With medical jobs so commonplace, I sometimes fantasise about alternative career choices.
Three logicians walk into a bar. Says the bartender, “Would all three of you like a cider?” The first logician replies “I don’t know,” the second also says “I don’t know,” so the third one says “Yes.”
I got that joke immediately, which suggests I might have made a good career logician. Except I doubt such a career exists. Ergo, I’d currently be an unemployed wannabe and unable to afford cider.
Incidentally, my answer to the bartender would still have been correct; not my fault his question conflated the desire to drink with the ability to pay. Never lend money to a logician.
The thing about doctors is, in different circumstances most of us could have chosen other careers. Even interesting ones. I might have chosen music if I hadn’t jammed my left hand in Mrs Bell’s patio door-rail while attempting to escape a piano lesson early. In retrospect, it was my sliding door moment.
I was 12 at the time, and not bad at music; I could have given it a fair crack, assuming 10,000 subsequent hours of practice. Thirty-five years later, I remain equally not bad at music, having ignored 9,990 of those opportunities.
Many hundreds of those wasted hours have been spent playing chess. Could I instead have had a career in the pawn industry?
I have played more chess than anyone I know, and am now good enough at it to be certain I’m no good at it.
You see, if you just briefly dabble in something—let’s say, building rockets—you can never be sure you mightn’t really shine at it if you decided to down the Lego and pick up an aeronautics degree.
I have a friend still in that dabbling phase, a Hazara refugee who tells me she wants to be an astronaut. She doesn’t yet realise that her chance of joining the six humans currently in space is about equal to finding employment as a comedian with the Afghani Logician’s Society.
Who am I to tell her that, once you have given something a red-hot go, these dreamy possibilities recede? It’s the Heisenberg principal of fanciful career paths: only when your early momentum fades do you discover exactly where you’re at.
After playing a few thousand chess games—even learning the term ‘zugzwang’—I realised I was stuck indoors while all the seriously talented folk were out on the patio. The sliding door had slammed, and my hand hurt.
Chess is gone, but who can rule out a late-blooming music career? Actually, I know exactly who: my inner logician.