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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Que Sera Sera - Whatever will be, will be!


By Nihal D. Amerasekera 

When I saw the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Man who knew too much” (1956), the song Que sera sera sung so beautifully by Doris Day struck an immediate chord. It had the most appealing and honest lyrics. Its message rings true even now after so many years. 

I was a ‘pimple faced’ teenager in the 1950’s. Life was rapidly unfolding before my eyes. It was a troubled time for Sri Lanka and its people. The SSC and the University Entrance examinations were looming large in the horizon.  I was often asked “what are you going to do when you grow up” for which I didn’t have a coherent answer.  In those days the school and our parents decided for us most things and often we accepted their decision.  They provided a form of reassuring security having our welfare foremost in their minds. That had its benefits. Unlike nowadays the teenagers were less well informed and were far less independent and streetwise. I knew so little about careers when I embarked on my journey into medicine. Today the sky is the limit and there are so many choices. The schools have careers advisors and there are computer programs to tell us what we should be doing!!  With the privilege of hindsight I would say, do your own research on careers and trust your own instincts. Let the mistakes be your own. If one had reasonable ability, the traditional wisdom in the 1950’s was to drift towards medicine, engineering, law or accountancy.  

Retirement gave me the free time to think and reflect, a luxury that was in short supply all through my training and professional career. Although I enjoyed a career in medicine it would not be my first choice, if I am to choose again.  I would prefer to study the Arts to become a Journalist. From the time I can recall  I have been a dreamer, ever willing to create pictures with words. I loved putting pen to paper. The plays, short stories and essays I wrote as a teenager were commended by my peers and the school.  Reading was my hobby. I got the best grade available for English in the SSC ,  far superior to any of the sciences. This perhaps should have made me think further about my choice of profession. Becoming a journalist was my recurrent dream but I lacked the courage to make a stand. My knowledge about Journalism as a profession wasn’t adequate to be bold enough to go against all the advice. 

The rough and tumble of a career in medicine with sleepless nights and a life amidst death and disease was not what I wanted. Its onerous routines of weekend work and oncalls  were restrictive and encroached on my own cherished space.  Life is too short for such long years of study.  My best years were lost burning the midnight oil. As a teenager I wish I knew what was in store. Like most things in my life I sleepwalked into the unknown. I was fortunate to have carved myself a career within medicine to suit the way I wanted to live. It came at a price with a further 5 years of study and more exams after the MRCP and the long years before that. 

Journalism too has undergone enormous change due to the digital revolution.  A TV or radio news reporter is not what I would have wanted.  I fancy digital journalism of newspapers and magazines.  A life of a journalist is not for the faint-hearted. In some countries press freedom depends on the whims of politicians. Where Human rights are non-existent journalists disappear off the face of the earth. Those who report from war zones and areas of natural disasters take enormous risks. The journalists bring to the attention of the public the problems and the possible solutions to make the world a better place. Journalists who report on sports or review music and films have a different lifestyle although the industry is not less cut-throat.  So it is not an easier option to medicine but that would be my first choice. 

In the United Kingdom many of those appearing for the A-levels do not know what they want to do in life. They study a general subject in the University. Then 3 years down the line decide on their careers. Even after several years in their chosen career path some find out they want to change and they do. There are doctors, solicitors, architects and politicians who have done this and made it a success. Watching a TV program recently about the Chelsea Flower show there was a lady presenter who qualified as a hospital doctor and then changed course to become a landscape gardener. 

Sometimes it is cathartic to air one’s feelings if done in the right forum. Honesty is the best medicine!! I am immensely proud I was given the opportunity to follow my “chosen path” as a teenager. Then I knew no better.  Much to my surprise, I am still happy, sometimes sublimely so.  I don’t feel like a disgruntled doctor as I have had a most satisfying professional career. I have enjoyed the public respect of the noble profession. It is wonderful to know how my body works and the solutions to some of its problems. I also know when nothing much can be done.  Above all when I go to my doctor he cannot pull the wool over my eyes. I feel enormous pride in my achievements in medicine. After all it was a career which would not have been even in my shortlist of future vocations. I only wish I was better informed and better advised. Perhaps it was my destiny that prevented me from becoming one of the disappeared journalists during those dark days in Sri Lanka. 

As I do the finishing touches to these notes that old adage flashes across my mind “ the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. Actually, the grass is greenest where it is watered and cared for.  I take the wisdom of the Buddhist teaching “the way to happiness is to learn to want what you have and not want what you don't have”. 

In summary my choice of medicine as a career was a mistake. I blame no one else for this. Despite the hardships and setbacks, I turned it round to make it a success. Be it random chance, destiny or the will of God, good fortune has smiled on me most of the way. 

Cest la vie – “Such is life”

8 comments:

  1. I have a confession to make. When ND sends me an article, I post it without reading, but just glancing through it. I know that whatever he writes is of the highest quality. Having posted it, I leisurely read through it, not with the idea of editing it, but because that is how I like to savour his article (Like a viewer of the blog). Of course, I do some minor editing if I have to, but that is very, very seldom.

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  2. I agree with Lucky. By the way, I am writing this on the 20th of May as I have been away from the blog for many weeks. I apologise. ND's article is of high class as usual, extremely well written, honest, and takes the reader back to his or her own trek through life and how it feels now.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly enjoyed reading this.
    Zita

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  3. ND You would have made a superb journalist, their loss! It is best to look back and savour your successes, which are many. But the point about how we made career choices in the days when we were maturing is interesting. Parents tried to match what they thought was good for you with what they thought you were good at and of course they always wanted what they regarded as the best. The choice was also very limited compared to now. I know many colleagues who think they made the wrong decision and would have preferred all sorts of other professions. My own feeling is that the people who I consider made the wrong choice in choosing Medicine are those whose prime motive was to make money.

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  4. Lucky, Zita and Mahen
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I did wonder if Zita had abandoned us in the Blog. More of your music , please. Thanks to Lucky for the way in which he managed this forum. Mahen you have always been a great support and a loyal friend to all of us. We want you to revive the music. Thanks again
    ND

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    1. That's so nice of you Nihal! Yes there is one song in the pipeline. I have been busy. But when I got back to the blog I read everything I missed, one after the other- the Full Monty! Lovely to be back with all of you.
      Zita

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  5. ND's writing is not only of the highest quality but of a very elegant style-
    He has excelled both in medicine and in his literary talents- as other medical men such as Somerset Maugham, Anton Chekov,Keats and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have done- He can be rightfully proud of himself.

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    1. Sorry-
      should read " can rightfully be proud of himself" !!

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  6. Rohini
    Thanks for the kind remarks but I am nowhere near the great authors you have mentioned who are distinctly of a different calibre. You should be writing too with your fine gift but see so little of your literary prowess.
    ND

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