Walking the Wrong Path (And Other Lies)
I thought I’d understood that in order to heal, I could heal others, or at least the other ‘healable’ people, the ones who can be saved – instead of moping because I can’t save other people. So what does this mean – I’m supposed to be a doctor? Or a writer? It’s a bit the same thing, no?
-From The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
I grew up inundated with images and lectures on success through the sciences –specifically, doctors were the only people traversing a worthwhile path. My parents are doctors. I had two options: I would either follow them. Or not. The line was drawn between “Doctor” and “Non-doctor” and there was no middle-ground.
Cue a 25-year internal struggle in reconciling my actual talents and interests with the notion of what I “should be” doing.
Now, learning to embrace what I can do and erase the idea that there’s a wrong answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” , I wonder if it is a bit more complicated that it seems.
Maybe there’s no need to choose my path at all. When you embrace the present- the ground you’re standing on right now- the next steps materialize on their own. “Plan the future” is the first major lie the world tells us because we can’t plan; the moment is all we know, and, ultimately, all we have. Science has shown that we are, in fact, terrible judges of what will make us happy in the future. So we have to do what works for us right now and trust that it will lead us to where we need to be.
I don’t think there’s any way to live that is necessarily better than any other, because I think, in some way, the goal of every path is the same. Science and humanities can be two different approaches to the same issue; we want to help each other. I can contribute to that end through the practical treatment of physical ailments…. or by using words to soothe and understand. Our bodies are a symphony of harmonic movements and signals and rhythms. Language is, too. We delve into the study of ourselves through examining the body or the mind (and that is what writing is, ultimately – a study of the mind, in its way). So, why distinguish between the two? At a fundamental level, we’re healing ourselves and trying to heal others, either way.
I have empathy (more on that later), and I have to use it, somehow. Why not by writing?