A Labor of Love

I fell in love with the field of medicine a long time ago.

But sometimes, I don’t want to go to work, I admit it. Sometimes, the hill seems like too high a mountain to climb, the paperwork seems endless, the politics are always meaningless, and I feel tired. That’s usually when I start dreaming about packing a bag and going away as an aid worker in a country where there might be a lot of problems, but where such problems are real and not entirely fabricated. However, I am not naive; I know there are politics there too.

It’s hard to admit that sometimes I’d rather be doing something else than studying… Because everyone acts like they’re on top of their game all the time. If you’re not committed, you’re not supposed to be there. But faking it is exhausting and I’ve always chosen not to pretend.  It’s not that I dislike the study material or anything… That’s not it at all. Sometimes it’s just my surroundings and even me- how and where I fit in that world. I think that with regards to a lot of aspects pertaining to my professional field, I’m an outsider. It’s not a content problem… It’s more a matter of container. Playing ‘the game’ is the part I like the least. I have no interest in being a superhero or a robot. I’m human with uncertainties and elations; one can’t come without the other.

Last summer, I told a friend I didn’t know why I wanted to be a doctor anymore, that I had changed and that consequently, my reasons had too. A year later, I can say with certainty that I still want to be a doctor, but that the specifics matter very little; I just want to know I’m doing something. I want to get up in the morning and know that by the end of the day I will have acted on something, even if it’s small, even if it seems irrelevant to many.

I want to participate in change. Some things I find are fundamentally wrong in the field of medicine- and it’s not a judgment or criticism as pejorative as it appears, it’s more like a will to better aspects that are dysfunctional. Because there is a taboo in medicine with regards to physicians’ mental health and professional pressures. There exists an ‘ideal’- though it’s an oxymoron to call it that- of this invincible physician, who’s not supposed to feel, who’s supposed to be in control and level-headed, who mustn’t crack under pressure… I’ve never actually met that person. That person is a myth. The truth is that sustaining this ideal, thinking this way, only leads to shame and guilt, secrecy and denial. Physicians are human too.

And there’s no doubt pretending they are untouchable also affects patient care.

Not to be captain obvious, but from where do you suppose empathy stems from? It’s not made up. It doesn’t magically happen. We don’t live in a world of pixie dust. To quote Lavoisier: “In nature nothing is lost, nothing is created; everything is transformed”. So just like anything, it is something that needs to be developed. And to be compassionate and know how to listen, you have to be able to be and do that for yourself.

Bottom line is, anything you love isn’t perfect, and neither are your feelings. Devotion isn’t a constant stream; sometimes you have to hang on to practicalities rather than big ideals. Sometimes in love, you also hate.

I love medicine, but some things have to change- me included- and since I’ve always believed I was in it for the long haul, I know that in time, I’ll find my place and learn little by little to better love.

Image Source: http://en.rawanonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/doctors-empathy-1.jpg

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