mean reds, a little case of funk- does not exactly inspire one to write. You know, you got what you want, but it's not what you thought when you planned it (h/t Amy Mann). And that sounds sad, and occasionally it even feels sad, but then it turns out, it's not really. Because here's the thing. Life is full of all kinds of unexpected twists and turns. And even sometimes with things that are your dreams. And even sometimes with things that are, actually, your happily ever after.

Or, maybe, more accurately, there is no happily ever after. I mean, at one point I knew that. Because otherwise, why is my favorite quote on the sidebar, and why does it state that we shall not cease from exploration? I know that, and actually, I've rather come to savor that aspect of life in the span of that decade that just passed us by. And what a decade it was. Some of it horrible, some of it awesome, and some of it just floating along at contentment.

Some people achieve contentment, and happily ever after, and enlightenment and all that. I'm just not one of those people. Holy Toledo (there, I did it again), I am the biggest malcontent since the history of malcontents. And don't worry, it's not just that I am not content with the world around me, I am supremely a malcontent when it comes to self-reflection. On Twitter, where I really must stop spending so much time, Andrea wrote (paraphrased) that she would unfollow someone if they said about her the kind of things she says about herself. To which I say, indeed and amen.

I have to remind myself every so often of the things that make me this person- you know, the one I really am, who maybe no one else really knows but who cares because I do. I spend my days (and too often my nights) immersed in a world that values conformity. Learn the same things, do it the same way, categorize, recognize patterns, standardize, standardize, standardize. It's okay, as it turns out. I think, because of the rather meandering way my brain works, it does not hurt me to have the drill sergeant that is med school hammering the basics into my head. It's not wrong- there are some things you just better know if you're going to do this for a living. But there is no reason on earth one can give me for turning out physicians with identical personalities.

The conformity in surgical specialties has only to do with one thing- knowledge base and surgical skills. You can be a raving lunatic or a nurturing sweetheart, and they really don't care. I know there are those who will say no, this is not true, and you have to be a cold-hearted, evil no-holds barred maniac to be a surgeon, but respectfully, you are wrong, fool. Surgeons, ultimately, care about whether you know everything a good surgeon should know, whether you can perform in the OR, and whether you can think on your feet. The problem is, I haven't the requisite passion for standing in the operating room for hours on end to be a surgeon.

I've been quieter on other specialties, because in a lot of those cases, they seemed more prone to wanting everyone to fit a mold. Oh, we are all meticulous obsessive compulsives, or oh we all like to hug our patients, or oh we all don't like to have interests outside of medicine. When it's not just about what you know, but who you are, it gets tricky, because it matters in the hoop-jumping process, the process by which people are welcomed into the fold, or whatnot. It feels like it matters a lot.

But it doesn't matter. I guess I finally really and truly realized that. It matters, of course, in the way that looks matter if you want to be a supermodel. You are not likely to be a pediatrician, for example, if cooing over children is not your thing. But it's a big tent, this medicine thing. There is room for everyone, and ultimately you really can do whatever you want. And more importantly, you can find the things that you are good at, or that you want to be good at, in the myriad of possibilities.

In other words, it will all be okay.

But there are other words too. Other words still, words that silenced me for a while because I have a habit of hoarding such fleeting feelings. Yes, yes, it will be okay. But sometimes it will be way, much more than okay. How to explain without not sounding like a total self-indulgent jerk? Oh wait, this is a blog, never mind. There's not a whole lot of third year left for me. That means lots of things, but one of the things it means is that I've started to know enough to do a fairly good impersonation of a physician. People tend to think I am not confident, but I'm only not confident if I'm not sure. And actually, that's something I rather like about myself (take that, doubters of my self-confidence!). But now that I actually know a little of this and that, I am much more natural when treating patients. And I am starting to see the person I may one day become doing this as a living. And I think I like her.

That, my friends, is way, much more than okay.

(Also, haloscan needs to be retired apparently, and even though I've apparently been blogging for five years, I don't know enough about technology to figure out how to change commenting systems. In fact, I don't even know if commenting is currently working on haloscan, it might be. So... bear with me, please, if anyone is still reading.)


karrvakarela said...

"because in a lot of those cases, they seemed more prone to wanting everyone to fit a mold."

It may seem that way but I think, at the end of the day, what matters is what kind of patients you want to see and how well you take care of them. Using my own example, I had decided early on that I enjoyed working with children and, while I'm not necessarily a cooer, I take great satisfaction in providing their care. It's not that I hate Surgery or that I don't think it's a valuable way to spend a career but it's not something that appealed to me.

Now, having gone through almost three years of residency, and having really relished my inpatient and subspecialty rotations, I don't think I want to do general outpatient pediatrics. And the same questions resurface:

(a)what kind of patients do I want to see, and

(b)what kind of life do I want?

So, invariably, it comes down to what you want to do and the kind of life you want to live. Medicine is easy in that it provides us with the luxury of such choice but, ultimately, it's what you do for your patient that counts. Whether he's a sixty seven year old male with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and a raging MI or a five year old boy with a bead up his nose, it doesn't matter. He needs you to be excellent at what you do.

brimful said...

karrvakarela, thanks so much for the comment. I think, though I didn't really do a good job of articulating it, that's what I have been realizing as I've progressed through this year. In the beginning, I was very easily swayed by the external- physicians encouraging me to do this or that, or residents/interns welcoming me to the fold or not. But now, I can see which sorts of patients I connect with and where my abilities would best be served. And that has helped to focus the question for me.

And one thing I like about medicine is something you also reference- that there are, in some ways, various points at which you can reassess and 'figure it all out.'