Sunday, October 15, 2006


So my interviews for this residency site are complete. As usual, I find it difficult to judge how well or poorly I did. Fortunately, I didn't get the worst question ever: "Tell me what you see as your greatest weakness?" I did, however, get a difficult question which, though better from the point of view of the interviewer, can be awkward and off-putting: "Tell me about yourself."

What do you say when pressed with such a question? I've often thought how I would try to define myself in a few words or phrases, but I'm not concise enough to do so. I don't know that anyone really could. And when it's asked as the first question in an interview, I'm not nearly warmed up to the interviewer enough to give an answer I'm happy with. What is it that defines a person? Where you're from? What you do? How you spend your spare time? Do you answer honestly, even if that means "I've been so tired lately my spare time when I'm not asleep has been spent sitting on the bed in the hotel room thinking I should just turn off the TV and go to sleep?"

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Probably I'm just frustrated. I was recently discussing my situation with a classmate, also in the midst of applications to residency, and we were both remarking upon how it has taken a lot of effort and drive to get where we are in life. But the end is not in sight, and if anything, it is harder work to move ahead now than it ever was before.

Which is why I don't know that I'd recommend a medical career to anyone asking me for advice. Fewer than ten percent of applicants to medical school are accepted, nation-wide. But that's not the end of the bottle-neck. The competition you see and participate in before medical school only gets worse. Before medical school, you can pretend that it's only a facade, it's not really you, the competition is just a phase.

But it's not. You become that person, and if you don't, you fail. Two of my classmates actually dropped out of school, because they saw that. One is now a weatherman, and the other drives an armored truck. Mad props to them both. (Sorry, dated reference)

So, who am I? I'm a guy who doesn't mind working hard, but is tired of making life about a competition, who wants to help people, but doesn't want his life completely subsumed in others. Maybe that means I won't be a great doctor. But if being a great doctor is defined by the number of textbooks I've authored, I don't think I want that. At least, I didn't back when I was sane. I don't know.

Dang, that's what I should have said.


medstudentitis said...

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

It's hard to define one's self in a few sentences. I always have a hard time choosing whether I'm defined best by what I do or by how I feel.

I'm sure you did an awsome job and keep on slogging through, it's gotta get better sometime, doesn't it?

Joel said...

Don't know if you are still checking the comments down here, but I identify entirely with what you are saying. It is interesting how we battle in our minds with what we really want. Our competitive side wants to be recognzied and do really well, but another side of us just wants to do human things in a way we love to do them. And life is all about drive, drive, drive, until all of a sudden you are at the top of the hill, and wishing you'd done a number of things differently.

Personally, I think you'd do a great job as a doctor, but in particular, as an elder or pastor in a church. Reading your blog I can tell your heart for people, and your love for them. We are all messed up, and you know that well, but that's what gives you insight.

Nathan said...

Medstudentitis - I would certainly hope so. And excellent choice of poem there. It isn't Eliot, but it's no less apropos.

Joel - thanks for dropping by. And I think you're right, in your assessment of life in general, and in your assessment of me. Perhaps I should have gone to seminary rather than medical school Perhaps I still will.