Sunday, August 26, 2012

Young folks, old folks

I love med school now.  You may have noticed a change in my tone over these past few years.  The only way to describe my first two years of med school is by a feeling of drowning.  I know others feel the same.  I slowly started to breathe as I progressed.  I’m only partly through my third year now and I am loving it.  The things I see and do every day reinforces why I decided to become a doctor in the first place.  I have also learned a simple truth about life:  really old and really young people are funny, happy, and great to be around.  Everyone else in between is just “blah”.

I have written before about how I love babies and little kids.  This is the first time in my life that I’ve spent several weeks interacting with the elderly, though.

The old and the young are similar in a lot of respects.  They both seem to live in a sort of timeless zone.  There is no past.  There is no future.  They may have completely or partially forgotten about the past.  Thus, it does not bother them.  They also have no worries about the future.  When was the last time you saw a ninety-year-old regretful and in agony for something they had done when they were thirty years old?  When was the last time you saw a four-year-old worrying about what they were going to do in a few weeks?

How often do we regret the things we’ve done in our past?  How many of us are worried about what we will be doing in the future or about our upcoming deadlines?

Both the old and the young have very simple needs:  they need food, they need shelter, they need love.  They are careless and they are content.  What happened to us?

Somewhere along the way while “growing up” and become “mature”, we strayed from this track and became lost.  We started “needing” many different things that really were not vital.  We started needing attention.  We started having pride.  We started getting our self-worth from what other people think.

One thing you may also notice about these two groups is that their mouths usually do not have a filter.  They are honest and say whatever comes to their mind.

There are many things we can learn from the very young and very old.  Firstly, the past does not matter.  It does not matter who you were before or what you have done.  Those things have past.  Forget about them.  Save the good memories that make you smile for when you’re sitting on a balcony and watching the sun rise or talking to your loved ones, but do not worry about the rest.  You cannot change those things.  I cannot change the fact that I have experienced things that I wouldn't wish upon anyone.  Also, the future isn’t that big of a deal.  It will come when it comes.  My future was pretty well laid out before but after my accident, I do not know what to expect and now I am very uncertain about my future.  Who will I become?  What will I do?  Will I have a "normal" life like I always thought I would?  It’s humbling to meet elderly individuals who know they may pass away any day or even any hour, yet have accepted it and take things lightly and are always smiling.  They do not miss an opportunity to help someone else.  And children live so much without care for the future that they can hardly think passed what they want to do when they go to the park that afternoon.

The young and the old are not superficial.  They do not have many preconceived notions about other people or things.  They have been superficial or had biases at certain points in their lives, but now they usually do not care.

All of this not only got me thinking about how I look at the world, but also how the world looks at me.  Older people never make a big deal out of my wheelchair.  Neither do little kids.  Well, they sometimes run up to it and start playing with it, but they do not see how it could be a hindrance to anything.  You may say that they are simply ignorant.  But I contend that they are just not worried about what other people will think.  They do not get their self-worth from others; they get it from themselves.  They only judge something based on the criteria that it makes them happy and makes them smile.

When you are worried about that upcoming exam or deadline, about what you plan on doing for the rest of your life, or about what the girl you met last night thought of you, talk to a small child or an elderly individual.  Ask them what’s on their mind and what they are worried about.


  1. Your gradual discovery of self through all the madness has been and continues to be inspiring. I look forward to continuing to follow (mostly as a silent anon) your maturation.

  2. Thank you, Anonymous. That is a great way of putting it: "gradual discovery of self". I couldn't agree more. Thank you very much for reading!