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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Identity Crisis, doctor style

My sister and I often reflect on how strange it is that activities we were forced to participate in as children, such as weekend walks in the countryside, are now activities that we proactively seek out with fervour and enthusiasm.  It is true that as an adult, I definitely find both energy and solace in mountains and by the sea.  As such, I left a few pieces of myself in the Sierra Nevada, and in the Pacific Ocean on the Californian coast for safe keeping before heading back to the frozen East Coast.  


Ocean Beach, SF
Because did you know that emigrating causes one to have something of an identity crisis?  

Since I was 14 years old, all I wanted to do was become a doctor.  And then I became a doctor, and loved it, and didn't mind the long hours, being scared witless, the crying-in-broom-cupboard moments and my frustrations when my knowledge hit a wall.  I count myself incredibly lucky to never have regretted my choice of career, with the occasional traumatic on-call exception.  
Not the worst sight to wake up to...
Camp stove dinner triumph
But moving to America has been a bit like being on life heroin - you suddenly think about what life is really about, and what the possibilities are.  Of course I still want to be a doctor, and a scientist.  But it has been the first opportunity I've had to reflect on the various little side projects I've done along the way - this blog for one thing, but also other writing projects for other blogs and journals, medical politics work with the BMA, integrating global health aspects into both clinical and research work, teaching anyone from primary school tots and teenagers to medical students and other junior doctors, travelling with my trusty (and now verging on falling apart) rucksack... I mean, cool, but it kind of makes my head hurt just thinking about how I squeezed it all in.  And now that, lucky bum that I am, I have got my dream job back in Oxford (plus/minus international research element) for a few years, I feel compelled to take the chance to chill the hell out and give life a little time to happen with some of the aforementioned projects and just in general.  The question is - what does that even mean?

A few thousand feet up and 12 miles later
The lovely fellow Fulbrighter with whom I hiked and camped around Yosemite National Park recently and I were discussing this balance of knowing what you CAN do with what you WANT to or SHOULD do.  Mainly because we're conscious that, as Fulbrighters, we're seen as these super career-hungry go-getters with endless focus and drive.  Well, true that I don't like to be bored (or boring), but speaking for the two of us, we're just massive nerds who love what we do.  Go-getting, me?!  That just sounds hilarious.  I've come to realise that I'm getting to a stage in my as-yet fledgeling career where I'm going to have to start making decisions about what I want the rest of my life to look like and what activities will be involved.  This is borne out of loving clinical medicine and *all-the-other-stuff-I-listed-above*, but that there are only so many hours in the day.  Plus it's just awesome to give life itself a chance to happen in all its randomness and unexpectedness.  I believe doing a job like clinical medicine also lends itself well to a bit of mix and matching if you want it to be.  For example, I did a trial run of doing a proper bit of writing while I was in California (those train rides are long...) and it was wonderful (experientially, that is. The quality of the content... tbc...).  

Managed to turn my back on that view long enough to smile at a camera...
Don't get me wrong, these are very first world problems.  I am lucky to do a job I could do anywhere and prefer to embrace the uncertainties ahead. But I also know all too well that life is short and beautiful, as my time in Cali reminded me.  In the interim, I also wish I could be gifted my appetite and the ability to sleep back, which, despite the glorious physical exhaustion of the last few days seem to have both temporarily left me.  A bit of solid reflection on the kindness shown to me by new and old friends in Cali, the East Coast and UK (even if not all are UK based at the moment) already helps.  I was thinking as I headed back to Connecticut from California how crazy it is that I came here just five short months ago, not really knowing a soul, and how lucky I am for the multi-national friends I have made, in addition to the wonderful old friends from various life adventures who continue to add sparkle to my life.  People are so GOOD!  The next four months will whizz by.  For some reason, that reminds me of a passage I read during the summer which gives me a big smile whenever I think of it.
'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.' (1 Cor 13.13)
After all, an identity crisis is not so bad as long as you have some lovely folks by your side.

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