Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Who cares about dreams?

A lot of times I think people in our generation* waste too much time thinking about what they're meant to do. What their dream job is. What their destiny is. What about the idea of doing what your parents want you to do? Or the idea of taking over the family business? Or just continuing to do what you're doing because that is what you have been trained to do and you're good at it? What about simply being glad that you have a job or a trade that can give you work? What is all this dream crap?

If you are still reading because you think I have the answer, you can stop reading now. But why exactly is this question so important to me?

Let's take a very brief trip back to my childhood. Young Sea Legs Girl dreamed of nothing but being a musician. And later of being a writer. Her head was caught in fiction books and rock groups, but her dad had other ideas for her. He thought the whole music thing was mildly charming, but wanted his daughter to be involved in sports and go to medical school. I started college an English major playing in rock bands and the university string orchestra and ended up a long-distance runner bound for medical school (let's temporarily ignore the fact that I was also a raging anorexic with obsessive compulsive disorder).

In the end, he was right. One should not study what one enjoys studying. One should study (and train) to be the person one wants to be.

Had you asked me a year ago, I would have said it had all worked out. But now I'm not so sure. I am working on a study where I have very limited patient contact. I sit and grade retinal photos, enter data into a database and try to analyse data without cheating or lying or messing up. And at this point I am having trouble seeing what exactly Danes are going to get out of an epidemiological study of what eye diseases their population has. Okay, there are actually a lot of things that could come out of the study. But every day I sit and dream. And think about everything except for what I should be thinking of.

I think about how I went to medical school to work with Doctors without Borders and how I, ironically, have ended up studying the population in the world with perhaps the best health care system. I think about working as a sports medicine doctor. I think of working as a family medicine doctor in a small town. I think of finally publishing a paper out of all of the Danish National Birth Cohort study just looking at the effect of running on pregnancy. I think about publishing the Running Routes of the World book (yes, yes, you can still contribute! - it just requires time and commitment and a love of running and the possibility of no monetary compensation - it's a great opportunity!)

But at what point does one give up one's training and go in a completely different direction? No, no. I'm not talking about giving up medicine. I just couldn't. It's in my bones at this point and I love it.I'm talking about being more of a general physician rather than an ophthalmologist. A PhD and a whole lot of knowledge about eyes couldn't really hurt anything - it just seems like a waste to everyone who has trained me. And maybe I am just really bummed out because my "patient" is an enormous database.

As far as SR is concerned, he wants to move back to the US for many reasons. I am starting to be ok with this idea.

We have talked about the idea of moving to Klamath Falls: a small town in Oregon we could both imagine living, where there is a Family Medicine residency program for me and an ER SR could work in. We wouldn't move from here until my PhD and SR's specialty training in hematology is over (so we're talking a few years -- and I'll have to erase this post long before then so no residency program knows where I want to match -). But right now, it is a dream we share. No one really believed I would end this blog post saying we shouldn't dream, did they?

Thanks to Nasko Oskov for this picture of Crater Lake near Klamath Falls.


*everyone in the western world

Running songs of the day:

We Used to Wait by Arcade Fire
Ivy & Gold by Bombay Bicycle Club (just because of the banjo)

12 comments:

cherelli said...

Great post, totally get where you are coming from...BTW Brett and I loved Klamath Falls too when we drove through there late last year - beautiful area. I believe your career will be a life-long thing; there is nothing to say you can't do Doctors Without Borders and work in a 3rd world country when the kids are a bit older and after you get more experience with people, maybe in arond 2 years you'll want to leave the comfort of where you are now...you can always return there if things don't work out? Anyway, it's fun to play with different ideas about where the future will go - I'll come visit you in Klamath Falls for sure!!

Sarah said...

I may be biased, but I think moving to Oregon is a wonderful thing to dream about. I hope your dreams come true! :)

cldevall said...

What ever you decide about careers or countries, just keep your blog. I really love reading it!

Meghan said...

Keep dreaming, as these things are the fuel of life!

I'm sorry things seem difficult for you right now, though.

mmmonyka said...

It is nice to have dreams. But dreams that are realistic. It makes you try harder. And one can always make new dreams and forget the old ones, that's the best part of it.

Btw, you are like 100th person who told me that I left Michigan "on time" before winter comes:) However, I do not believe that it is that bad. Maybe I will go back in January and then I can see (well, more like feel) whether I was right or people are just wimps.

SteveQ said...

I've written and deleted comments here several times already, so I guess I don't know what I want to say.

Currently listening to "Neckbrace" by Ratatat.

Michelle said...

Geez, if you moved there you'd only be about 150 miles away from where I live! That's kinda crazy.

I am a believer in dreams. That's why I quit my former career and am pursuing nursing. I love my new path. If I had done everything my parents expected, I would have remained in a career that I hated and brought me nothing but grief. And how exactly is that healthy?

Diana said...

What a lovely post. I sit and think about how the path I've taken doesn't seem at all useful or helpful to the rest of the world. Maybe I should have done something else. But then, I have a really good day of work, and I realize I like what I do. Dreaming can be good, but I just can't get carried away and let it get in the way of enjoying my reality.

Emily said...

Wow! I wake up in a panic about what I want to do with my life and feel the need to check your blog. POW! We must be related. It's getting down to crunch time now and I have to decide what area of psychology I want to apply to for grad school. I have absolutely no idea what to do. Which is not a great position to be in when deciding what I'll be doing for the next 7+ years. I have no advice for you, but I certainly share your angst.

sea legs girl said...

Emily, wow. What a fantastic and unexpected comment. Thanks for the commiseration.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment. As Steve pointed out, this was not an easy post to comment on.

sea legs girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ewa said...

I think it is great to have dreams as long as they don't stand in the way of living a meaningful life. Gosh, not that long ago people and especially women could not even hope to realize any of their dreams. Now many do and I think the world is better for it.
And I love Crater Lake. One of the most picturesque areas of on the west coast. I am told the marathon there is a killer too. :)