I’ll never forget my father’s reaction when I announced around the family dinner table one evening that I had decided to go to medical school to train to become a surgeon. I was 24 years old and had just completed a master’s degree in English literature. Nearly choking on his food, and no doubt trying to defend himself against the substantial financial outlay such a venture was bound to involve, he croaked, “But you’re a words person, not a numbers person.”
He was the first of many to express surprise at my passage from literature graduate to medic. But, although I have been asked countless times over the years why my interest switched so radically from books to bodies, I have never seen my choices in those terms. For me, medicine and literature—and writing in particular—have always seemed perfect bedfellows. Both indulge a fascination in the human condition. Both engage directly with matters of life and death. Both require of their practitioners discipline and a certain type of constitutional fortitude.
We live in a world of prescriptive systems. Not analyzed by the integrity of curiosity and the flame and fluid of the bone and spirit but rather, our life as terrestrial beings is mapped by the anatomy of a deep knotted regularity swooping in on a specialty of typicality.
I loved the larger meaning of the ariticle that reinforced something I feel close. You can be a mathematician and litterateur and feel that you are accomplished. A biologist and a jazz singer. A ballet dancer and an engineer. The dichotomy of possibilities is usually constructed. No one starts out as a genius always. Genius can also be claimed as creativity and practice in progress.