It starts out simply enough – you’re working long days and nights as an intern, constantly rushing from unit/floor to lectures/seminars/case conferences to clinic to call, trying to learn the hospital system as well as keep patients from dying or suffering morbidities – so you don’t notice the fact that your world is getting smaller. When you get home you’re drained so it’s sleep with an occasional eat. On days you get home before 6pm you may try to get some laundry done or study. On weekends you sleep, try to catch up on stuff like paying your rent before you get evicted and enjoy some kind of company. You collect a small group of acquaintances, some become dinner pals, lunch dates or dancing buddies. You become more politically involved in the hospital system and subsequently appalled by it.
Then as the years go by, the fatigue becomes chronic and you adapt. You aren’t on call as much so you go out more, try to figure out post-residency life and consider buying a new car to “treat yourself” with your first real doctor-doctor paycheck. Then finally, it’s your last year and most of your friends are gone (you were always closer to those above you and those in your class are all married), you’ve found a nice, quiet condo which you rent from a hospital employee neatly situated between multiple highways, the river and the hospital and you’re alone. At first it’s strange being completely alone. You get nostalgic, call more people, chat more online and troll the social media networks like a monster. After the initial shock of it all, you gradually find another pace – less hectic, less externally driven, less frenetic.
Oddly enough you don’t miss the extraverted you as much as you may have thought, had you given it any thought. You have become quieter, more observant, less intrusive and less willing to become involved in the lives of others. You talk out loud to yourself more. After studying, you watch more tv or read more books. You look forward to sitting at home, watching Thanksgiving/Christmas specials ad nauseum. You tend to look for cafes close by where you can sit, surf the net or read a book of poetry with a café con leche or hot chocolate. You like to go shopping later in the night when there isn’t so much traffic or so many rude and aggressive drivers or customers. You sit by the river off the pier in your apartment complex, watch the large liners pulled by tough tug boats or the Sunday yachters or the Tuesday Fishermen put-put their way home.
Your energies are harvested daily at work, leaving you more drained than you care to admit. Your existing friends ALL seem to be DEALING with heavy, life-changing issues and the desire you used to have to listen to them has slowly died down to smoldering embers. Oh, it’s not that you don’t care – you do! You just don’t have the emotional capacity to be so intimately involved in their lives nor to have them be involved in yours. Seriously, what would you even talk about? Would you talk at all? You have to do so much talking and listening at work that even listening to friends can become a chore – an extension of your work. It’s hard to explain. It’s even harder to feel.
Are you isolating b/c you can’t “take it” or is it merely an extension of a gradual life change brought about by your career choice? It’s probably a combination of both. Some might say you’re purposely being alone – as if it were a bad thing. Others wonder if you’re not depressed. And it’s not as if you haven’t considered these as reasons for your inwardness. By now you don’t think it makes a difference. You’re inward. So one night, after a quick perusal of your favorite social media network, you drive home wondering about social media networks as a form of communication. Over the past few months, you have been flirting with the idea that maybe social networks aren’t the best thing since sliced bread, esp. when you feel over-exposed on them.
Perhaps it’s because the presence of such networks leads to a false sense of intimacy. All these “friends” log on, surfing select profiles or mindlessly reading how you’ve joined another charity group or another “we hate the current set-up” or even another of those myriad network games that promote slaughtering, harvesting or roller-coaster riding. It’s as if they KNOW you. After all don’t they read your status updates, posted links, photos or comments about other peoples updates, links and photos? Yet you know that these networks don’t actually mean you KNOW anything about these people, which is kind of sad because somehow you feel more connected to them. So being prolific on social networking sites hasn’t made you more social, ironically it’s made you more withdrawn. You can sit there and look at everyone else’s posts, never making a comment but feeling as if you’ve “connected”. When you’re tired of it, you log out and resume your solitary existence – connection without emotional content. This works for you since you’re already emotionally tapped out.
From time to time you wonder if this will change or even if you want it to change.
It seems okay, for now.