Saturday, December 13, 2008

Before the Storm

November 30, 2008
Today we walked, moving briskly through the chilly morning in the hours where it was gray and calm before it turned blustery and snowy.

As my muscles warmed, my head cleared of the insistent ache and I breathed in air that was just the right side of sharply cold. I've always meant to reach the path that parallels the highway, never able to peer far enough from my car to tell where it leads. So I tugged Chienne away from trees and hydrants as we moved up and down hills and around curves toward the elusive path.

Somewhere between the time I left the house and the point where I got lost in a field of weeds, I began to consider science and beauty, blogs and significance as I enjoyed the way the wheat-colored weeds rustled in an otherwise quiet morning.

To provide perspective, I have always worked in clinical research. I met patients and their families. I prayed over their struggles and wept when they died, that red mark denoting their final day on Earth ill-equipped to provide insight into their struggle against disease. I'd go so far as to say that what I do can be ugly - dictated by profit margins and sales forecasts, requiring people to offer their bodies and time for us test our hypothesis. When hope becomes fleeting and I reach to support trembling limbs as people wracked by disease attempt to offer what they can to advance knowledge? This job is repulsive. Utterly hideous.

There were many reasons I stepped back, decided I simply didn't want to make a career actively performing studies. But when I look at clinical research, I find it stunningly important - we know how a drug works in the human body, we understand how to detect disease earlier with this one technique, we can help that group of people.

"You convinced them it was significant," Boss often said of grant applications and journal submissions. For that was always clear to me - here's why this is important. But as to how it can be done well and structured properly? I got lost in asking a sick patient to return for two more visits when I thought once might be enough. I wanted to examine data I had rather than getting more. I worried about problems and suffering we might cause. I simply wasn't good at what I did.

December 12, 2008
I'm not sure I'm better now, frankly. The landscape I admired on my walk weeks ago - around the time this post was started but left unfinished - has been crushed or buried under persistent falls of snow. I glanced at the sign that warned of thin ice the other day, nodding at the wisdom of those who posted it. What had clearly been a small pond now appeared to be a field of snow - differentiating between water and land was all but impossible until, I assumed, one ended up very cold and wet.

I read today that unhappiness, once endured for long periods of time, can be disguised as contentment. I pondered it for a moment, recalling times I categorized as content and nodded my agreement. The realization that I'll be doing two jobs for the foreseeable future has me concerned. Blanketing life under an endless stream of tasks that are Vitally Important isn't useful for personal growth and happiness. I predict I'll become my work, knowing little other than what Industry wants and needs.

"When money is available again," I told Mom, "they won't hire anyone to help me because I will have done it all along." She agreed and I fretted for a moment before remembering to feel grateful for job security.

I remember when I took my post-doctoral position that I wanted a few things. A house with a dog door and a king-sized bed are the two I remember and I got them both. On the most recent job search? I wanted to be closer to home. To be busy and feel productive. And to make money.

"Huh," I said to my dog when we ended up under a road on that path I wanted to follow. She turned to look at me, pausing when I asked her to wait while I took a photo. "I guess this is where we were going," I said quietly, glancing around to see if anyone would witness my comment. "I thought it would be different."

With a last look over my shoulder at the rocks beside the river under the bridge, I tugged Chienne back toward home. "Not exactly what I expected," I told her as she pranced beside me, happy to be outside and seeing someplace new. I smiled down at her, and tried to take a shortcut - ended up lost in a giant field, getting scratches from trying to cut through a forest and cursed my inability to orient myself.

"At least," I huffed when we finally made it home, "we know what's there now."

1 comment:

Psych Post Doc said...

I can't say I've ever been right when I look back and reflect on how I thought things would be.

But that isn't a bad thing.

I hope you're on the mend.

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