Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Little chances

So, I'm a huge television junkie, which I think we've already established. This time of year, things are running down to their season/series end, and that means lots of reflective episodes, lots of goodbyes, lots of the ole "take a chance and never look back" message.

I've been thinking about that whole message lately, and how it translates into my life and choices. There aren't any big plane rides that I have to take, any tables of roulette that I need to bet on... in essence, there aren't any lines of demarcation between making the "Big! Giant! Choice!" and the aftermath. For me, it's all a bunch of little chances that might translate into big changes.

The decision to go to med school was not met with a sudden change in my life, although it was toasted with much fanfare and congratulations. It was a big decision, admittedly, but the changes it mitigated were small ones. My class schedule filled up with science and math, my timeline to graduation lengthened, and I added a major to my ever-growing list of credentials.

However, looking at my life this morning, while walking to the lab, I was struck by how different it was from my life two years ago. Two years ago, I drove to a job I couldn't stand, to do work that was uninspiring, for people who didn't appreciate it. My days were an endless recreation of the one before, and while graduation was on the horizon, the changes it would bring would be minuscule to my day-to-day.

I had no idea what was going to happen, or if it did, it would be satisfying and worth all the work I had to go through to bring it into reality. Majoring in public service was something I did because it was easy - the classes were offered at night and on weekends, the subjects were not too challenging, and the work I would eventually be "qualified" to do wasn't that much different from the work I was already doing.

I had a happy life - don't get me wrong - but I didn't realize it at the time. I often felt that something was missing, that I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, and I felt a profound sense of loss for a life unlike the one I was living.

Fast forward to today. I'm about half-way through the pre-requisites for applying to medical school, I'm working on a summer research project funded by the National Institutes of Health, I'm a certified Emergency Medical Technician, and I'm working towards a more patient-centered position at the hospital in which I work.

These changes did not come about overnight or even relatively quickly. They were the conscious effort of many small decisions over a long period of time. I read somewhere that our "...futures are dependent upon today's behaviors and actions." I'm finding that statement to be far more relevant than "take a chance and never look back."

In addition to lengthening the timeline of change, it also lowers the stakes of each choice quite a bit. There are many choices that once made cannot be unmade and that forever change your destiny - but these choices are often the exception, not the rule. It is far more commonplace for there to be a series of choices that actually bring about the change we wish. This gives us a great deal more leeway with individual choices, and allows us to experiment and see how the individual choices impact our environments.

I think my basic point is that it's certainly fun to watch Rachel Berry get on a train and arrive in New York City, her life forever and instantly changed, but it's not very realistic. Alas, it's hard to celebrate the little changes at the moment when a choice is made, but maybe it's better to realize that a long time ago, in a land far away, I once made a choice... and that no matter how small or insignificant it seemed at the time, it set the stage for a whole host of other choices that would eventually bring me to today - and that today is a beautiful thing.

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