Thursday, April 22, 2004

she works hard for the money so you'd better treat her right

What's really confusing is having a dream that you're at work. I dreamed I was running around the wards, seeing patients, putting in orders, doing scut, and not even in a surreal dream-sequence way, either. In a completely linear, ordered narrative. It's like I went through the whole morning in my sleep already. Which makes waking up really confusing.

Sometimes I wonder what I would be doing if I wasn't in medicine. Let's say I never went to med school. What would I be doing right now, at 25? Would I be working? Would I be in grad school? Would I be married? Would I be a scary lady with tinfoil wrapped around her head to keep out alpha rays, eating baked beans out of a can on the downtown A train?

I don't think I've ever had a real job until this one, and even residency is highly suspect on the scale of "real jobs." How does one apply for a real job? Is it really like in the movies, looking at the want ads in the paper and circling them with a red wax pencil? Or do you find jobs through word of mouth? Through connections? How do you know what kind of job you want? And how do you apply?

OK, so let's think about this now. Let's say I'm a senior in college, and med school is not on the map. What should I do next year? Let's take something that's not too much of a stretch: Grad school. What would I study? Sometime unbearably obscure that would make my parents scream? How does this sound: "I have a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies"? Gah, that would not only make my parents scream, but make me scream. In FEAR of my Birkenstocks-with-socks, leg-of-mutton-chomping, mead-swigging SELF. How about grad school in something more hard science-like? A Ph.D. in Neuroscience? That was my major in college, it's not such a stretch. Except for the fact that I hate, hate, HATE research. The only thing that I learned from research in college is to despise it. Bench research especially, but really, any kind of research kind of gives me the willies. I basically need to rule out any kind of careers that involve using SPSS.

OK, so no grad school. I need to make money. What else can I, fresh out of college, do? Ooh, I like to write, maybe I could be a writer! Yeah, and then maybe the mice in my tenement apartment can pick my bones clean after I die from starvation due to my short destitute life spent living in SQUALOR. So not every writer is successful. Need a backup plan. How about I write for a magazine? Hey, it doesn't have to be "The New Yorker." Heck, it could be it's oft-confused lower-brow namesake, "New York Magazine." That could sound good. See it on a business card: Michelle Au, Girl Reporter. Except that I know from my friend Jamal (who was a reporter a "Sports Illustrated" for several years) that the position of "Reporter" isn't what people really think it is. People think it's all running around with a notepad and a fedora that says "PRESS" on the brim, getting the scoop, interviewing the rich and powerful, maybe solving a few crimes on the side. But what it really is, apparently, is sitting at a desk all day and checking the facts in other people's stories. It's a step above copy editor (unless you really love grammar and punctuation), but maybe not as much excitement as it seems.

[As an aside, I often feel like I'm shattering people's glamourous visions of medicine when I tell them stories about work. "Wow, you were working the in EMERGENCY ROOM overnight? Was it all like, all, 'A van transporting a bunch of senior citizens crashed into the backyard birthday celebration for a bunch of five-year olds, ETA ten minutes!' And everyone starts running around getting out chest tube trays and defibrillators? And the driver of the van was the alcoholic uncle of one of the five year-olds who DIES and is wracked with anguished guilt as you pronounce in solemn tones, time of death, thirteen fifty three and then snap off your gloves angrily and slam them into the GARBAGE?" And then I have to break it to them that I basically spent 12 hours getting coughed on and doling out Motrin like it's going out of style. But anyway.]

What else could I have done? Computer stuff? I don't have the skillz to pay the billz. Advertising? Well, it would be fun to say stuff like, "I landed the Weingrip Account!" (not unlike "Cathy") but then...I would be like "Cathy." Aaack! Teacher? Hmm, summers off. But the rest of the time, it would be like doing my job now except for much, much less money. Snotty kids that leave you, parents crawling up your ass, occasional flickers of, "I made a difference!" buried under a growing mound of jaded cynicism. And pretty soon I'd be old and drinking burnt coffee out of a Hallmark "Shoebox Greetings" mug, bitching about how kids these days just don't understand old-fashioned values. Maybe I would form insular tribal alliances with other teachers and get all territorial in the teacher's lounge.

My main problem is that I've wanted to do medicine for so long that my vision of other jobs and careers is seriously stunted. My scope is basically that of an elementary school student. Teacher, firefighter, policeman, astronaut. (Or, if you will, cosmonaut.) I don't even know what most people do for a living. And even when people tell me, I don't really understand what their jobs are. What is a consultant anyway? What does an advertising executive really do? Or like Coleen's job, which she's explained to me several thousand times already, but which I still don't understand. She... designs... computer... thingys? See, I don't know. I'm lost.

Which I guess narrows it down to medicine. I hope my patient's feel good, knowing that their doctor is doing what she's doing because she really isn't good at doing much else.

Currently reading: I'm still between books! But I think I'm going to order "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" from Same day delivery in Manhattan! And just to make it worth my order, I think I'll get "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night." (Sounds interesting--thanks for the suggestion, Birdy!)

No comments:

Post a Comment