You Don't Want It Easy
"Can I talk to you after class?"
Fall of 2000 my professor for Anatomy and Physiology asked me this question just before wrapping up in the lecture hall one day. A few hundred students looked at me like, “that guy is going to get it.” In lectures we scribbled wildly in a hall of hundreds of students, trying to keep up, while testing required replete human anatomy identification. In exams a typical question would just be a blank diagram of the hand and wrist; we would need to freehand write down all 27 bones, all extrinsic and intrinsic muscles, identify arteries and nerve branches. In lab, we did a lot of microscopy. The course was no joke.
I’d forgotten this event until the other day when I received a copy of my undergrad transcripts (I had to order copies for some of my specialty certifications). I stayed until everyone exited.
The prof walked up to me and said, “do you know you have the highest grade in this class?”
I said, “no.”
He said, “I looked at your stated majors, Computer Science and Business Finance - you’re the only non-Biology-major to get an A on every exam.”
“And?”, I said.
He asked, “why aren’t you pre-med?”
I said, “because I want to do something that’s so hard for me that I won’t have the highest grade in the class.”
If you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Growth is where you struggle. That same day I changed my major to the hardest possible area of study for me personally, classics and linguistics, where I would need to develop proficiency/fluency in at least 3 foreign languages. The human body only has 632 pairs of articulating muscles. A basic proficiency in a foreign language requires 3,500 to 5,000 vocabulary (not mentioning the conjugations, declensions, grammar, etc.). Multiply by 3.
People think they want it easy. You don’t. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do are at the edge of your capabilities, where you are unsure it’s even possible. There's a reason why rich and famous people commit suicide, why elderly people become uninterested and uninteresting. Life has absolutely no meaning once you've "arrived." We are meant to embrace the difficult. It's not human to coast. In the words of Camus, "imagine Sisyphus happy."
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