Life as an Extreme Sport

Melas Khole

I made the decision to stay home from school today. It was my week to produce some writing, along with another pod-mate. For various legitimate reasons, my pod-mate didn’t get anything written, and I’ve been dealing with increasing pain in both arms since the weekend cold snap, rending me kind of useless. So useless, in fact, that I spent the majority of the day in bed catching up on episodes of Bones that I missed last fall.

The last episode I watched was one that I had actually caught most of when it originally aired, episode 9, titled “The Man in the Fallout Shelter.” The Jeffersonian crew is exposed to cocci and are kept isolated until it’s determined whether or not they have the diseaseFor the record, the quarantine procedure they put in place is completely non-standard; millions of people are exposed to inhaled cocci every time the Santa Ana winds kick up in Southern California. If you have confirmed exposure, you’re given the antibiotics and such, but you’re not quarantined. Nor is the standard treatment needles in heads, anymore. Needles in head were actually needles in the neck, to inject the medication directly into the spinal fluid, bypassing the blood-brain barrier. It was highly dangerous, and was done manually for a long time, often resulting in stroke and death. Fluroscopes improved the success rate of the procedure, but it went by the wayside with Omaya reservoirs, which themselves went by the wayside with the advent of several of the oral drugs mentioned on the show.. Their isolation causes them to miss Christmas Eve, and they do all kinds of emotional things, like haul family members in for limited visits through glass, and so on. It also deals with Temperance’s family, her dislike of presents, so on.

I don’t think it was this episode in particular, but seeing several in a row (I watched something like 5 episodes over the course of the day) got me thinking. I know that the life they show is glamourized, and that forensic anthropologists don’t run around shooting people and kicking mob bosses and such. Booth’s life is just as “typical” for an F.B.I. agent. But the point isn’t the glamourizing of the job, the point, I think, are the jobs in general. They’re doing something, accomplishing something good.

My dirty little secret, the one I’ve very rarely told people, and the thing I couldn’t do even if I wanted to thanks to a near-crippling chronic pain problem, is that I’ve always thought about going into the F.B.I., or becoming some sort of law enforcement officer. For a while I was trying to become an E.M.T. Then there were the years more people know about, when I was pre-med and intending to become an emergency room doctor. Less known, I think, are the years I spent doing peer and phone counseling, largely of suicidal teens, but also pregnancy and sex (STIs, rape, etc) issues, and the few years I spent pursuing a degree in psych with intent to practice.

I have doubts about my current career path. I love what I’m doing, and enjoy the thrill of research and writing and reading. I’m incredibly passionate about teaching, helping fellow students, imparting knowledge. But I’m not sure I’m really doing anything worthwhile with my life. I’m not sure I’m going to make a difference – all the careers I’ve thought I was going to do, all the things I looked at or participated in (however lightly) while I was in the computer industry, biding my time, were all jobs that helped. That you could see significantly contributing to society. Rescuing people, helping people, saving people, healing people.

I don’t have that faith in my choice, right now. Intellectually I know I might feel different if I were actually practicing clinical ethics, and that I can’t at the moment (not enough education), but I’m not certain I’ll ever be able to practice clinical ethics, or if I want to, or if it’ll really make a difference. But I’m more concerned with my primary career choice being that of professor, an academic. I joke, in the description for this blog, that I’m climbing an ivory tower. But I don’t necessarily want to.

What I want to do is make a difference. I want to help people. I want to change lives for the better. And I’m afraid that if I get any higher in that ivory tower, I’m going to lose touch with reality, I’m going to forget the desire to help, I’m going to lose the person who tears up when she sees shows like House and Bones because the main characters are accomplishing such good, and tears up not because it’s sweet but because it’s something she – I – want to be able to do, to achieve.

I know I’m in pain, and that after a few days of it my thinking goes fuzzy. I know I’m a bit frustrated with my thesis, and kind of stuck. I know I’ve been isolated from people since Sunday, a very atypical state these last 5 months; I’ve grown accustomed to receiving a few hugs a day. But I also know these aren’t new feelings, they’re just amplified.

I don’t know if it’s possible to become the person I want to be – pretty, strong, confident, and able to change the world for the better, even if it’s just a person or two at a time.