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Nov 12, 2009


While I was in graduate school, the thing that turned me off the most about music was the competition. It seemed so crass to me to make games and sport out of things as sacred as music and performing, which really speaks only to how little I understood about the profession I had chosen. The school where I was had a reputation for being one of the best in the world, turning out some of the generation’s finest singers, as well as for being one of the most “cut-throat”. To say that a school is cut-throat is to imply that it’s students are willing to do anything, including cutting other people’s throats, to succeed. Particularly poetic in the case of a school teaching people to sing.

I remember watching my colleagues tear down posters for auditions so that people wouldn’t know about the opportunity. At parties, hosts would serve the harshest of liquor and later laugh at their hoarse, coughing guests while they sipped on Sprite and hummed. The atmosphere backstage for auditions for the big productions was horrific; people would spike other’s water, steal sheet music from accompanists, or knock over prop furniture to distract the singer onstage. It was a nightmare, truly, and one of the biggest reasons that I lost my taste for music. Some might say that I “couldn’t cut it”. I rather think that there is more to life than trying to ruin someone else’s.

At least, I like to think that I feel that way.

This morning, while waiting for clinic to start, I sat chatting with the other student on my service. She bugs me a little, to be honest. She calls me “dude” and talked for a half hour about how private she is. She also gave a little sermon about how old she is (24) and how she fears she’ll never get married because her boyfriend of 9 months hasn’t proposed yet. This combination of things irked me a little, I’ll admit, but she’s perfectly nice and gave me no real reason to dislike her or wish her ill.

So I didn’t understand my reaction when she mentioned her interest in OB/GYN. “I wish I could get involved in some kind of research or something,” she yammered. “I just don’t know who to talk to.”

I felt my heart rate go up and my hair was suddenly stuck to my neck. It so happened that I met with someone just last week about getting involved in research in OB, and had a meeting scheduled for this very afternoon to get started. I knew just who she should talk to, even knew his email address. So why did I suddenly hear myself say, “Yeah, that would be nice. I don’t really know.”

I was immediately ashamed. My face was hot and I looked away.

This new school of mine, this huge monstrosity of an institution, is a whole different animal than my previous one. Since transferring, I have worked so hard, so much harder than I would have before, just to keep up. I tell myself over and over that this will make me a better doctor, more competitive, more effective, but they are just words to the rhythm of my fear that I will fail. Here, where my family is, where my father practices, where my future lies, I am more afraid than ever of failure. And so I saw myself change into that being of paranoia who acts purely out of self-preservation. I lied to protect my own hard-earned connection, an email address.


Later I told my fellow student that I had been distracted this morning and neglected to mention the OB research contact I had. She was so excited and sat down to email him right away, thanking me more than was necessary. I could taste the acid in my mouth; even then, after beating myself up all day about being a jerk, I stood there and wished I hadn’t shared the information, wishing that I alone had that lead on a publication or a presentation or a connection to get me where I needed to be.

It’s days like today that make me wonder why I am doing this and who I am becoming in the process. I like to think that I maintain an attitude above the pettiness and cruelty of mere competition, but, as I proved today, I clearly am deceiving myself.

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~Ashley said...

:-/ sorry you're feeling that way. unfortunately, i think that for anybody to get into or through the medical education process, we have this competitive drive. it's bred into us, and it's what makes us be able to survive long enough to get where we are. also, thank you for saying that you felt like our former institution didn't do so hot at preparing us...i've come to realize in residency that i really learned nothing about how to be a doctor. sure, i can answer test questions, but doctoring? i'm really having a hard time adjusting to internship and mothering at the same time...and i wonder had i been better prepared, maybe i would feel better now? who knows.