Thursday, April 26, 2012

Almost in Love - my heart and medicine

"I call them the 80%," Sarah said.  "They are 80% right for you, and they are the hardest to leave.  But you still have to leave."  She's now happily married with two children, one of whom used to gleefully jump from my doormat to the floor, the height of two inches representing a massive plunge to the toddler. I also have the privilege of reading her "happy anniversary" posts on Facebook, so I can confidently say that she found her "100%."

"100%" is awesome.  Technically, it's "perfect."  But "80%" doesn't seem so bad, either.  In fact, "80%" feels like a LOT.  Like a huge bunch.  If 80% of the world's debt were erased, that would be cause for rejoicing.  If 80% of the time my auditions resulted in bookings, that would be heavenly.  So, why doesn't the "80% guy" leave me rejoicing in heavenly strains?

As the daughter of a professor, I must point out that 80% is a B-.  Actually, it's a C+/B- which in my Korean household is, effectively, unacceptable.  I'm not buying the C+/B- tomatoes.  I'm not paying to watch the C+/B- movie.  And I've learned over time, that the C+/B- man is, as with my homework, effectively unacceptable.

So, why am I writing this?  Clearly, the lovely Sarah has conclusively taught me to toss off the "80% guy."  Three cheers for Sarah!  Eliza is home free.  But I write this because so many people ask me why I left medicine, and I'm beginning to think that medicine was my "80% life." 

Someone remarked remarked about my time as a doctor, "… you always seemed happy …. I guess it must be internal …."  Believe me, "80% satisfied" is fairly satisfied.  But to quote the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, "Marriage is a long business."  A life is a long time.  A career is a long time.  And to be doubtful of my choice … or rather, to be tenaciously and tirelessly enticed by another possible choice 20% of the time … well, over the years, that adds up.

Even as a medical student, I could always spot the people at peace -- and it came in various flavors.  There was Malcolm, the surgical resident who never wavered in his steadiness and was outwardly friendly, despite days of sleep deprivation.  On the other hand, there was also, I'll call her, Jane who wouldn't stop complaining and bemoaning the state of the schedule, or the color of the walls or the odor in the hallway.  But if you took the time to feel her energy, she was in love.  She was clearly in love with her job, her department and her responsibilities.  She just had a saltier way of expressing it.

I remember pointing to Malcolm once saying, "I want to be like him when I grow up."  He had something I didn't, and I wanted it … and it had nothing to do with the specifics of his career choice or marital status.  He was in his right place.

The right place is not the "80% place."  Be that as it may, the "100% place" doesn't have a sign on it.  A person must feel it out, on their own.  After much blind groping, I can say that I'm there.  It isn't always pretty.  I eat a lot of peanut butter.  I'm often speeding from one venue to the other - the plight of the permanent part-timer.  I also job hunt all the time, continually auditioning.  But I'm there -- home.

Here, I get to throw all of my Self -- my loud, my tortured, my classless, my musical selves -- into my career.  I get to be relaxed about my tastes and opinions.  I'm no longer trying to be someone.  I live a sloppier existence.  I can now, "go with the flow."  Also, I'm no longer jealous of other people's happiness.  The pining acid envy that used to corrode my soul has gone.  Instead, I devour the hours ... all the while, wholly in love.

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