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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Crisis Looms

Well, I’m back to having weird dreams. These last few nights, I’ve been dreaming that I’ve been running into old classmates from my residency days, and they are all more successful and fabulously better-looking than me. It’s no mystery where this came from. It came from the Auto Show.

I was standing next to the Pontiac Solstice, with my left hand stroking the hood and my right hand gesturing to Mrs. Balabusta as if to say, “Here it is, my new car.” And Mrs. B shot a look back at me which said, in effect, “You are the biggest loser I have ever seen,” when this guy came up to me from behind and said, “Hey, Mark!”

I turned around and saw this guy that I recognized from about 12 or 13 years ago. He looked great, his wife looked great, and we chatted briefly about what we’ve been doing with our lives and careers over the past decade and a half.

And then he left and I said, “Man, I really wish I knew who that was.”

But it came to me as we strolled around the show, and I even remembered his name after a while, which was reassuring. He was a guy I trained with (tangentially, at any rate) in my Internal Medicine residency in the early 90’s. And then the dreams came back.

Over the years I’ve had them, and they seem to reflect my concern that maybe I haven’t done as much with my life as I should have, and that maybe my old classmates have surpassed me professionally and economically and socially and that I have no one to blame but myself for my own inadequacy. It’s a little ironic that this latest kick comes at the Auto Show, as I’m looking to replace the car that I’ve been driving since I was actually in residency.

So maybe I’m not Chief of Medicine at Massachusetts General, and maybe I don’t have a house in Aspen and maybe I can’t afford to take a yearly trip with the family to Israel. The truth is that I have not been wasting my time. I have been raising 6 talented children, the oldest of which is in college and was just made Opinions Editor of her school paper, and has 2 internet radio shows. Yes, I see in her some of the over-ambitiousness that marked my college years, what with the double-major, double-minor, multiple band thing going on at the time.

And I guess I’m still busy multitasking as always, with family, career, shul, kollel, band(s) and blog(s) going full steam. So why feel bad? Maybe I should look at this as a good thing. Complacency is bad. It leads to stagnation, then regression. I should continue to want more, to strive for more. To feel hungry.

Maybe I just need a little kick in the pants every now and then to tell me, “Hey, the game’s not over. Keep moving!”


Irina Tsukerman said...

Welcome to the club!

You're doing perfectly fine. I bet that guy doesn't even know what a blog is! : )

I've had an eerily similar experience recently... and yes, blogged about it! Hey, at least those dreams make for some good writing material!

Jack's Shack said...

It sounds to me like you have done quite well for yourself.

cruisin-mom said...

I'm with Irina...he probably doesn't even know what a blog is, and doesn't have friends all over the country that admire and adore him. Success is what you have P.T....a great wife, kids, career.

Doctor Bean said...

The more people I get to know the more I realize (a) there's no one in the world you'd rather trade places with and (b) the only people without very serious problems are the people you don't know well. I think I can honestly say there isn't a single person I envy. That is one of the keys of contentment.

The other is fart jokes.

PsychoToddler said...

I don't know. The more I think about it, the more I start to believe that dissatisfaction is necessary for ambition. I don't think I would have accomplished half of the things that I have if I had been happy with my lot.

I wouldn't have joined a band if I had been happy just tooling around on my acoustic guitar, and I wouldn't have gone to medical school if I had been satisfied living at home and working in my dad's store.

I'm starting to think that still having wants and desires is a good sign.

Wickwire said...

Is that the middle age feeling coming on? Next thing you'll pierce your ears, buy a sports car and dye your hair black? Nah, you're THE man, this is your world, we're all just visiting.

Ralphie said...

Wants and desires are one thing; jealously is quite another. When I start to feel envious of someone else, I apply the all-or-nothing rule: if I get this guy's good stuff, I also have to take his bad stuff. This works best when I actually know the guy's problems. But I usually have no trouble making something up, either.

PsychoToddler said...

An interesting approach, Ralphie. I don't know if what I'm experiencing is really jealousy or a feeling like I ought to be doing a little better now in comparison to my peers.

Certainly, walking through the doctor's lot at the hospital is a sobering experience. My car is the crappiest by several orders of magnitude, even for an internist.

Of course, I know why that is; it's not because I'm not working hard, it's because virtually all my money goes to pay Yeshiva tuition. Still, it makes me feel like a bit of a failure.

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Did you start having vision while stroking the car? You know like the nissan commercial.

PsychoToddler said...

You don't get visions from General Motors. Well, not pleasant visions at any rate.

tuesdaywishes said...

Everyone else lets the media create in them the hunger for more and more stuff that they don't need. The complacency you're feeling is called happiness. The only problem with it is that it doesn't cause people to buy stuff, and to work more hours to get more money to buy stuff, and so it's bad for the economy. But it's good for your mind, your soul, and your family.

Besides, if you get a better car you'll need an alarm which will wake you up when someone tries to steal it, so you will need to get a bigger garage. A bigger garage will wipe out your yard, so you'll want to move to a bigger house. A bigger house will mean a bigger mortgage, more hours at work, more years of payments... Marbeh n'chasim marbeh da'agah. The more stuff you have they more stuff you have to worry about.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

PT: Allow me to congratulate myself on finally getting over to your blog and seriously reading one of your posts.

That aside, I totally empathize with your comment about dissatisfaction as the cause of ambition. If I were happy-go- lucky, I would never have done a fraction of the things I've accomplished.

The question is then, are you ever happy? How can one be happy if they always have some nagging dissatisfaction lurking in the back of their head?

I know that I have a ga-jillion more things to do in my life; I wish I had the time to take a paramedics course, build an pilot a radio controlled helicopter with GPS and night vision. Finish my electric train set...Write a book and publish it. Teach my kids more and more things...Play drums...write songs...

So many things to do.

However, its the hunger to do things that keeps me young.

And I'll try to find someone to write a parody of your blog, but it's VERY difficult to make fun of something so good to being with.

PsychoToddler said...

However, its the hunger to do things that keeps me young.


it's VERY difficult to make fun of something so good to being with.

Read some more. Honestly, it won't be hard.

PsychoToddler said...


A wise man once said:

"Maybe we weren't meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through-- struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can't stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums."

Mrs. Balabusta said...

Had I been totally comfortable I never would have gone back to
nursing school.

So being uncomfortable can be a good thing, in a way that brings about change.

That other guy may have a really cool car, but you get to tuck a psycho-toddler into bed everynight and hear her call for "SOMEBODY" in the morning....

Now who's a loser?

Did you say you wanted someone to kick you in the pants?

wanderer said...

Remember, George Bailey: no man is a failure who has friends...

Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!

Ezzie said...

I'd have to go with Ralphie - always striving for better, but not out of jealousy. I was just thinking last night why I don't think I'll ever be rich (much to my friends' dismay). Certain things are more important, period.

Opinions Editor? Uhoh. NOT a fun job... too much experience with similar problems. Best of luck! She'll need it.

Mirty said...

PT - I've been working on an insane fund-raising drive for my synagogue, and I happen to (unfortunately) know the details of some households' balance sheets. I assure you that the ones driving the fancy cars are often so deeply in debt that they can't breathe. The wealthiest man in our synagogue, who gives amazing sums to Jewish causes, drives an old pick-up truck. In Olam Haba, he'll be cruising in a Cadillac. (Unless he just prefers the pickup truck. And a dog named Blue.)

PsychoToddler said...

Zathras can never have anything nice.

Subway Sally said...

Zathras always complain he have sad life. But life not so bad. Have food. Have friends. Have family. What more Zathras need?

PsychoToddler said...

Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But, at least there is symmetry.