Saturday, July 30, 2011

For those of you who have been around me for the past year or so undoubtedly have heard me spout off on this topic, but I want to have my thoughts digitally preserved on this issue before the madness begins next week.

First, before I really get into it, I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know 20 or so of my classmates last night at a BBQ. Despite knowing that a 32 year old is not the oldest medical school matriculant in the history of med schools, I have become more aware of my "old-fartness" lately. Perhaps this is partly due to a strange and unexpected Gout attack last week, but that is a different story (kind of.) So, it was nice to meet at least half-dozen other 30-somethings last night. I should clarify that I don't really think that a hand-full of years difference doth make a successful student or something like that, but when one is a little older there are other considerations, such as the self imposed urgency of getting on with life -- yes, self imposed.

Ten years ago I was a contractor. I was making decent money (for a 22 year old kid) acting as a sub for different warehouses in the Portland area installing flooring at different property management owned apartments. Because I was young and low on the totem-pole with the warehouses I was often given the worst jobs; that is section-8 and animal excrement soaked units that paid (relatively) poorly. I learned the business from a man who treated me well, or at least the best he could despite a raging gambling addiction. A lesson from him and the other contractors who worked through the warehouses that sunk in subconsciously was that I didn't want to be 40 years old and stretching carpet and gluing vinyl to the floor. Let me pause for a minute and say that this kind of work has its own kind of nobility attached, that is working with the hands and expending energy and sweat to earn dollars is nothing to be ashamed about. But, there is something to be said about earning a living with one's mind versus muscles.

What I'm trying to say here is that, in the future, when I become discouraged or frustrated with the demands of becoming a physician all I need to do is think back and remember the path I was on less than 10 years ago. When I think about how long it will take and how old I will be when I actually am able to practice under my own auspices and earn a pay check above minimum wage (even though residents can earn upwards of 60K or so a year, when the pay is divided between 100 hour weeks it really isn't much) all I have to do is remember how much my knees hurt from a day installing carpet. Or, is it all I have to do? Hmmm.

We all have to come up with our own motivation, no matter what the endeavor. I've been told, and I will soon know first hand how much motivation is needed to get through med school -- apparently (big surprise) it is substantial. Even though I've been saying for a good while that just imagining what I could've been doing will help me through this process, I've been thinking lately that I should not dwell on this. This is because it is not sufficient to just be something other than a construction worker. I desire to be a great doctor, and even though remembering my past will definitely be beneficial and undoubtedly will help here and there, I've found a new driving force that was actually there all along, and no, it was not paying off the pending 400K in student loans! It is simply wanting to be a great doctor.

A romantic, idealistic and sentimental view this may be. Through a good conversation last night at the barbeque, I was reminded by a new friend that this is actually a good place to start from and that maybe, just maybe we should all hold on to this through the process that can seem to be designed to beat all romance, idealism and sentiment out of us. I guess I'm now ready to go.

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