Friday, June 09, 2006

Act II

Was going to put this under comments to the previous post but then decided to just post it separately because it was getting kind of long. Thanks for the responses so far. They were greatly appreciated.

I've been looking into some of the other fields, but I admit only half-heartedly. I am somewhat uncomfortable with not going "all the way" and not having complete autonomy (though not even MDs really have that these days due to the insurance issues). That all being said if I manage to rule medicine and dentistry out, I'd still consider PA or PT.

For now I am putting my hopes on that summer research program I start soon. It might work out because I really do love the underlying science. I think that if I find a job where I am always learning and still contributing something to society, albeit indirectly, that perhaps I can still be happy.

Regarding my playing: I just assumed that because I started so late that there is no hope for me ever being a professional. I haven't even allowed myself to think that there is hope because when I do I tend to get starry-eyed and impractical. I do believe that I could get to a point where I could earn *some* money from oboe playing. Maybe by forming a small group to play at weddings or something like that. That would be several years off but it's definitely possible. But given that I live in an expensive area I doubt that I'd be able to make a real living off it. Plus I don't think I'd want it to become my job. I'm not sure I could take that kind of pressure.

Even though I wouldn't be able to live off it I would still like to be the best I could be. I have daydreams where I become a teacher or professor and have the summers off to devote entirely to music. Surely then I could be the best I could be?

I've always wanted to ask my teachers what my potential is but have been embarrassed to. Maybe a part of me is scared about what they'll say. If they were to say that I am not all that talented at oboe I will be sad. But if they say that I could have made it to the top I may become consumed with trying (however futilely) to live up to my potential.

I definitely can NOT live without playing, that much I know is true. Whether I can be an MD and still play the oboe is uncertain. I think I will have some time, but it's going to be limited compared to what I'd have if I didn't do medicine. If my innate oboe potential is a 500 (random number) I feel that if I go into medicine I am automatically reducing it to at least 250 due to time constraints. Perhaps that is still good enough to join a community orchestra. But maybe I'll get paged during rehearsals or I'll be on call every Tuesday, etc. If I did medicine music will NEVER be first. Medicine will always be first before anything else (even family - ouch!).
But shouldn't your passion be first? Shouldn't I try to hit that 500, or even exceed it?

Medicine and music are indeed doable, particularly for people who are already good at their instrument when they start. And for people who are good at managing their time. I am not in that position though. I'm an intermediate student at best and am a chronic procrastinator. The other issue is that I also have to start thinking about family planning because medical training would run through my thirties and into my forties. So when I add everything up together I can't convince myself that I could still be an oboist if I become a doctor, hence my hesitancy to go into it. I've often been told that you CAN have it all, just not all at the same time. My life choices have brought me to this crossroads where I'd either have to try to have it all or will be forced to give something up. And if I had to give up oboe, becoming a mom someday, or medicine, the choice would actually be really easy. Even if I do think "what if" for the rest of my life. 2 out of those 3 things I am 100% I do want.

When I think about my ideal life it includes involvement in many activities: I'd have a job that is intellectually stimulating, not like my position back in corporate America. Preferably it would be in the sciences because science makes the brain happy. Because I do like people, medicine has always seemed like the right choice, but I am actually an introvert by nature. I wouldn't exactly mind working by myself again as long as the work is meaningful to me. I could always hang out with people during lunch. I do want to help people but it doesn't HAVE to be directly through my job. For example, if I were to do research as opposed to clinical work, I could then go into inner city schools as a volunteer and talk to students about careers in the sciences. One of my chemistry professors does this. I really love talking to kids and would enjoy working that into my life somehow. Besides it might be a better way to give back than vaccine injections. I'd also go back to martial arts and finally get my black belt. The older I get the more I realize how important it is to try to stay fit. I'd have time to play my oboe every day and continue lessons. Maybe I'd even be able to take some continuing ed courses in music or something. Several schools around here have wonderful adult certificate programs. I would love to play both in an orchestra and a smaller chamber group someday. And let's not forget time for spiritual activities, family, and friends. What a busy but enriched life it would be! I've seen it time and time again that I tend to be happiest when my life is balanced, when I am able to include as many of these things as possible without too much stress. I like medicine but am so afraid it's incompatible with this ideal.

My husband too has told me that no matter which route I chose I will always wonder "what if". Maybe I just need to understand that and move on. As wonderful as medicine is every time I make the decision to go through with it I suddenly feel as though I'm trapped inside a box. That I will be in there toiling while the rest of my life happens outside of me. Try as I may I can not get rid of that imagery. When I decide that I won't do it I can imagine a life where I have time to pursue absolutely everything I can dream of. Yet there is also a hint of sadness here because I had to give something I really wanted up. Perhaps it's a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Do I pick medicine and risk not really being present in my own life? Or do I give it up understanding that I will likely take some regret with me to the grave? I guess I can hope that the joy I will feel through my other activities will make up for it.


soundtrk said...

Wow, your 3rd and 4th paragraphs could have been written by me! We have so much in common with regards to this music vs. science-career thing. Chiming in a little late here, but just thought I'd share my thoughts...

I sometimes ask myself the "whatifs" too, but I've managed to come up with a list of counterarguments that supports my current decision. One of them being the pressure that you talked about.

I think one thing to ask yourself is, what are you good at? I'm pretty convinced that I'm better at physics compared to the average future physicist, than at music compared to the average future musician (this is taking into account of potentials as well).

Practically speaking, you can always try out this medical school thing and if you decide it's not for you, switch later with no regrets. Or you can take some time off to pursue oboe full-time and see how it feels before committing to med school (one of my friends, facing the same decision with acting vs. law school, decided to do exactly that). Or you may find yourself 20 years into a medical career and suddenly decide that music is actually more important to you, and pick it up then (as blogger Adriane is doing). Or, just become an MD with a hobby and a life. I find it hard to believe that any profession could have you working 24/7. I certainly know personally of many doctors who have successful families, and as Hilda mentioned, many who enjoys hobbies such as music as well.

Sorry this is long and rambly, but this is a bit of a can of worms for me ...

oceanskies79 said...

Making music often has the power to lift one's spirits.

I have often ask myself where my heart lies in terms of my profession in this life, but I have yet been able to answer. I sometimes wonder, if the society isn't organised in such compartmentalised manner, maybe people could take up several kinds of different professions all at one time? And in your case, medicine and music?

Pattyoboe said...

Heh. I'm sitting here thinking, "I'm so darn tired of worrying about money!"

Being a "B" musician can sure be stressful. Especially for those of us who didn't get into the summer festival thing early enough. (I think I'm too old for anyone to hire me now ... sad, but true, nearing 50 means I don't get asked for certain things.)

Music brings tremendous joy. More than a person who isn't in the biz might understand. And it brings, of course, applause that one won't receive with a lot of professions. Of course it also brings low income and bad reviews.

So I dunno. Be sure and add all that into your equation!

But yeah, Hilda, getting into this biz later rather than earlier can make it more difficult. But these days I don't even recommend that my younger students consider music unless they know they'd simply die without it! It's just such a darn risk. While I was blessed by God, getting a symphony job early in my career (I was 18), I am absolutely certain I'd never land a job now. The competition is fierce, and the jobs are fewer. That's just a fact.

Sorry to sound so down about all of this. I suppose this isn't the best time of the year for me to even write about music (thus my lack of posts at my own blog, eh?). So if this post is simply too pathetic feel free to delete it (if you can do that sort of thing).

Hilda said...

I am definitely at a lost in trying to figure out what I am the best in. I certainly love music more than anything else but I don't think it's what I'm best at. My fingers are a bit clumsy and I have a big issue with tension. For a long time I thought it was school stuff that I was best at. But this last semester at school made me think not. Maybe it's age or something but school felt like a struggle most of the time this year. It wasn't natural to me at all.

Someone recommend that I look into "Renaissance Souls" ( They talk about how for some people it's unnatural to be forced into one track. Maybe I am like that. Maybe I was meant to be involved in many things. I feel weird about not being a master at anything but I must admit that I am happiest when I can do a bit of everything.

This past week I've been feeling that my best option is to find a job that I won't hate and to devote the bulk of my energy to non-career stuff. It just doesn't seem worth it to give up or curtail everything else for one thing. As long as I deem my job meaningful I shouldn't get depressed like back when I was in the cubicle. A job at a lab or at school should offer me opportunity to contribute to society and give back while leaving me time to pursue my main interest as best I can.

After that "concert" I played at yesterday I became more convinced than ever that it's important for me to get as good as I can at the oboe. Otherwise I will be stuck playing with subpar groups for the rest of my life and then I will go off the deep end. The only way I will be allowed to play in a decent group is if I get pretty good myself.

I am holding on to the medical dream because in my mind there are no suitable alternatives that will satisfy me the same way. If I could find something else I would be ok with letting it go.

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Hilda, thanks for pointing to the Renaissance Souls website. I've found the readings insightful.