A Dilemma (di - two; lemma - proposition)

This past December my mom asked me, as I gushed about a snake documentary I got for Christmas, "Why don't you go into something with critters? Zoology, or something?"

"I don't think scientists actually get to do much field work," I replied, "and I don't think I'd like lab work. And I don't think they get paid much. And even if it was cool, I think they have to leave their families for months at a time to do fieldwork, and I don't want to do that."

 "Well, okay..."

 I began giving the same speech to my boss the other day (it was not the first time we'd had the discussion) and she cut me off, saying, "you have an excuse for everything." I replied, "no, not for being a doctor. Becoming a doctor makes sense." And becoming a doctor does make sense for me. As a doctor I would do something concrete, I would be fulfilling a fundamental need. I would be serving people directly, and I could see the results of my work. I would make a lot of money. I would feel prestigious, like I had accomplished something with my career. If the economy tanked, I would be safe because people always need doctors. And if the nation collapsed into anarchy, I would have a usable skill (I don't know what HR guys or English professors will do if the nation collapses into anarchy).

 But it doesn't light me up. I do not have a native interest in the intricacies of the body. Take my skeleton, for example; these are the things I know about my skeleton: I have a cranium and a spine. There's a femur in my leg (the long bone on top?). I contain a metatarsal; however, I don't know where it is or what it looks like. I am not itching to know. I've never picked up an anatomy book because I just really wanted to learn more.

 Zoology doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I mean, I don't really care much for cell-structures and ATP and genetics. I'm a people person, and I think zoologists, by definition spend little time with humans. I can't really think of anything useful that zoology does. (Ornithologists are considering splitting a single species of sparrow into three really similar but different species of sparrow. That is semantic, esoteric, and I can't see how it will improve anybody's life, not even the sparrows.) Along that line, I think I veer away from science because it can study the body of life while ignoring the spirit (the humanities can do the opposite). Zoology jobs aren't in high demand right now, and zoology professors certainly aren't at the top of the university payroll. And I don't think they're as immune to anarchic upheaval as doctors are.

 But animals sure do light me up. I love watching nature documentaries; David Attenborough is my Michael Jordan. Learning about nature pleases me. Without looking anything up I can tell you that a certain species of snake has a down-pointing spur near the front of its spine specially suited to cracking eggs, that a velvet ant is really the wingless female of a certain species of wasp, that vinegaroons receive their name from the acrid odor they emit when threatened,  that scarlet macaws hail exclusively from Puerto Rico, that buckbrush can be identified by the pungent smell released when crushed in your hand, that the best way to carry a snapping turtle is not (regardless of what the field guide says) by its tail, that lack of teeth does not a painless bite make, that tiny whip-scorpions live beneath the flaky bark of the sycamores near my home, that "edible" plants don't necessarily taste good,  that even when you have a good grip on them, some snakes can dislocate their jaw and sink at least one fang into your hand.               


Chan said...

Whaddaya think?

I think this needs an ending (Lorraine and I have discussed this), but I'm not sure what it should be.

meghan & jason said...

You really just know all that stuff off the top of your head? I just finished reading 25 animal reports written by my third graders, and I learned quite a bit from them. I think it's amazing you care about all of that enough to remember so much and sound so interested in it.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

What if you compromised and became a vet?

Not to offer a suggestion, but the logical combination of doctoring and animals is veterinary medicine.

I liked this though. The facts throughout were neat. But I don't mean "neat" in a patronizing way. It's just one of those words where--

Nevermind. You know what I mean.

Julie M said...

Hey Chan,
I really enjoyed this piece. Who has not felt this way? No one. I loved the detail (Sis. Morgan is going to cringe at your last part).

When I majored in ElEd and felt like I had lost myself and hated myself for doing something practical, but that I didn't love. I broke down, here, on the blog, and Sis. Morgan responded. "If you aren't foaming at the mouth in love with it," I don't know if you should do it.

However, I am doing what I did not initially love and it is so stinking hard and I had a nervous breakdown because of it, and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I have learned a lot from it. About myself, about life, about how I view the world. And guess what? I am actually enjoying it. It's still stinking hard and I want to cry at least 2 out of the 5 days each week. But I feel like I am doing good in this world....some of the time.

On the other hand, I went to help one of my colleagues with her research paper for her graduate school class, and I felt so energized, so happy, so worthwhile after it was over. It brought such happiness.

So there you go. I think you can find joy and happiness in whatever you choose, but somethings may make you happier than others.

Here's the thing about medical school:
1) You run up so much debt attending it makes you want to puke.
2) You study all the time. You have to be 100% committed, and if you don't like what your studying that's going to be really hard.
3) After you've spent four years of your life studying (hopefully what you've enjoyed) then you have to go to 4-7 more years of indentured servitude where you work 80+ hours for the average salary of a teacher.
4) After that, you will have to find a job, which probably won't be that hard, but still. You will be 40+ years old and just now looking for your first job in your profession. This is when most people are hitting their prime in their career.

You will get to help people. And people need help. I live in a community of doctors, my branch is full of them, and yet I can't find anyone to help me with some current medical issues. We need good doctors! You would be a great doctor- you understand that it is important to empathize and connect. But as seen from above, I think you really have to love it. A lot.
David (who is foaming at the mouth in love with this stuff) has gotten so burned out that the best part of his day is when he goes and plays racquetball during lunch time. He sprained his ankle once and couldn't play for a whole week. I don't think I've seen him so sad.

Sarachel said...

I enjoyed it, Chan. I like your voice. It sounds very natural.

(by the way, metatarsals are in your feet)

Sky said...

Yeah. It needs an ending. Julie, great advice. And, even though I never intend to pick up a stupid snake, yes, that last detail did make me gag (which is good--shows good writing--I think). Chan, we all look at money, prestige, etc. But, I've often wondered how the Lord looks at things from His view of us living through all eternity. One thing I know for sure, you're a fine writer

Looks like you picked up some spammers with writing this one. We may have to put a word identity on our site.

Crystal said...

Life is too short to spend 2/3 of it doing something you don't love.

I love your writing, Chan. You're always thoroughly present. (You're also the only person I know that would gush about a snake documentary, though snakes are pretty adorable. Don't tell Sis. Morgan I said that.)

Katie said...

I liked this writing too. Left me wondering what you want, or what you want more. (Ending?)

To add to Julie's list, every few years Doctors have to take exams that make sure they're still capable to continue with their profession. That's stressful as well.

As for your writing, I enjoyed reading it. It has your voice in there.

Sarachel said...

Sis. Morgan, I wonder how the Lord looks at things, too. Surely He sees worth in everything? Does He esteem some careers as more important than others? I guess I don't know, but I think He must see merit in a myriad of different career paths.

I'll never forget telling my dad when I changed my major to communication. I don't think he ever quite got over the shock.

Growing up, he treated me like I was a genius. I was a real daddy's girl--his little golden child. He was appalled that I didn't choose a "smart" major. But here's the catch: I don't think that my major isn't smart. (I didn't really talk to him for a couple of years after that, which I feel bad about)

I recently learned that he doesn't place any significance in a BA. Thank goodness I got a BS. (sarcasm)

I guess my point is that there has to be significance in all of majors. If a Bachelor of Arts didn't have merit, it wouldn't exist. Universities wouldn't grant students meaningless degrees. I have to believe there is value in more professions than those that are "prestigious" or lucrative.

Sky said...

Yes, I totally agree with you. There are no unimportant majors. I was thinking more about his motives for choosing. I get nervous when Chan (or anyone) starts talking about "I would make a lot of money. I would feel prestigious, like I had accomplished something with my career. If the economy tanked, I would be safe." To me these are motives that don't fit with the eternities. Some could use the same arguments against him in behalf of the humanities(IE English professors, communication majors). In a fallen world, we need more "truth" and "beauty" and knowledge of ways to interact and stay close while the red fire balls sear our brother's faces and land around us.
Again, I know this sounds very
60's, but I firmly believe that "Love," which entails all the intricacies of how to do that well--whew, "Truth" and "beauty," which I think literature and art reveal to us as we study them, and "kindness," etc., which entails communication skills, are eternal things also--as much as the skills a doctor learns. I'm not saying one major is better than another. I'm just saying that a telling statement (one that even scares me) in his essay is this one: "But it doesn't light me up. I do not have a native interest in the intricacies of the body." I know. I know. I admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool romantic and refuse to give it up. I sincerely and forever believe that if we follow our own hearts, we will even tap into Pre-existent qualities that need to be pursued further while we're down here on earth. Is this always possible? No. I'm in a job where I cannot share all I know about American and British lit.; Often I wonder why I am so prepared in one area and work in another, but I'm teaching, and in an academic setting, and if I had it to do over again--even knowing I would not get to use what I learned, I would pick the same field to study because I love it. So? I don't want to preach anything except self-examination, because I only know "today." Therefore, I want to choose today what will make me happy--what feels right. This morning it was that thirty ducks returned to the river. I firmly believe that the future is in God's hands. I gave up trying to make it safe because I have no control over most of it, but He does, and I have come to trust Him--even when I'm mostly confused. Does that make sense?

Natorade said...

I know exactly what you mean Chan. I do like the Vet idea. Although you would only see dogs that ate 115 assorted crayons or a cat that some kid swung around in circles solely by it's hind legs. (neither of which has ever happened in our family... ahem) I dont think anyone's pet velvet ant or genetically altered sparrow will be in for a check up. What makes you happy? Sounds like animals. You should run with that-- at least as a minor.

Katie said...

Sister Morgan, you should teach a mini seminar/class about BritLit. (Brontes/WH) That would be neat--if you love it.

Crystal said...

Chan, I think you should go into zoological medicine. That way you could work with all sorts of different animals, including snakes and birds. And your kids would think you had the coolest job ever.

Sarachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarachel said...

Yes, Sis. Morgan, it makes sense. "I want to choose today what will make me happy--what feels right." That's what I do nowadays. I'm done with making plans (at least not too many). I used to be so scared of the uncertainty of the future, but if I just do what feels right, it is right. I think that's all the Lord asks us to do while we're here.

Chan said...

Hmm, I should have replied to replies on here as they came...but I didn't. Anyhow, thanks everyone for responding to this post.

I think animal medicine is out. Creatures lose a bit of their spell on me if I don't find them in their element.

I don't know that I would write if I didn't have people respond to my writing, like happens on here. Is that egocentric? I don't think so.

So, thanks again.

P.S. - Julie, Sara, Crystal, Meghan...I would love to see a post from one of you all. It might even draw Anona out.