Why I do what I do

Inspired by some unwittingly deep questions from wonderful friends.

A sunny, almost cloudless sky peak out us through the windshield, shops and houses whizzing past as we drive down one of Parramatta's large roads. My massive Gray's for Students textbook was nestled in my lap. "Why do you want to do Medicine?" she asks, and then, more importantly, "would you study here in Sydney?" A quick "yes, of course" to the latter and a long-winded, convoluted answer to the former. And then, before I could really work out the answer, I was back on a plane to Melbourne.

A few months later, I sat in a different car as we pulled out of the driveway on my way to the Medicine interview. Suddenly, something that seemed so definite, I will be studying Medicine in Sydney next year, became a seeming impossibility. A nervous, panicked text to one of the most trusted people in my life expressed just how much I sat at a precipice, Goodness, friend, WHAT do I DO if I don't get into Med School? and then came the most beautiful response, one that I received the day that friend moved into our house in Sydney, one month into my Medical course. Perfect serendipity, it seemed, was to be a fleeting and incredible part of my life. You do something else, and you make the best of it, like we do with everything. And it will have been meant to be. And ten years later you'll look back and be glad that things happened unexpectedly.

In the ten day limbo between returning from Europe and moving to Sydney, I remember sitting on the train with one of my closest friends. It was my last opportunity to explore the exciting, hidden laneways of Melbourne as a local. As we travelled, she asked me the question I could tell had been burning on her lips for the many minutes we'd chatted. Are you going to get back with your ex now that you'll live in the same city? It was a question I'd gotten numerous times, mostly from people worried I was moving interstate to revive a relationship that had definitely moved on. A question from concerned friends who just wanted to keep me safe from the poor decisions we (almost) all make when lead by the illogical power of emotion. No, I said, I'm not leaving all of my favourite people for that reason. I'm starting a new life. I'm growing up. And I'm doing something that finally just feels right. She didn't look entirely convinced but we continued on our way, not quite sure what it would be like to live so far apart. I'm not doing this for love, friend. Or at least, not for love for someone else. Love for me. And don't worry, I still love you, friend. I'm not leaving you behind - distance means little these days, I wanted to tell her.

The closer moving day came, the more questions I got. "When did you decide you wanted to do Medicine? Are you excited to be moving away? How do your parents feel about all of this? Why do you want to do Medicine?" They came so rapid-fire that the responses became learnt. Smile, nod, say something that will allay their fears and make them smile. Because it feels right, I wanted to say. Because it's the first decision I've made that makes me hum inside. But people like logical, solid answers.

When I was in second-year Undergrad, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I took an anatomy course that I adored and had no idea where it could lead, except Medicine. I went to the career expos and left with more questions than pamphlets with which to answer them. So, one day, I sat down and wrote a list of things I wanted out of a potential career. To learn forever, to spend lots of time with people, to transfer my skills anywhere around the world, to advance my career without necessarily receiving a promotion, to make a positive impact on the world around me. To wear a suit without being stuck at a desk all day (I've never been very good at sitting still and my brain functions best if I'm able to wiggle around). To listen. To teach. To be part of something bigger. The more I thought about it, the more medicine fit within this framework.

But the medicine story doesn't finish with the day you get your offer, as amazing and beautiful as that day is. The medicine story doesn't even really ever finish. Sometimes, in this part of the world, it feels like the Eagle's Hotel California. You can check out, but you can't never leave. It becomes part of the fabric of your being. You forget that bowel movements, urinary frequency and the colour of sputum don't tend to make appropriate conversation. You forget that you are allowed to get through a sentence without referencing your information source, and, that you needn't demand a source for information provided by friends. You forget that hand hygiene isn't a part of everyone's daily life - and you realise that making it onto the wards and NOT seeing alcohol rub can put you into a bit of a panic.

The four-year process of studying to be all of the things about which we dreamed so long can make you forget why you do what you do. Knuckling down for a seven-hour lecture day prior to an optional evening session or health talk or night of hitting the books can distance you from the purpose of the study. A day rushing around hospital and realising just how little we know can make the task of learning everything necessary seem impossible.

So I do other stuff too. I do things that remind me of why health is important. Because health isn't what you see in hospitals. Health is families having picnics in the park; health is the cyclists on their way to work; health is the fresh food aisle. Health is the smile and laughter on your friends' faces after you make some terrible joke; health is getting quality sleep; health is being able to let go of your worries. And sitting at my desk, all day, every day, wouldn't be healthy. I do things that inspire me - things that allow me to laugh, to use my mind creatively, to spend time with people, to move, to wear fancy clothes, to teach, to listen and to be part of something bigger. I try, as much as possible, to be around people who resonate at the same frequency, who just seem to understand, and who make me smile without even knowing why. Most of the time, it works. And most of the time, I love my life.

That's why I do what I do. Why do you do what you do?


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