“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This question haunted me at 7 and 17 alike, when aunties and uncles would decide to start a viva voce at a wedding or a family meet up. At 27 it’s downright excruciating! There isn’t much growing now (no pun intended) but we have this idealised delusion that we should have it all figured out before 30. In generations of old, as recent as baby boomers (as people in their 50’s and 60’s are known), this was a distinct possibility. You pick art, science or commerce and your journey is pretty much set in stone. The dearth of options made life significantly less complicated, or so I would imagine. If you took science, you then followed the path into the hallowed walls of a hospital or else into the idealistic communal favourite, engineering.
Today life is at a crossroad. This epoch is one that divides opinion. Be it artificial intelligence, mobile phones, real and fake news or Kim Kardashian (Definitely pro); the jury is out on everything. Education and careers are an intellectual quagmire as well. The options abound in all shapes and forms. Access to unknown courses in far-flung lands the world over is more or less a couple of clicks away. We are the generation that straddles between the generation of old and the technology led 4thindustrial revolution. This can be interpreted across a spectrum. The perennial pessimist would view it, as an unfortunate conundrum bequeathed to us and roll over and lie there (pun certainly intended). An overenthusiastic opportunist would interpret it as an aeon of openings (pun not intended).
After grade 10, I was taken to a career counsellor (as every self-respecting parent whose child wants to be a professional footballer would do) who told me that I HAD to and SHOULD be a doctor. This “insight” was based on a multiple choice test that I filled up while thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Tara Reid (Not in the same vein I assure you). There was no “differential diagnosis” of sorts, my morbidity and mortality were established. From there on in you get wheeled through the metaphorical cycles of chemo and radiation through CET classes and the entrance exams and into the operation theatre we call Medicine. Apart from a few weeks of elation, the novelty of medical school wore off pretty quickly. The rare inkling to go sprinting out in the streets ‘as God intended’ shouting “Eureka” was down to a handful of circumstances such as when the brain was dissected out flawlessly along with the spinal cord or on seeing a case of Marfan’s syndrome.
The treatment protocol only gets more aggressive from here on in. The grind of exams, internship, entrance exams, residency, more entrance exams, super-specialisation or practice, and then the REAL entrance exam we colloquially know as life. Some enjoy this, and wouldn’t have it any other way, and I truly respect that, but this series is directed toward those who follow the trodden path purely for lack of exposure and knowledge of life beyond the grind. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of my Medical school experience and wouldn’t have it any other way, but the world outside those walls was a nightmare.
But the questions remain. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What do you want to achieve in life? As my mentor always asked me, “How do you define success?”
These are profound questions that I couldn’t begin to pretend to have the answers to but I’d much rather ask them in my 20’s than in my 50’s. I am not discouraging anyone from pursuing what is a noble and respectable profession but for many like myself, sometimes that just isn’t enough. There IS something you can do about it either in lieu of clinical practice or alongside it, and I appeal to those few souls in the hope that it opens their minds. I do hope this series helps eradicate the devastating syndrome I classify as apath-olog-y.
Change is scary, lethargy is deadly.