Monday, January 22, 2007

Are You Living a Lie?

My friend's post really hit close to home. I've had the same thoughts he has, and wonder how many more of us there are out there. I think anyone in a stressful job, feeling the pull of work vs. family life/relationships/social life/other responsibilities can relate...


It is January and I am officially six months into my residency. So how am I doing? I'm not gonna lie, it's a beating. If you happened to peruse the blog that I have been much better at keeping up than this journal, you will note that I have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately. You know what it is? It's the old tunnel analogy. Maybe I was just a rambunctious little boy, or maybe this truly is a universal experience, but we used to do some pretty stupid things when we were young, and one of them was to walk through on old storm drain tunnel. This particular tunnel was so long that when you were in the middle, it was so dark that you literally could not see light at either end of the tunnel. That is where I am, six months in, with six months to go.

I will say this though, I am more comfortable in my own skin when I am at work these days. I feel less and less like a fraud, and I have ever increasing confidence that I can actually help my patients. However, the trade off is my personal life. I spend so much time away from the things I truly care about that it makes my choice to be a physician seem like a betrayal of self at times. How can you purport to hold certain values and then choose daily activities that directly refute that claim and not feel conflicted about your own identity? I have not yet figured this one out, and to be truthful, the old "it won't be like this forever" addage doesn't really cut it. Is there any guarantee of that statement? More importantly, if it is true, is their any guarantee that I will not have strayed so far away from my purported beliefs by that time that I will not even care to return to those previous priorities once the training is complete? That is a hauntingly scary possibility that I have to this point largely skirted around in my mind.

6 months in is the hardest time, Tim. Everything you've said is true. You find yourself putting up with *crap* and doing silly things that take you away from the things in life that truly matter. And you tell yourself it's worth it because you're working towards something. But the tricky part is, who can accurately predict the future? Who can say that we'll be around when the "worth it" part finally rolls around? Or will we be always trying to work towards something that's "worth it" and lose sight of the really important things in life? And is this "worth it" dream all it's made out to be?

If we knew how long we were going to live, it might be easier to make today's choices. No, I wouldn't go to work, scutting for most of the day, if I were going to die tomorrow. Or if any of my loved ones were going to die tomorrow. But would I do it, SHOULD I do it, if we were going to live another 10, 20 years? And since my real answer might depend on how long we'll be around, does that mean that the way I'm living now is a lie? That I'm hiding behind the delusion of temporary immortality for myself and loved ones, so can get away with neglecting really important things in life? That I'm not being true to myself, what I think is important, and what I want out of life?

I don't know what the answer is. I'm not sure I know how to operate without these assumptions. I struggle with the same questions you have, and have not found solid answers. The only solace I've found is that perhaps the "meaning" of a good life lies less in where you are and whose company you're in, than how you carry yourself through the "life" you happen to be in. And that perhaps, things always happen for a reason.

photo credit - beautiful yellow mountains


Blogger keagirl said...

After 7 freakin' years of residency, I was starting to feel a little burned out, though I think my 2nd year of general surgery was the worst (back in the "olden" days when urology residency required you to do 2 years of general surgery first). By my Chief year, I was more than ready to leave. I definitely feel like I've sacrificed some of my best years (my entire 20s)to pursue this career. If I had truly known what residency was going to be like, I'm not sure I would or could have finished it. It's much better/healthier to just take it a day at a time in residency, and look up just once in a while to catch a glimpse of the light at the end.

Now that I've been in practice for almost 5 years, I have to encourage you to hang on, because that light is so beautiful once you reach it.

6:15 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

Thanks Keagirl. :)

A bunch of us were talking the other day, and none of us really knew what we were getting into when we signed up for med school! :P

There are good days and bad days, and these past few weeks have been on the harder side. And some days, you take a look at the attendings around you, and realize that their lives are, to some extent, not all that better than yours!

Am glad to hear that you've found the light (:D) and hope that it continues to be all that you've wanted it to be! :)

8:47 PM  

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