“To realise one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
There is such pressure on us in the world in this day and age to do what we love. Anyone reading this right now is probably reading it from a computer. I’m going to take a stab and say you might even own the computer that you’re reading it from. And forgive me for generalising… but if you’re reading this from your own computer, it probably means that you’re in a privileged enough position to have had a choice in life as to what you want to do to earn your living. The world is full of opportunities to do what you love.
But what if we don’t know what we love? What if we haven’t found that out yet? The internet and social media are notorious for flinging around ‘positive’ quotes such as ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do’. Books such as ‘The Alchemist’, make out as though everyone has a certain destiny, a calling, if you will… and if you make that your work, you’re sorted in life. (Totally not dissing The Alchemist by the way, incredible book… everyone go and read it- I’ve read it thrice and still open it up when I’m losing my way).
But is it always possible to love what you do? To that kind of level? I’m talking the kind of passion for your work that you wake up every morning and you can’t wait to go to work? Because you’re positively infatuated with it. See, to me, that’s the dream.
And here, dear blog, is the reality.
I made the choice to apply to Medschool at the age of sixteen. That’s a very young age to be deciding your entire career path. So three years ago I dipped a toe, then a foot, and then I fully immersed myself into the journey that was to be Medical School. And I remember writing all sorts of things on my personal statement centred around the two basic concepts of ‘I love science’ and ‘I want to help people’. Call it a cliché, for that’s exactly what it was. The truth is that I didn’t know what any of it entailed. And the truth is that no one really does, until they’re probably too far in to get back out.
The Alchemist says that the only things that really stop us from achieving our destiny are fear and love. Love for others whom we want to please. Fear of failure in what we don’t perceive to be ‘achievable’.
The real reasons I decided to go into Medicine at the age of sixteen? Well here they are. Here is, if you want, the real personal statement.
- Medicine offered a certain level of job security. I’m not going to pretend like I understand what the credit crunch is, but I’m pretty sure that if Wall Street crashes, the world will still need doctors.
- In Medicine, let’s face it, you can earn quite a lot. I have never been particularly driven by money because the thought of being ‘rich’ doesn’t excite me that much. But I would like to be doing more than just about making ends meet. I did’t want money to be something I had to worry about.
- I was too scared to explore something non vocational.
- My parents are doctors. I’m fortunate enough to say that they never once put pressure on me to choose the path they chose. But they were most certainly relieved when I said ‘I’m doing Medicine’.
- My friends, specifically my two best friends were also doing Medicine. As were so many of the people around me who I really looked up to.
It all just seemed to fit. There wasn’t much else I could see myself doing. Of course there was always French which was a huge passion for me- but it never quite fit the bill as the kind of degree I wanted to do at university.
Then, I had some work experience arranged at a local hospital. It was with an ENT surgeon. But there was something about being in that clinic. I felt something that week… I couldn’t describe it as anything other than a buzz. Medicine was getting me really really excited. Of course, the doctor I was shadowing was a fully established consultant (and a great one). There was something about the way he applied all this accumulated knowledge that made me think ‘Wow, he is awesome’. And he just… knew what was wrong with people. The people who walked in that door really really trusted him. And everyone who walked out, walked out with a smile on their face. I don’t know if I felt the buzz because I was making myself feel it… or if it was really there. Either way, it made me cough up a joyously clichéd Personal Statement.
But the first term of Medical School was a let down. The lectures were so heavy. Oh God… I didn’t realise I needed to work this hard. My flatmates get to go out every night and rock up in the afternoon for one lecture… why am I in this building from 9am- 6pm every day? Do I really want to even be here? That Christmas, I came home and started seriously rethinking my decisions. Did I work so hard to be somewhere where I don’t even want to be? Why didn’t I just take French? At least I would have been good at it.
That January, the university organised a day called ‘Hospital Orientation Day’. It was a day where we were assigned a Fifth Year who we would be shadowing during their hospital placement. It required me to get up at 6am and walk in the biting cold to get picked up by some people who I didn’t know, but whatever, I was rolling with it. That day, I shadowed the fifth years on their ward round. They showed me some abdominal X-rays and blood results which they asked me to interpret. I examined an inguinal hernia. I took a history. I shadowed a ward round and a consultant asked me a question thinking I was a fifth year… and I got the answer right. All this stuff seems trivial now that hospital is an everyday routine for me… but when I was 18, I felt a familiar feeling coming back. I couldn’t use any other word to describe it other than… a buzz.
So I picked myself back up again. I said, you know what I’m just going to push on with all this work because eventually I’ll make it to third year and get to do something a bit more real.
Third Year. Oh the joys of being permanently ignored on the ward. The joys of being useless at almost everything. The joys of failing at cannulation multiple times and exhausting poor people’s veins. The joys of turning up to teaching only for it to be bloody cancelled. Why do I bother with this stupid, unrewarding degree? Argh, I’ve got a surgical on call this week. Can’t wait to get up early and be ignored all day. I’ll just turn up at 8a.m. and get a kind faced FY1 to sign off my form and then I can get myself a Greggs. Wait, there are two doctors here and they’re being nice to me. Holy crap… this consultant is a legend. Yes, of course I’ll take a history and present it back to you. Subcutaneous Injections?! I can do them. Oooh Clexane. Damn, that click feels good. It’s 7pm. I’ve been on this ward for 11 hours, how the hell did this happen? The consultant actually thinks I’m a keen person. I feel amazing right now, I’ve been showered with all this positive attention today. God, what is this feeling. I couldn’t describe it as anything other than a buzz.
So Medicine, thank you. Thank you for pissing me off every day for weeks and then doing something to draw me right back in and love you all over again. This buzz is what keeps me going. I’m going to tell myself that The Alchemist was right all along and the buzz is the universe telling me that it is my destiny. I’m here for a reason, and that reason is that one day, I am going to be a goddamn brilliant doctor. Because at the age of sixteen, even with the thought of job security, money and the peers, it’s the buzz that brought me here and it’s the buzz that will keep me here even in my darkest days.
So here is the moral of the post. There may be people out there who are able to get up every morning and be so deeply infatuated with what they do. And that is still the dream. But ultimately, jobs may have their good days and their completely terrible days. I can’t wait to find the part of Medicine that gives me that buzz every single day. Because that will be my calling and I’m going to get there.
But if you’ve found your buzz, follow it. And even if you’re not truly in love with what you do, try and remind yourself of the buzz that brought you there and keep pursuing it until the good days outshine the bad ones.
Love and peace & all my prayers and happiness