I have a friend who secretly wants to become a doctor. His life was changed by a physician who practices Orthomolecular Immunology. It’s a fancy word and I couldn’t actually tell you what its all about, but at the end of the day it helped bring Joe out of a chronic disease called KLS which had previously left him in a dream like state of incapacitation for weeks on end. As an electrician and owner of a bakery, the question ‘what do you want to do with your life’ is buried with obsolescence. So although these aspirations aren’t necessarily a secret, there are few people who know that Joe wants to be a doctor. He mentioned it to me once, years ago, and his sincerity leveled out the uncertainty of his expression; it was not the words he used but the energies put forth which revealed a true volition.
Society has its own idea of what ‘success’ is. I certainly don’t fit into that idea but perhaps its the outside perspective which allows me to see how success in can, at times, act a crutch to ease the agony of neglected dreams. Not to say that medical school would be a walk in the park, its doubtful that many med school students can truthfully claim their decision to become a doctor was an easy one, or that it wasn’t a lot of work, or that it was cheap. The decision is monumental, life changing, and the road is bound to be strewn with the unforeseen. So hesitation is expected, but if I had a list of things that were easy and constructively life changing I would be writing about that.
Joe picks me up. It’s the first time we have seen each other in a year and a half and its also the first time I had agreed to go for a drink at a bar since being back in the US. For over a year now I have preached and walked the path of ‘do as the locals do’ while traveling. Right about now someone may like to remind me that this is where I grew up and lived for 23 years of my life and it is home. Yea, sure, home, ok. But this doesn’t feel like home. This feels like I am still traveling, just passing through for a little while and I just happen to have some great friends and family here. That’s the reality of it, by the time I hit the road again my stint here will have lasted about a month. So for my sanity I am still traveling. The ‘locals’ in this case happen to be some great people who I have known for the last 10+ years and who, on this typical July evening, were gathering at a local watering hole.
This particular watering hole, Waxy O’Connors, seems to be a stereotypically average Irish Pub. ESPN is showing a cross-fit world championship on the 2 million inch television screens that plaster the walls. There is pop music built for the radio playing louder than the televisions but not as loud as the three guys sitting across the bar. There is some txting going on. Nachos are being demolished. “Can I get another Bud Light” is a common phrase here. It’s a setting that many would call ‘American’.
“When are you gonna be a doctor, Joe?”
If there were ever a time and a place to ask that question in a serious manner this was certainly not it. But then again, time isn’t real and as for the place, well, we were face to face which seemed good enough for me. After a year and a half of only communicating through email from other side of the world any face to face interactions seems intimate.
I got a classic Joe Penney response, a nervous chuckle as if to say “really Vin? you chose now to ask me that?” or perhaps it meant “why do you even remember that?”. The subject soon changed and I decide not to press any harder. It was out there. Que sera, sera. The conversation shifted to a monologue about someones newly acquired accent and how horrible it is to spend time in any club in Boston. Shortly after we threw in the towel and parted ways.
“You ever get fed up with whats going on here?” Joe asks me as we drive back to my parents house.
Talk about a loaded question. It seemed as if Joe had just handed me a forum to rant about how perfectly imperfect life in Stoneham, MA, and elsewhere, can be. And so I embarked on a rant, which felt damn good. It touched upon us driving a car with a V8 engine despite the environmental damage its causing, that a bar is the normal place to hang out and about housing developments perpetually replacing forests with suburbs. I mentioned how sometimes we fail to evade meaningless conversations yet allow them to continue just to be in the presence of people we care about, and how I have essentially been a hermit for the last few weeks in a feeble attempt to hide from societal norms like wearing pants and shoes. Certainly I mentioned how the place I really feel at home is sleeping on the ground under the stars, which is apparently considered strange for a man to do these days.
Now I am indeed sorry for re-ranting about this aforementioned rant but it all lead to this idea – the reason we can speak is to learn from one another. With the internet and widespread media coverage of everything now-a-days there is always an elephant in the room. Yet we continue to gossip as if there’s nothing better to speak of. When the time comes that we reach a place where there is nothing worthwhile to be shared than silence is just right. Silence is arguably our natural state. But not a waiting & wishing silence, no, think more of a meditative silence of awareness and enjoyment. And so I deemed it prudent to ask Joe about medical school in a place called Waxy O’Connors.