When I was in Form 4 and the year after Form 5, I was in two separate church musicals (that I dragged my best friend to join with me. Thankfully, she was kind enough to bother) because I genuinely love musicals. If there was one thing I could watch and do all day, it would be musicals. I dare say, my love for the stage kinda defeats my love for medicine. (oh shock and horror, no? but it’s true.)
When we were doing Godspell in 2008, I knew my lines by heart and everyone else’s. Of course Jesus (played by Tim Z) had the most lines but I ended up memorising those too. There were times during rehersals that he would look to me because he forgot his, so I would have to give him phrases or words to prompt his memory. In 2010, during The Witness, I made Max memorise the lyrics to this one section where he had a solo; when I said ‘made’, I really mean, ‘bullied him’ until he got them. I guess I was just so in love with being there and being a part of it that I threw my soul into it completely.
Some days I wonder, what if I wasn’t the way I was. What if I was in the US or the UK, whether or not I would have pursued musical theater harder. I confess, medicine was the more stable, the wiser choice. My heart will forever truly belong on the stage. Silly but true. If I was not in this country, if I was somewhere where pursuing this wasn’t that ludicrous, I would have gone all the way. It’s addictive being on stage. I have awful stage jitters but when I’m telling a story, playing another person they melt away the minute I walk onto that wooden floor. There is nothing like looking at faces in the crowds and pleading them to believe that you are this person with this tale to weave. And applause, well, there is nothing like your first standing ovation; nothing. There is such a high that you get knowing that you played a role well and that people liked what you did.
No, I’m not announcing that I’m leaving medical school to chase after a ‘frivolous’ (in my parent’s words, not mine) dream. I was just thinking this last night: what if I could revert that same passion for characters and stories to helping others go out and make their own. That’s what medicine is after all, right? It’s an art.
Don’t believe me?
The first thing I was thought in Clinical Skills was taking a medical history. What does that mean? We clerk the patient’s name, age, address, occupation, presenting complaint, lifestyle, past medical and surgical history, family history, alcohol and smoking history etc. That’s ‘character research’. Taking a history takes skill: you have to play the role of friend and listener, being able to coax information out of these people without seeming overbearing. It’s not hard being the right actress for that role.
When you do a system’s review, listening with a stethoscope or testing a joint, you move and touch the patient. That’s like playing a role of puppeteer. It’s directing. When you come up with a diagnosis, that’s character development. You’re seeing where this character will go, where you hope your script takes him or her.
I hope to go into surgery (which is akin to the finest ballet steps), more specifically neonatal because of how strongly I feel about the unborn life; they’re the ultimate ‘little stories’ that have yet to be told. If I could in some way, be a part of helping them make their way in this world and maybe, hopefully, inspire them, now that would beat any standing-o.
I’m trying my best to redirect myself, to place my heart into the path I am currently on and make the most out of it. If I could memorise pages worth of lyrics and stage directions, anatomy shouldn’t be too bad right? Do I regret my choice? I can’t say that I do but each day is a struggle. I’m not a quitter. I’m going to play the biggest role of my life in a few years so this has to envelope me. It’s my Angel of Music and I hope to fully surrender.