Wednesday, September 3, 2014


It is my solemn belief that everyone is a writer. 

Not everyone is a good writer, but everyone has a story to tell.  Potentially, everyone has millions of stories to tell.

Obviously, not everyone writes. For me, it is more of a compulsion than a decision.  When I write, edit and rewrite, I am able to filter down to the voice that is most me. 

For example, the word that I intended in that last sentence was not, in fact, filter.  The process is more akin to smelting than filtering.  Filter implies that I am sifting through many thoughts, and simply removing ones that don't belong.  This is inaccurate.  In the crucible of a blank sheet of paper, all thoughts boil together, coalesce, congeal, burn off and char over until I am left with a product.  This product is often raw and unfinished, but it is undoubtedly me. 

Unfortunately, many times the end result does not see the light of day.  Self doubt and reluctance to such vulnerability probably play a larger role than I would like to admit.  What would they think if only they knew… Sometimes its just that my own private musings are enough to quiet the voices in my head. 

Today, a private word document hidden away on a drive simply will not do the trick. 

I just finished reading a book. (I know, you’re all wondering “what book?!”.  Well, I’m not going to tell you. – It could be any book.  If you want to read it, find a book that makes you think about who you are, what matters to you and what doesn’t, how you could live better, do better… etc.  If you finish a book and it makes you feel and think all of these things, odds are it was not the same book, because there are billions. BUT you will have read a book that made you think and grow, which will affect you far more deeply than hearing how this book affected me and trying to repeat my yield.) After all, books belong to their readers. 

It is potentially one of the loneliest feelings in the world to reach the last page of a truly well-written novel.  By this point you often know the characters better than your own family, as you have just spent the last several hours experiencing life through their eyes. Then suddenly, they are just ended.  POOF.  These individuals you have grown to understand and relate to simply vanish back into the names on a page. 

I suppose it is more than that, because it is more than the characters that haunt you after you skim the epilogue, author's notes, dust jacket, etc.. and finally, close the back cover. 

A book must be more than well-written.  Several very interesting stories have not left me reeling the way that this book has.  It has to be resonant.  After finishing a book that speaks to the depths of who you believe yourself to be and causes you to question absolutely everything… all you really want is someone sitting next to you who can say, yes, I felt it too.

Its like an earthquake.  Or at least I think it is, having never been through an earthquake.  Well, not a real one anyways, there was a small one, once… Anyways.  In the hours, minutes, and seconds before an earthquake, earthquakes are the last thing on your mind. (Just as they are at any other time in your life if you hadn’t just read a paragraph that uses the word earthquake 4… 5 times.)  After it happens though, everything has changed.  Literally, the ground you are standing on has shifted and it consumes you for awhile.  Suddenly, in your world, earthquakes are things that happen.  In the aftermath, you find yourself faltering and thinking if the earth is the largest thing I can perceive and it can suddenly be shaken, what other far smaller things are equally unsteady?

That may have been a poor metaphor.  But, it hasn't gotten burned out of the crucible, so it stays. 

That took a turn… So, I finished a book.  A book that poses questions about life and death and love and loss.  A book that made me wonder if I have made the correct choices in life.  I have been questioning my life choices a lot lately, so this is very possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it occurs to me that I have lived a lot of my life very safely.  I don’t have stories to write down because I haven’t taken the leaps to produce them.  I have taken very few risks and made few gambles. 

Is that necessarily bad? 

I am in medical school, married, still within driving distance of my parents and surrounded by friends that I adore.  I picked the career that made the most sense based on my interests and practicality of pursuit.  Med school is certainly not an easy endeavor, but at least the path is clearly marked.  If I had loved singing or dancing or painting, I honestly doubt I would have pursued them, simply because I wouldn’t know how to.

My life isn’t bad.  I know that I am far more blessed than many.  I have minor victories and small hurdles, just like everyone else.  I have a roof over my head and a warm bed at night.  I do things like I am supposed to.  I avoid mistakes. I take my anti-depressant, eat a healthy diet and go to bed early enough to avoid being tired the next day. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. 

…But, I wonder, shouldn’t it be so much more? 

And if it should be more… why isn’t it?  There is certainly no one out there telling me I shouldn’t chase tornadoes or climb mountains or get pregnant and start a family.  I have endless options that could all be the source of my life’s great adventure.  The problem is, I haven’t found it yet.  In the meantime, I’m scared to rock the boat with the things I do have to discover what else is out there. 

How do you decide to trade monotony for vigor when monotony has always treated you so well? 

To sum it up, this book made me realize that I can do whatever I want.  I should do something that will challenge and change and grow me.  I have no one to blame for not doing these things but myself. 

One of my favorite TV shows has a great quote that has been stuck in my head these recent weeks as I have mulled over life questions.  It is from the West Wing episode “Two Cathedrals”.  It is shortly after Mrs. Landingham (the president’s secretary) has passed away.  President Bartlett is trying to decide if he will run for President for a second term.  An imagined Mrs. Landingham tells him: "You know, if you don't want to run again, I respect that. But if you don't run because you think it's gonna be too hard or you think you're gonna lose, well, God, Jed, I don't even want to know you.”

If I take the leaps of faith to change my life into this imagined great future, it would be a lot of change.  It would potentially be very difficult.  Difficulty, struggle, resistance, backlash, strife... these are not valid reasons not to try.

I ended up fixating on only one of the questions this book raised for me.  In reality, there was a monsoon of thoughts in which I was trying my best merely to avoid being washed away.

Why do I not spend more time pursuing adventure and passion instead of passively experiencing life?

Why can’t a person live a life where they have both the adventures needed for stories to tell and the safety and warmth of their comfort zone? What does it really mean to love someone?

Why does it take a book to make me realize that for a long time I have been just phoning it in?

…If all these questions are the result of one book, what else am I missing with all of the other books out there?  I know this is an endless pursuit but since taking a hiatus from literature to study for my boards, it felt like the first sip from a spring.

That’s the problem with my method. My crucible.  It raises so many more questions than it answers.

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