Have you ever seen someone around your age, who even resembles you a bit, doing a job that you can’t even begin to imagine doing and think to yourself, “Where did I go wrong in life?” Do you look at them and wonder what their “real lives” outside of work are like? Do you wonder if they’re looking at you pitifully thinking they’re glad that when they came to a crossroads they decided to take the right path instead of the one that led to where ever you went? I do.
Growing up, I came to expect older, wiser professionals to enter the room, tap on my kneecap with a tiny hammer and know exactly what my ailment was. When I would get sick, I’d instantly feel better just knowing I was going to the kind, old man’s office who gave me pink, bubble gum flavored medicine sure to “fix” me. (It didn’t hurt he had a sweet fish tank that was built into that wall either.) As I was nearing the age when going to the pediatric dentist was a stretch, something changed (and it wasn’t my desire to pick something from the treasure box because I didn’t have any cavities). The practice had hired a new dentist.
Sitting in the dentist chair, I was usually too distracted by the looming decision of what bathing suit to wear to the pool the next day to ensure whatever guy I was crushing on would notice me when I did a straddle split jump off the diving board to worry too much about what was lurking in my teeth. But the moment I met Dr. Eddleton all of that faded away. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this beautiful woman in the most perfect outfit with the most perfect hair and a blindingly white smile. She was gentle with that terrible hook thing and distracted me with questions about my summer vacation and what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Would it be weird if I answered, ‘just like you?'” I thought. Instead I grinned widely and told her I was going to be the next Katie Couric. She gave me a new toothbrush and off to the pool I went.
My parents have always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. They would support me, cheer me on and because of them I believe I could be good at anything I put my mind to. Until that moment in the dentist office though I’m fairly certain I never thought of flossing someone else’s teeth. I do not enjoy science. Math is my kryptonite. The thought of spending eight additional years in school after the four I had already spent earning my Bachelor’s Degree makes me puke in my mouth a little bit. It was clear at a very young age (or at least when I chose pattern-making with color-wooden blocks over any other school activity) that mine is a creative soul not cut out for word problems or curing diseases. Who cares how long it will take a bee to fly to its hive if the wind is blowing eight miles per hours on a negative 45 degree angle northeast anyway? Not me.
Perhaps that is why I was so taken aback when Dr. Eddleton rolled her stool up to me. Perhaps that’s why I was so embarrassed when my dermatologist looked at me like I had three heads when I suggested I had an invisible wart infestation on my hands a few months ago. Perhaps that’s why I log into ZocDoc.com in search of doctors and definitely gynecologists who look like me. Picking physicians online like I’m on Tinder doesn’t seem that odd to me if it means that when I grow a skin tag on my tush I feel a little less ashamed asking them if it’s AIDS. If they are my age and look like we’d be friends if I wasn’t wearing a paper gown must mean they understand how I’m feeling, right?
But, when I spot these successful women it never fails to shock me. How on earth can that “girl” be a surgeon? She looks like me! I could never do that. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was a surgeon and someone’s family was looking at me expectantly for answers. How is that real life? How is that her real life? I instantly want to go up to her and ask her what she thinks she’s doing and if she likes to “rosé all day.” Somewhere along the line I grew up and went out in to the workforce while other people my age continued on for those eight more years and now… now we are in fact old enough to take a scalpel in our hands and cut someone open. I could be doing that right now. I could be saving lives! They are saving lives. The awe I feel for those people I spy both saving lives and then going home at wine o’clock is borderline debilitating. It begs the question, “Where did I go wrong in life?” Sure, I’m in a “need more coffee” tshirt that has calzone sauce on it from last night and calculated that I have at least one more day before I have to wash my hair, but I’m not saving anyone’s life.
Kudos to all those life-savers out there. You’re killing the game. But, I’m still mad that Dr. Eddleton ratted me out to my mom for getting the skin underneath my tongue pierced. No one could see it anyway! What was the big deal?!