corker #3: Wesley George! Wes is a seeker of truths. After becoming friends in Vancouver, he went off to complete his degree in mathematics in Ontario and has since moved to New York to help a professor with some of her projects as he completes his PhD in cryptography. He looks for what is true and real (in numbers and in life). I feel smarter by simply talking to him for 5 minutes. His wisdom is infectious. (And also so vast that we chose to separate his musing into two posts for you!) What a corker.
I caught up with S, an old friend of mine, over the Christmas break. S. is in the third year of dental school in Michigan. I don’t remember when he first got the idea, but it was something he committed fully to. He spends two summers studying for the DAT. Canadian schools show no interest in his (multiple) applications, but he’s accepted to a school in Michigan; after securing a massive loan, the journey begins.
I wasn’t shy to question his motives. I felt that he, like many students, took this path because he imagined it would in the future offer him the freedom to do the things that were important, whatever he eventually decided these were. It is that the real values are as yet unarticulated, and that this path of training does nothing to shape them that this choice seems disordered.
Whatever S.’s original motivation was, it runs out 2 years into this program. The promise of future freedom no longer has purchase. (freedom for what?) Class is unappealing. Studying seems pointless. He skips class to sit at home, smoking weed and playing Halo in his underwear. Even the enormous debt of two year’s tuition – whose repayment seems impossible without the income potential of a dentist – is no motivation.
Now earlier that term, when he still cared, S. had signed up to spend part of his summer in Guatemala with Dentists without Borders. And though he’s in no place to be making new commitments, he honours this one and leaves for Guatemala.
The work is not glamorous and the days are long. Largely he’s pulling infected teeth. By Canadian standards, this is emergency medicine not dentistry. But it’s easy to see how this thing he’s doing is important to the people he’s with. There’s a new importance to his work.
Suddenly it clicks.
It’s not important that this is dentistry or medicine, that he’s in Guatemala, or that he’s alleviating suffering. He could be a mechanic back in Detroit, a barber in Sudbury, a bus driver in Manitoba, a web developer in Vancouver; take your pick. The point is that he sees how his skills – his commitments, his investments – can effect other people’s reality, and so they have cause to seek him out as he can help them better their lives.
This is why what he’s doing is valuable – because it involves him with other people, enabling him and empowering him to participate in society.
Dentistry is cast in a new light – it is not about provisioning for some unspecified future investment, it is enabling him right now to take up the things most valuable.
With this, all tension, all hesitation, all doubt dissolves. He is renewed, reborn. New clarity: his actions follow directly from and reinforce his values. And with this clarity, purpose.
So why didn’t he see this before?
Pick of the Post: Austra – Beat and the Pulse