So, You’re Going To Be a Doctor

Vera, a couple of weeks ago your grandmother and I looked after you when you parents had some business to attend to. You were interested in the protective guard I was wearing on my left arm, the one a surgeon had recently cut open to install a plate and screws. I removed the guard so you could see the incision, which by now had had the sutures removed. You were quite curious and not the least bit scared or queasy about it. You touched the site of the incision, now closed and in the process of healing further.

Because of your surprising interest, I then showed you my shoulder, where a different surgeon had repaired fractures with even more hardware, requiring an even longer incision. The incision isn’t pretty (actually, it’s considerably worse looking than the arm), but, again, you had a curiosity that was compelling. You asked if you could touch it. I said, yes, wondering what was going through your mind.

I then remarked that, given your interest, perhaps you should become a doctor. I asked you if you wanted to be a doctor when you grew up. Without hesitation, you said, Yes! I said you’d have to share your new career plans with your parents when they returned home.

Quite a while later, we heard the garage door. When the door to the kitchen opened, you took off to enthusiastically greet your parents as you always do. It was then I heard you tell them: “I’m going to be a doctor!”

I feel I should receive a fee for this career counseling. You and your parents have avoided hours if not years of struggling to find your chosen career. At 27 months, you already have yours in hand, thanks to me!

I realize, of course, that it’s possible you will change your mind. I also realize there is no way a 27-month-old could understand what the job entailed. Or what she was actually saying for that matter.

That said, I wouldn’t be disappointed if you did become a doctor. I always thought it would be interesting and rewarding to be a doctor — a profession in which you get to help people and make the world a better place on a daily basis. I never had the memory to handle all the terms, nor the interest in memorizing all that stuff that would be required, but in a way I wish I had.

As a lawyer, I helped people and companies. But it wasn’t the same. I didn’t save lives. I didn’t find cures or heal. My contribution paled in comparison to a doctor.

That’s not to suggest there aren’t many other career paths that afford opportunity to satisfy one’s cognitive appetite and make a real contribution. There are. Even in the law, there are such options. But I never went that direction.

My addition to affirmation and economic security that comes from professional success led me to a law firm that accepted only those at the top of their class. In return, they paid well and gave us the opportunity to handle interesting, complex matters. I liked that. But nearly all our clients were businesses. Everyday people couldn’t afford our rates.

I wish I had recognized my addiction at an earlier age and worked to overcome it. But, as with so many things, it seems things are easier to spot with age.

In any case, Vera, it doesn’t matter to me what you choose to do when you grow up. I just hope it’s something you enjoy and that you’re good at it, and that it enables you to make a contribution to the world.

Most of all, I hope you do it for the right reasons.

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