“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” Robert Browning (1812-1889)
This week marks the end of my first block of clinical rotations; the end of pediatrics for now and the end of simple patients. Simple in the fact that the vast majority of patients with whom we deal are quite healthy for the most part. Even with the kiddos who are on the more dire end of the spectrum, they still have relatively few, if zero, chronic illnesses compared to adult patients on the ward. While on peds rotation, I had a chance to ask each of the residents why they chose pediatrics. And strangely enough, most of them answered that although they enjoy working with kids, that wasn’t the main reason for their choice. It was youth. All the answers centered around the idea of youth. Kids are young, impressionable, fixable, teachable – with moderate, or even minimal effort, you can restore a child to 100% of his or her lively self. Or, like I mentioned, they are simple. There are few instances in which multiple chronic conditions, such as heart disease or type II diabetes or multiple medications cloud the picture. Youth, and all that it entails, comes with simplicity, a sense of innocence, and impressive resilience. And it is obvious that Western societies idolize and passionately pursue youthful vitality.
Back to the original quote and my fear – I’m not scared of death. I know my life is in my God’s hands in that regard, and I know exactly where I’m headed after. But there is a little tugging at my mind as I head entirely out of my childhood years and now fully meet up with adulthood, as well as glance back to my young peds patients and look ahead to more complex adult patients. So, how will I grow older? What illnesses will I find myself battling? Will I end up with a list of unpronounceable medications? As I type this I’m watching the London Olympics, a showcase of the pinnacle of the human body, while society tells me to live up my 20s, travel the world, and be a free spirit, because it won’t last long. And trust me, my classmates and I know dozens and dozens of ways in which the human body can fall apart. Our second-year pathology class, which was often kept surprisingly light-hearted thanks to dear Dr. Cao, could have been titled, “Pathology: Different Ways to Die”.
But, I question this fixation on youth a bit. Yeah, my mind can anxiously wander and dwell on the ways in which I could age, whether physically or mentally, but as I look back on my life, truly every single year of my life has been better than the previous. Some perhaps more difficult than others, but there has never EVER been a time in which I’ve said, “Gosh, I wish I was still fifteen. Or nineteen. Or twenty-three.” Well, even writing about that seems ridiculously comical, for in no way does jealousy, envy, or regret come to mind when I interact with pediatric patients. If anything, I look at the keen physicians ahead of me and that’s where envy comes in. Doctors who read their patients like a book and know all the nuances of all the physical exam and lab findings. Doctors who create a perfectly honed list of possible diagnosis and the appropriate tests for a patient with such-and-such symptoms. Doctors who can share a patient’s joy of cancer remission and ones who can appropriately share news of a miscarriage. And of course, on a personal level, I look forward to my own career, and I can hardly wait for a husband and family some day.
At the end of day, this aforementioned fear of mine is entirely unfounded and Robert Browning has the final word.
P.S. On a lighthearted note, I have seen how novel and life-changing lessons arise in every single stage of life. Last year I taught my dad how to text, and today I taught him how to cook pasta.