On Being Lost and Liking It
I am not a gambler. To put any significant wager on my ability to bluff is the equivalent of dousing your financial institution of choice with gasoline and napalm, lighting a match, and running like hell. Both are equally poor, though arguably entertaining, investments. For better or for worse, deception, particularly in regard to my thought process, is not a strength I possess.
I found this out the hard way years ago as a senior in high school. In a national scholarship competition, I learned of a tenacious gamesmenship of manipulation and social skill for which I had little accumen. I would rather tell you I’m not sure, and learn something than bullshit my way through an encounter. However, I have learned since then that the world is filled with people talking on things of which they know nothing about (Cue Avett Brothers). Seven years later, while I understand the game and all of its various facets, I still hate it. Like a an exhausted child after the seventh hour of monopoly, I occasionally flip the board over, spilling that damned boardwalk hotel and those crooked railroads straight into the floor.
The past few months have been leading to an eventual board flip. The occassional bump of the knee, the dropped game piece, all of which have led to a conveniently timed, good old-fashioned New Years board flip. Cliché timing? Damn it, yes. Necessary? Completely.
This fall and early winter have been some of the most formative months of my early adult years, both personally and academically. Most importantly, this time period has distilled the essence of my identity and purpose. At the beginning of this time in my clinical training, despite facing great personal loss, I unconsciously made the decision to continue my education undetered. I emphasize unconsciously because never in my mind did I even acknowledge the existence of a choice. Perhaps some spiritual influence or the negative reinforcement of knowing my mother would haunt me should I abandon my journey. Whatever the influence, I held my resolve to continue my training unhindered. At times, I have questioned this decision. Weekly, I have said to myself I quit. What can I say? I am honest. I am not, in the medical world vernacular, a gunner. Medicine is but one of my passions. This should not be confused with a derth of hardwork or dedication, but rather that I must admit my occasional fatigue in regard to my craft. I must also acknowledge that my craft is but one of my many passions in life. I hold this so dear to my heart that my greatest fear would be to trade a balanced life for professional gains. Sacrifices are inevitable and necessary. I have heard and accepted that calling, gladly. To serve is one of the greatest opportunities I have been afforded. To have been given so much in life, regardless of what I have lost, and to be able to return my gifts in some capacity, is a priviledge not every human is afforded. That being said, I realize that my passions for life and the experience of being a human for such a short time on Earth contribute to my capacity to care just as much as my training.
To be a physician, and for that matter to heal, is to restore something lost for someone else. Illness is loss. Illness is a deficit and hindrance to an individual’s participation in the human experience. The most basic reason medicine and health care have even come to exist is that we care enough about our experiences in this life that we wish to participate as fully as possible for the time we are allotted. The American dream is founded on the principles of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. To be a healer, one must love life. The art of healing is not merely correcting metabolic or physiologic dysfunction. It is returning to the patient as much as possible what they have lost. In order to understand the value our patient places in their experience, one must also value his or her own. It is for these reasons that I am happy to wander throughout my life and one for which I refuse stubbornly to be pegged to one aspect of my identity.
I am a traveler through life, a purposefully lost soul. In the past few months, I have purposefully wandered as far as I can, making my own way through the woods. Until recently, I had suffered over the past few months a dearth of inspiration to write. Reflective of a broader existential conflict, the flow of ideas was dammed by the battle between what I should write and what actually flowed to my finger tips.
After some reflection, the battle between what I think I should be and what I want to be has quieted and all but dissolved. I do not know exactly how I am going to fit all of my passions for life into a single path. I do know that when I do embrace all facets of myself, I am my happiest and most productive. The more lost in my own interests I become, the happier I am. So as I try to start again, putting my thoughts to the keys, I find myself once again blissfully lost. This feeling…I like it.