‘My grades were good enough to get me into Harvard Law…’
This is how the movie begins.
Into the Wild, a film currently available on Netflix, released in 2007 and directed by Sean Penn, is the story of Chris McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp who, befuddled by life in mainstream America took to the road, giving-up everything, renouncing his college fund, social security number, ID, car, links to family and friends.
I watched this film last week and it resonated with me – whether the aspect of hitch-hiking (memories of being abandoned in Kelty – do you remember Phil?), reading On the Road, Call of the Wild or Walden, camping, foraging, or, the experience of isolation induced semi-madness, I am not sure;
The point is, to me at least, the essence of the ‘into Law School’ – read ‘medical school’ in my case.
The more I read these days about self-fulfilment, doing what is right, finding your own path, and so on, the more I see, ‘Medical School,’ or whatever form of education, vocation or career based training being used as an example for the wrong way.
So, I guess, the question, to me and others in my situation, is, have I taken the road commonly taken, the wrong road or the mis-directed route through the too easy to navigate pathway of security, certainty and ill-inspired rote?
All these questions are layered on top of the reality that to do what I have done and for those who are trying to follow along the path I have taken, the challenges seem to be mounting, seem to be growing; specifically, falling into the comfort that I seem to inhabit – the family, the house, garden, dog and central heating, is less and less easy. Sure, this is to be expected – isn’t it? In a world of increased opportunity, it is inevitable, that if more people are to have more opportunities, then, achieving those opportunities which in the past were relatively facile, become more difficult; five people fighting for a loaf of bread is less of a battle than five hundred… Yet, we know that despite these forces of equilibration, the gap between the rich and the poor, or more, the very, very rich and the very poor is greater than at any time.
And, back to being a doctor,
The, what I find to be perceived as a cop-out in terms of doing your thing –
Today, in a meeting, the subject of retirement was raised –
Retirement, the policies, dividends and payments that are associated, have never featured big in my world – they are something I have always perceived as relating to a bygone era – usually to those who are so much older* than me that our worlds exist on different planes, on alternate trajectories. Namely, the assumption that retirement – the state of having not to work to get by, is not a situation I will ever inhabit; the more people I talk to, particularly those who are younger, the more our situations resonate.
This, however, isn’t the point.
It is, that, taking medical school as an example, for that is what I know most about, it is likely that if you wish to become a doctor, given the passage of time, the transmogrification of fate, if you choose to follow this path in life, without basing your actions on, I guess, vocation, you are in trouble.
For, vocation, in other words, the impetus to help people, support others and, self-sacrifice, you are likely to fall into a trap of desultory careerdom, of chasing something that no longer exists. And, to my mind, we, that is us, society – the people, the patients, are better off for this;
Here is what is funny… Or, likely, scary –
We – you, me and all those in the same boat – people for whom retirement isn’t around the corner, need to realise that the ‘work’ we do, that is, the nine to five or Monday to Friday and on calls and nights, is not a race, it isn’t a sprint – it is not even a marathon, more, an Ultra-distance run – think Dean Karnazes or Eddie Izzard; Sure, we need Usain Bolt to demonstrate to us what humans are capable of, but most of us, whether the talented, the able or the just getting along are in for the long-haul; we need to ensure that whatever we are doing is something that we can sustain for not years, not even a decade or two, but for however long it takes us until we reach very old age**.
So, pace yourself.
Make sure that what you are doing is meaningful, is sustainable, brings enough joy, value and resonance that you are able to maintain the pace, particularly when times are hard, when you are tired or the bosses lack insight or understanding, ensure that you have adequate resources to keep on going; for the way to live, the way to wake each morning and move forwards is to acknowledge that you are somewhere between the end being tomorrow and their being no end;
As the Samurai say – when you wake in the morning, imagine that each day will be your last – make it count.
*OK some of you aren’t that much older…
**Whatever that is