Six Months ago...
I’m in the changing rooms, getting into my scrubs at the start of the day and I’m chatting with Jeremy, one of the other novice anaesthetists.
“I’ve started seeing someone,” I say
“Oh yeah?” Jeremy raises his eyebrow at me, “Who is she? Tell me more.”
“I’ve actually known her for a little while now, but things are just starting to get more serious. She’s fantastic though, and you know me, I don’t say that lightly.”
“What’s her name? Is she another medic?”
This is what you find in medicine. There’s the tacit implication that doctors only go out with other doctors and it’s almost as if you’re breaking the rules if you go out with someone totally non-medical.
“No, she’s not. She works in fashion, she’s called FashionGirl.”
“Oh that’s cool, so how did you meet?”
The conversation goes on along this vein for a few more minutes and then Jeremy leans into towards me and asks.
“Does she understand?”
“What do you mean?” I query.
“You’re planning to sit your primary exam this year aren’t you? Does she understand about the time you’ll need to study as well as spending so much time in this place?”
“Yeah, I’ve explained that to her.” I avoid his gaze as I say this because even in my own head, I’m not sure that FashionGirl really understands what lies in the few months ahead. I’m not going to be there a lot of the time. In the run up to my exams, I’m going to be married to my text books and there are going to be times when I’ll be so tired after work that I won’t want to speak to anybody at all.
“I’m sure it’ll be OK,” I continue, hoping that what I say will turn out to be true.
Last Friday Night...
FashionGirl and I are sitting having dinner and sharing a bottle of wine. I’d really been looking forward to seeing her because it felt like I hadn’t seen her in ages.
“You know, Michael” she says as she takes a sip and fixes me with her blue eyes, “I was really pissed off with you the other weekend.”
“When I said that I wasn’t going to come to Emma’s birthday do?”
“Yes. It’s not that you didn’t come, it’s that you said you would and then changed your mind the day before.”
“I know, but I’d just done a week of long shifts and I just wanted a night in.”
“I know that babe, but…” her voice tails off.
“I don’t think it’s very fair that’s all. It’s just that sometimes it seems like I’m the one making all the effort. I’m always the one that comes over to see you. I know that you’ve had your exams and everything, but I feel that I’ve been really supportive over that whole period.”
“You have!” I interject as I recall her sitting in bed with me, quizzing me about the Gas Laws. “Very much so.”
“But, it seems to me that now you’ve got this free time that you could be making an effort too.”
“FashionGirl,” I say. “Remember that was my first free Saturday in weeks and I’ve been over to see you loads in the last couple of weeks.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“And besides, I don’t think I would have been a whole lot of fun that night and, had I gone out with you guys, I reckon I would have spent most of the evening asking you to come home with me. I was in bed by 8 that night!”
“Actually, I’ve been meaning to have this chat with you for a little while now.” I continue. “There will be times where I won’t be able to do things that I said I would. There will be times when I miss doing something with you because of my job and there’ll be time where I really just want to be left alone and just sit in a dark room for a while. But please remember that all of that is just because of the job I do. It doesn’t mean that I care about you less, because I care about you loads, you know that.
“I remember in my first year after graduating, after a real nightmare shift, I called up my Mum and Dad and ranted and raved about how I was spending all my time at the hospital and it seemed I never got to do anything else.
“They said to me, ‘Son, it’ll only be for the first couple of years you know. As you move up the ladder, you’ll have to do less work and you’ll have more free time in a couple of years’ time.’
“But that’s not true, FashionGirl. It’s really not true at all. The higher I get up the medical career ladder, the greater my responsibilities get and I’ll be doing more work and have more commitments - not less. And that means that going into the future, this problem is just going to get worse.
“What I mean to say is that I do really care about you, you know I do, but there will be times when I let you down. All I can say to you is, when the choice is in my hands, I promise I’ll put you first. It’s the best I can do.”