Two Years Later
During this time, I received occasional comments and emails from you, mostly filled with name-calling, taunts, and put-downs that I have come to cherish. Some tamer selections included “You should be strapped down and have you dick cut off, you fucking asshole” (if only Roberto Leone from Rome knew how much that meant to me) and “Face it big butts are very sexy and the garment industry has made millions off padded butts.” Indeed.
But the most consistent note I received would be from a starry-eyed pre-med, asking me whether taking the medical school plunge was really worth it, or whether another career path, like any of those pursued by the Entourage gang, was more worthwhile (in a season that is turning increasingly lame and incredulous, impressive even by Entourage standards). The answer, it seemed to me at the time, should have been obvious, and that answer was a resounding “ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE? DON’T DO THIS.” But two years down the road, I think I have a little more perspective on the matter and would like to chime in with some additional insight.
First, some aspects of this job do not change. Pre-meds become medical students become residents become attendings, but personalities generally don’t change. Thus, the crazy gunner medical student hypertalker freakshow persists in residency as the obnoxious pediatrics resident. The toolish beefcake medical student becomes the toolish beefcake surgery attending. And the freakishly handsome quiet thoughtful Jewish medical student transforms into the freakishly handsome quiet thoughtful internal medicine resident. In a similar vein, the human body remains filthy, covered in scabies and lice, and persistently pouring out oddly colored bodily fluids from many an inspired orifice. I know this because my finger has made its way into many of these orifices. Additionally, the hours spent in the hospital only serve to accelerate the transition from normal human being to blood-eating zombie, but perhaps I have belabored this point.
What changes, however, is ones sense of normalcy. This came up yesterday when I was trying to explain to the cleaning service why I could not give them an exact time when I would be free to let them into my apartment. This is a result of me being the “fill-in” resident this month, necessitating that I jump in at a moments notice to cover for sick residents or to help with overflow patients. The conversation went as follows:
Cleaning service lady (CSL) – So we will come tomorrow at 10 AM to clean your apartment.
Me – OK, but I’m not entirely sure I’ll be there.
CSL – What do you mean?
Me – Well, I might get paged at any time and have to go to the hospital.
CSL – So we come at 11 AM.
Me – No, I just can’t give a fixed time.
CSL – So we come the next day.
Me – See the thing is I might even get called in the next day, I just don’t know.
CSL – So when would you like us to come?
Me – Hopefully tomorrow, but I might get pag-
CSL – So we come tomorrow at 11 AM. Have a nice day bye bye.
Whereas during medical school I had a hard time reconciling what I was learning, filled to the brim with freaks and genitalia, with real life, residency has so immersed me in the life of medicine that it has now become my real life and I have a hard time reconciling my previous notion of normalcy with this new reality. Why can’t the cleaning lady understand that I might cancel twenty minutes before she is scheduled to come because I have to run to the hospital and admit five patients from the emergency room? Why does my mom think it is really strange that I haven’t had time to establish a local doctor to call my own in over two years? Why do my non-medicine friends, imaginary or otherwise, frown as I try to explain (yet again) why I am busy all weekend in the hospital and can’t hang out? Why have I been unable to keep up with Jon’s latest tramp or Kate’s newest meltdown?
Yet, as medicine has subsumed my former life, I find it harder and harder to criticize the profession as a whole because deep down I am only insulting myself, something I’m generally glad to do so long as I limit it to my odd physical appearance, mental ineptitude, or emasculating fragility…but not my big life choice. So now when I honestly want to tell you that this isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be and is occasionally even heartwarming, humbling, and hilarious, I must check these thoughts with the notion that it is awful to admit that my career choice was a truly bad choice to begin with.
In all, I no longer have a fuming hatred for the experience and, in retrospect, it really isn’t that bad and is occasionally even good; perhaps not a stunning endorsement but hardly the words I would be writing two years ago. And it's not like the business school route has turned out so well.
But in retrospect, Entourage hasn't been that bad either. Right?