I guess when everyone’s little they dream big. Some kids say “I want to be a fireman!”, and dream of wearing a fireman’s outfit, handling the big hose and kicking fire’s… ash. Others say they want to be a baker and make delicious buns. Some others want to be rockstars and play in front of and crowdsurf over thousands of adoring fans. Others want to fly—skyjumper, astronaut, whatever.
Personally though, I wanted to be a garbage man. I thought nothing was cooler than those big green trucks which om-nom’d down all the trash. The smell of gasoline (not so much the rotting food), and the roar of the engine, appealed to my little kid self. Riding them every morning, hefting up those huge things of trash, it just seemed so manly and viscerally awesome to me. Plus, I had a garbage truck autobot toy, which was arguably the coolest to transform. Yeah, so maybe not the biggest dream. Plus, I don’t do the waking up at 5 thing so well anymore.
At some point the dreams become smaller, more reasonable, or they just… change. The fireman kid settles for dispatcher or salesman. The baker settles for cashier or chef in a restaurant. The rockstar settles for a concert pianist. The flyers settle for airline pilots.
So yeah, they didn’t turn out so bad. Guess what the garbageman decided to become? A doctor. It’s almost unencouraging, isn’t it?
So why and when did I decide to become a doctor? Amidst the sports, extra-curriculars, books, doodles and internet, I honestly have no idea. I guess I could claim “I liked” biology and I was an “avid fan” of House, but are those really defining characteristics of a future doctor? Not really. Millions enjoy biology (I think). Millions enjoy House. I mean, how much does a seventh grader understand of House anyways? I picked up a handful of fairly obscure diseases, and maybe a tiny shred of House’s scathing wit (or so I liked to pretend), but really, watching House was hardly the first step to becoming a doctor.
At some point, I began to develop some sense of what I’ll call morality. “What do I want to do with my life?” I asked. “What is something good I can do for the world?”, I wondered. Save lives. Yeah. That’s always good right? It was something that seemed to (mostly) defy the greyness and spectra that all things have become today outside of politics.
It began with some grand ideas. I want to cure _____. Cancer. AIDS. You name it. I doubt any aspiring doctor avoided seeing themselves as the savior of mankind and scourge of (insert disease name here(, with cure in one hand and Nobel Prize in the other at some point. Somehow, I would be the one who made the breakthrough. I would be special. However, as I got older and more knowledgeable, I learned that many of these dreams were simply that: dreams. Every case of cancer was unique. AIDS was a virus, and a most complex and tricky one at that. And there were always more illnesses on the horizon.
So my dreams shrunk a bit, or rather, the world of medicine and health got bigger as I slowly climbed out of the well and saw the entire sky, beautiful and terrible at the same time. I visited poor countries, and saw doctors there. “I could do that”, I thought. Work most of the year in a hospital, take a vacation to a scenic third-world country and do some sight-seeing while doing some care for the locals. I would join Doctors Without Borders after med-school, and see the world while treating people. Life could be fulfilling morally, spiritually and financially (teehee).
So inevitably as one gets older, death and dying become more relevant issues. My grandpa died a few years back—he was old, and as much as I loved him, I did not know him well. A couple friends have died early through accidents and illnesses. My best friend who I have extremely confused feelings for was diagnosed with cancer, and is not expected to live past college graduation (we’re both freshmen).
Over Spring Break, I got pretty sick. I’m not quite sure how, but I have tendency to get ill whenever college lets out. Basically my (scumbag) immune system says “Ooh, break? Break for meeeee!” and conks the fudge out. And I get sick. This time, it was pretty bad—around Thursday I got a sore throat and a fever but managed to power through it. Friday was bad, but I was still fairly functional. Saturday involved a hellish (and somewhat hallucinatory) 8 hour bus ride back to school. When I finally took my temperature, it was ~104 degrees.
So, I tried to make an appointment with my school’s healthcare people. Apparently I can’t make an appointment within the next week. Are you kidding me? Last I heard, 104 degree fever was uncomfortably close to life threatening, but apparently still fell outside the 1 week limit of severity. I just did not understand. Admittedly now I feel much better, but seeing 104 on a thermometer was like staring at a death notice for me.
And in the end, a dose of Tylenol Cold and Flu Severe helped me more than a MD. I suppose I sound like a bit of a spoiled college kid complaining about lack of care, huh.
Being in this much… discomfort (I can’t say pain, because breaking a limb or a really bad cut is arguably more painful) has made me reconsider again why I really want to be a doctor. I don’t want to save lives. I just want to make people feel better, just improve their quality of life. It’s not as exciting as saving lives or curing cancer, but it’ll have to do. But even with a smaller dream, or maybe because I have a smaller dream, I’ll hold myself to a higher standard-- after all, curing cancer or AIDS and then retiring is almost sort of kind of a easy way out.