Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Paths

This year will mark a quarter of a century since my high school graduation. It is painful just having to type that. Great plans are being made by our former class president to have a blowout party at our old high school hangout. Thank goodness for Facebook to help organize the event and allow everybody to stay in touch.

FB is an amazing resource for keeping up with old classmates. I can see all the great pictures my old buddies have posted. Their wonderful vacation shots. The proud photos of their sons on their football teams. Their daughters' performing on the cheerleading squads. These pictures leave me wistful, with a twinge of regret. It is apparent that life continued for most of my old classmates while I, and all of my medical school friends, had our lives put on hold while we pursued our medical degrees. Many of my high school friends already have children enrolled in college. Some are already grandparents. I feel like they've already lived a full life of family, personal achievements, and career milestones.

In the meantime, most of my colleagues in my age group have children who are not even in middle school yet. We froze our personal lives in school and residency carbonite while we earned our right to treat other people better than we treat ourselves. Once we do start our families, we subsequently ignore them by our extreme work hours and exhaustion even on our few days off. I've missed countless soccer games, concert performances, birthday parties because of being a doctor.

Has this been worth it? Most of the time I can honestly say it is. There is no greater honor than to help somebody in dire need. This is a sacred trust that few people in society are given. But at the same time, my old friends have shown that work is not life. One can attain great personal satisfaction with wonderful friends and loving families. Sure they may not have the income I have. They may not have the nice cars I drive. Their neighborhoods may not have the same cachet as mine. In the end none of that matters. When one finally passes from this material world, nobody is going to ask if the deceased has an American Express Black Card.

This is something to ponder for anyone who is contemplating going into medicine. You'll come to regret putting your life on hold for ten years or longer pursuing a medical career while all your friends are starting families unless you understand the sacrifices that is inherent in becoming a doctor. It is still a wonderful profession. Just don't go to your 25th year high school reunion expecting anybody to be wowed by your fancy automobile. Others will have much richer life stories to share.

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