Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Differentiation in Your Career Plans

Originally posted on January 6, 2016

A certain percentage of medical students can take enough time off their most demanding studies to indulge in realms of activity beyond their profession’s requirements. Some play sports, some date, some have a family, and some dabble in the arts.

I’m intrigued with the concept of how physicians are studying for the purpose of “healing,” in the broadest sense of the word. It’s so very defined by culture, by the powers-that-be, and yet healing is deeply contested: What indeed is it? It’s crazy out there. Trying to adapt to the changing world as it is defined by the dominant powers is crazy. It’s crazy to try to be religious if that doesn’t work for you but those around you say that you should, and how you should. It’s equally crazy to not be religious in some way when those around you act as if you shouldn’t "need" it, because they don’t. It’s crazy because the society doesn’t recognize that it’s not just vocational guidance that is part of the process of growing through your 20s (and beyond!), but the process of differentiation also includes spirituality, hobbies, relationships, and all manner of things.

Who you may become has scores of facets, and everyone is different! Easy to say, but many of the problems of life are the ugly duckling story in different variations. You thought you were an X. Everybody is, so it seems. But you discover that you’re a Y, and discovering that difference is denied. You should be X. Then you realize you can’t fight it. X just doesn’t cut it. It needs to be Y. Is there no one else with this problem? You discover one other Y, then two, then a network of them. Hoo-ha! Meanwhile you may or may not have been married to an X. Or you seek another Y. It’s complicated. What I have described is just one variable; there seem to be many variables!

Is this what it’s about? Partly. Well, what is it about? That there isn’t a single answer; that it involves searching, snuffling, exploring—it seems so obscure and unfair. It seems as if others have found it. So it seems. But it’s not in fact what it seems. Whoa! Some folks come to realize this isn’t a disease. This is the way it is. It’s normal to be 14.3% abnormal. There are scores of scales, and the chances are that you’re going to be high or low on some of them, even if you’re mainly within the normal range on many others.

Moreover, everybody’s abnormal differently! And then, even if you fall in the normal range on 85.7% (I just did the arithmetic), you’re going to be high or low normal on 43.2% of the rest. I’m just making up these numbers, you understand. It’s one of the ways I brag about stuff that others feel embarrassed about.

The point is that there’s no normal, or that normal is a misleading concept. The game is to discover what kind of animal or vegetable you are, and it’s very varied. Find out with whom you can be compatible—that’s varied, too. It’s all a game of differentiation, accommodation, contemplation, and a hundred other verbal variables. Have a good trip!

(This article was posted also in the January 2016 issue of the online newsletter of the Texas A&M Medical School, “The Synapse.”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *