August 22, 2009

existential crisis

This is about how I feel after the first week of med school. Devoured, scoured, raked over the coals. This was a passionvine that has now been devoured by gulf fritillary caterpillars.
They've even consumed the fruit which my son was so looking forward to eating.

The reward is that I have a ton of butterflies in my backyard now. See the problem is that the butterflies come in a matter of weeks. The rewards of med school....not weeks, not months, not years....but nearly a decade. That's an ENORMOUS sacrifice and I'm not sure I even want to be a doctor that badly. So I'm left feeling basically like shit. I can't go forward and I can't move back. I'm at that existential chasm where only leap of faith will work (so eloquently outlined by the philospher William James). In a nutshell, I'm that devoured vine. My son wants to spray it to kill all the caterpillars and that's how I was feeling about med school. I was right up to the razor's edge and was so close to walking away. 95% of me was ready to say, screw it. I had even asked if it was possible to get my old job back (it was though they thought I'd be making a mistake, too).

Fortunately, over a decade ago, my soul figured out that I needed a certain someone as my partner in life. The word "love" is such an idiotic and gross oversimplification. We are such complete opposites that only a blind date could have brought us together. And yet over 15 years later, here she knows more about what's in me, or I should say what's in my future, than I do. And based on what? A feeling. She couldn't even articulate it beyond just a feeling. But she stood steadfast so we went and saw a psychologist at my dad's firm recommendation. He even paid for it since I no longer have healthcare in the interim. It was one of the best investments ever. He helped me to see things about myself that I couldn't see. My wife just sat there knowing that this was the right thing for me, for us, for our family. This whole med training is not even about med training anymore to me. It's a journey of self discovery where I'm going to face nearly every single demon, insecurity, and weakness in my life. Oddly enough, that put it into a more manageable position. I don't have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I can put aside the notion of being completely out of my element (which I am). I don't have to compete with these students who are more youthful by over a decade and exceptionally bright. I just have to figure out the way to be myself. A much more taoist path (that's kinda redundant, huh?) now that I write this.

So in order to preserve my sanity, I'm going to take what's dubbed the "alternate pathway" by my school. How fitting. It basically splits the first year (the hardest by the faculty's own admission) into two. I add another year to the training bumping it up from 7 to 8 years (originally 4 years med school + 3 years intern/residency for family practice). But if I preserve my sanity and grow as a human being..... It puts me more in debt but I was able to go see my son's first football scrimmage. I have no idea how I'm going to do it after that. But at least deep down in the recesses of my psyche, a very, very, very small, almost non-existant part of me knows that passionvine still has roots and is still alive. It doesn't know what to do with that knowledge but at least it's there. The trick now is to see that in myself and listen to it.

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