Thursday, October 07, 2004

were they dates or figs?

sometimes i like to pretend that i'm just trying this medical-scientist business out as a potential career-choice. don't get me wrong - i really enjoy it most of the time (not when on call, not when attending seminars i don't understand), and i have no real plans to change direction, but it's a little scary thinking that i'm most likely not going to get to dabble around some more. i'm never going to get to try out things like 'writer' 'teacher' 'coffee-shop-owner' (well, that last option is my potential retirement career-project!). i'm (probably) never going to be on american idol, as host or contestant. it's a little sad.

when i read magazine articles (i burned through all of elle while running this week), i can't help but imagine what it would be like to have a completely different work-life, one that looks on the glossy pages to be something infinitely fascinating and yet well-paying/lower stress than my current choice. like a small business owner. or a psychologist. or some random high-powered executive somewhere wearing d&g suits and prada shoes.

this whole musing makes me think of the scene in the bell jar where esther is just starting her depressive descent and begins to panic as she imagines her life's choices as figs (dates? i forget) on a tree. one fig is 'amazing writer!' and another 'doctor' and another 'mother', et cetera. she is trying to decide which fig/date to choose, but as she is paralyzed with self-doubt and malaise, she can't. the figs/dates rot and drop off the tree one by one, leaving her with nothing.

it's not that i feel regret or that i really wish i could do something else. it just alarms me sometimes how a life's work can be so seemingly up to chance. what if i hadn't gotten into medical school? what if i had walked out of here never to return after anatomy, since i really did hate it that much? or what if i quit during surgery? i was probably questioning my career choices most during my surgery rotation, when i was wondering whether i would survive with sanity intact for a full 8 weeks. it would have been so satisfying to storm out of the OR one day: "fuck this shit! i can't take it anymore! and i hate you all! you can spend the rest of your life, doctor asshole, feeling bad about how you made me quit!" not that anyone would have deserved for me to scream that, really, but i was at times that frustrated.

i guess the fact that i didn't do any of those things means that i'm here to stay. i'm actually quite content to do so, but it's just interesting to think about what if.


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It's figs:...I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. ~The Bell Jar, Chapter 7

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