A Place Worth Seeing

In the past month, I’ve taken two long trips; I was able to do this because I’m working part time as a waitress. I’m ridiculously broke now. A year ago, I made myself a set of promises, and some of things I’ve done were things I told myself I would do while I talked myself into a different career path. I learned a new language and wrote a book while taking time to explore my interests outside of school. I learned I quite like academia, but there are other things in the world I missed while being absorbed in school work. Some of things that happened were a surprise, things I didn’t think I wanted now or really ever. I imagined myself being this lone adventurer, quirky and single, but I came out of this with a serious partner; I explored and traveled with others, finding I’m better with people when I climb out from behind my defensive barriers that would make trench soldiers proud.

Adventuring or something like it.

I needed to talk myself out of my years long dream to be a doctor. I grieved for what felt like a failure on my part. I felt like I wasted money and time on a dream I should have realized wasn’t right for me. I knew I was starting over, and in that anger, I fell back on the things I pushed away while I told myself the only thing I wanted in my life was a career in medicine. And there’s the thing: in the end, I wanted other things in my life besides medicine, and I knew because I did my fucking homework, that to be a doctor, you have to want that; only that. It has to be a passion because it’s hard work, a long struggle. At the same time, I realized the things I liked about medicine — the aspects of pathology, research, and contributing to my community — I could do in another career. So I divorced medicine and set out to explore and built my skills in medical research, aiming to get my PhD in translational medicine.

And here is where it gets difficult; here is where I failed. I failed hard, quick and unexpected, except it wasn’t quite so sudden if I think about it. There’s the knowledge that this wasn’t a permanent failure. There are lessons there, things I’m trying to get a handle on now. I don’t want to doubt myself because confidence is a fickle thing. If it seems I’m a bit less excited about my career at the moment, that’s only because I had a set back and am not working towards it full time right now. It’s difficult for that enthusiasm to come through, so I fill conversations with the other things I have in my life. When I’m asked, “Well, why don’t you do this? You really want to be in this area of biology?” I get frustrated because yes, yes this is really where I want to be.

It takes lose, voluntary and otherwise, to expose things; you can’t see what something means to you until it’s gone. Maybe it’s the way the brain works; we feel like something will be with us forever. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not always curious, working to acquire new knowledge. I can’t imagine a life devoid of adventure, either. I have limits, but in the mathematical sense. There are certain numbers I can’t reach, my curve goes off into space before I can get there. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a set of values, things I can do, numbers that I happened to come across. I don’t know how all of these things makes sense, but when I worry about money and failure, I remember I love the journey, the need to adventure to some place worth seeing.