Monday, June 23, 2014

Living the lies

So let's talk about the truth. Clearly there are lots of truths and lots of levels of truth, and since we are here on my blog, you're stuck with the truth that matters to me right now, as much of it as I've figured out.

The obsession (or whatever it is) that I have with figuring out what truths I'm hiding and from whom is over a decade old now and in all honesty, it started with a crazy guy asking me a question that I had never considered before. What's something you think about but don't tell anyone else?

So here and now, the levels of lies in my life are multiple. I don't find this necessarily all bad but mostly a part of being a person. If we were capable of being totally honest the world would be remarkably different. All people can't handle the whole truth, whatever that might be. I think we catch glimpses of the truth about ourselves and about the world and maybe about divinity but we are incapable of grasping the whole truth.

Right now there are a few levels of lies that are playing out sharply in my life: the lies of omission where I fail to correct people's assumptions about me and the lies I tell myself that materialize as excuses are most notable. There's also the obvious set of lies that underpin this blog, the ones that hide my identity, obscure my location and my spouse's identity, the pictures I'm not posting, the significant but identifying things in my life I'm omitting, but I feel like these are among the lesser sins at the moment.

So the lies of omission. What's the first thing every single person in a pharmacy asks a pharmacy student they've just met? "What do you want to do when you graduate? Do you want to work in a hospital or...?" I'm still working on a good answer beyond "well, I don't really know." I have some ideas but I'm not sure enough to narrow it down to one of three very different paths. Later on, maybe a half hour into the conversation at most but sometimes less if the other person is lobbying for a residency as the best way to go, we come to the "oh I' sure you'll match somewhere" point. (Aside: pharmacy residencies are the hot new thing what with the crunch in the market where there are not nearly enough hospital jobs to go around for new grads who want them so extra credentials are required to get those entry-level jobs. There's an application process in the fall, interviews lasting a day in January and February, and the Match happens afterward. Last year 2/3 of people who applied actually matched and a small chunk of residencies didn't match so some of those who didn't match likely scrambled to get those spots filled.) The problem is much more complex than that of course. While technically I have limitless options to apply to the perfect residency anywhere, I am cautious and want to avoid moving if it's at all possible. It might be possible but it would mean a long commute and maybe taking a less than perfect residency position (if I could get it at all). I'm then at the corner where I could mention that I'm not applying everywhere or just anywhere because of my family and omitting it.

The assumption made by everyone in the pharmacy is that, like most pharmacy students, I have no children and probably no spouse either. Furthermore the assumption is that I'm young and immature and pretty innocent. For the most part I let this slide because I am pretty private and would prefer to be remembered for my work and not for my non-traditional student status. I have been joking about how I appreciate being called a kid and could my superiors please try to work that in a few more times, especially when giving me verbal feedback so I can bask in being a kid just a tiny bit longer? It's only a little bit of a joke though. I  am reveling in the last bit of youth I have left before being a professional. There is also a little bit of ribbing of my superiors who are only a year or two older than me to remind them that not all pharmacy students are such babes in the woods. Obviously many are lost little sheep but not everyone and perhaps they should watch the lumping of us all into the "silly little kids who know nothing" heap.

I also am wary of making plans because I know exactly how well my plans have worked in the past: hahahahahahahahahahah no. My plans were wrong, sometimes exactly opposite of what has turned out to be the right direction.

One of the books I have been assigned to read so far (aside from a vast swath of things on a certain pharmacy association's website, to the tune of 175 printed pages of very dense text) is about adapting to constant change and being ready to change when the time comes (and it was pretty hokey and I don't even know how to make sense of its combination of hokey and useful). One of the main characters reluctantly and eventually changes to take a new path and starts writing messages on the wall for the other anti-change character in the hopes he'll follow, and one of the things shocked me.

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

I realized that maybe my hemming and hawing and not committing to applying for a residency might be because I'm afraid I'll fail. Then I had this moment of clarity where I realized I have already failed so spectacularly that there is no failure that will top that. If I apply for residencies and I get zero interviews, there is no public failure at all unless I let on that I applied. If I apply and interview for a residency but don't get it, that's not a failure. Getting the interview is huge! If I manage to interview and then match, that's a few levels of spectacular. There is no failure at all except if I fail to try. If I weren't afraid, I would go for it with no hesitation at all. I would dig in, research thoroughly and find a good fit and then apply.

So now that I recognize the lie that's been playing out in my life, I will squash it.

The other big omission that keeps playing out is mentioning my family. They aren't around right now so it feels monumental to me to avoid talking about them because I've already set up a situation where I am away, probably for the best but it's HARD to be away. I sat in on an interview and one of the candidate's reasons for wanting the new job is to have a shorter commute and therefore more time with the kids. At the time, I sort of went, "Aww how sweet, more time with kids..." and didn't look further. Then I considered what would happen if I was the person being interviewed looking for a change for that reason. Would I be that candid? Would I have a different answer? What would my response have been if the candidate looked different (more masculine, more feminine or pregnant)? And what does it say about me that I don't know for sure if I would treat a job candidate of a different gender identity the same when exactly the same words were spoken? Big questions that I'm sure I will consider at more length later.

So this brings me to the second significant category of lies that's been influencing my life lately: the lies I tell myself. I turn these lies into excuses and the excuses fuel my laziness. Example: I am tired after I get home from rotation, the traffic psyches me out, I really just want to eat pizza and relax afterward. I use being tired as an excuse to avoid a whole host of things, from eating healthier (takes more time) to exercising (too tired and sore) to being social (too tired, too hungry to wait to see if anyone else is around for dinner, etc). Sometimes I make excuses for why I can't get groceries after work so I can justify getting a fast food breakfast.

Today I did pretty well for the first part of the day. I was tired when I got home and hungry on the way but I resisted getting a snack and then went for a walk after dinner. Then I walked an extra 5 minutes beyond my goal (one way, I'm just timing the walk out for now and hoping to make it back in rather than timing the whole walk) and made it back. Of course then I had an ice cream bar while surveying the freezer for tomorrow's lunch prospects, but up to that point I was really good! I squashed all my excuses and did it anyway. I chose to think about the things I don't have to do (have a second ice cream bar, eat a snack before dinner, take a nap or watch TV ) and to skip the excuses and get to doing what needs to happen.

The lie I tell myself the most often is "tomorrow things will be different" and a close second is "just this one (or once) won't hurt that much so it isn't a big deal." But I know that now and today I have the chance to change things. I will not change my rocking out to a song from a musical in the car reminding myself "there's only this, forget regret, for life is yours to miss... there's no day but today." I can change things now, today. I can stop buying the lie that tomorrow will cure everything and that once is harmless. Once is only in the moment - in retrospect, all those "just once" events pile up.

Today I get to choose to keep living the lies or to move beyond the lies I've discovered into uncharted territory, and I get to keep making that choice all day long and I get to start over again when I inevitably am human and imperfect.


  1. I've been reading a book about making meaningful change in one's life and two things have stood out for me. One is the assertion: "You can do hard." It's the title of a chapter all about how humans can handle really difficult situations and we can do really challenging things and we need to hold ourselves up to those realistic standards. We can do hard, we just have to have faith in ourselves. That really struck me because I feel like our whole lives these days is about making life easier and more convenient but that doesn't help us be the people we want to be, and maybe instead of trying to always take the easy way out we should strive for the challenge, because we can do hard.

    The other idea I love is to make a vow to yourself and then keep it, no matter what. No excuses, no exceptions, you just do what you promised yourself you'd do. The vow can be to meditate for 10 minutes every day or not to eat processed good or whatever, but once you make the vow you don't break it. I really liked that idea because again I feel like our culture is all about the exceptions and the excuses, and we need to walk away from that mentality. I'm going to be writing about all this soon but I thought I'f it here, in case it helps.

  2. "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

    I've kept this post in my reader for nearly 2 weeks now, trying to decide what I wanted to write. I'm still not sure, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing it. It's making me think.