Stand Back, She's Going To

Let's just spell it out right from the start: I'm not in a good mood. I may even alienate all four of my readers, so maybe this should be one of those let her rant and rage all by herself moments, like a spoilt brat kicking and screaming in the corner of the room, and where the only one who reads the following crap is me, like diary-tic catharsis.

I hate the Harry Potter stories. Mmmm, that feels like a good place to start. The main character is mean and whiny, and, true, I only read the first book and maybe it gets better after that, but I just didn't care enough about the twit to give him a second chance.

In case anyone judgmental is still reading this when I just told you to butt out, let's just get it all out in the open. I'm sheltered, self-centered, and cowardly. I live in this fairy tale bubble of a world where nothing bad ever happens and I don't have the courage to ever step out of it to actually help people who aren't even a fraction as lucky as I am.

Okay, fine! I'm consumed by guilt. This little temper tantrum is all about me hating the complacency of my life but not having the will to actually do anything to rectify the situation. Where is all this juvenile emotion coming from?

Well, it's all been festering inside, but then the festering started leaking out after I began reading Baghdad Burning, which is a blog by a young woman about my age who shares what everyday life is like in Iraq. And everything I've read so far is driving me crazy. I can't stop thinking about this utterly foreign world that the writer who calls herself Riverbend is trying to survive in and how unfair it is that my life is so...easy in comparison.

What do I do every day? I work, I walk my dog, I blog, I bake, I laugh with my husband. What does Riverbend do? She watches the news constantly, she's afraid all the time, she can't sleep because of all those exploding bombs falling around her, she is describing to us how her world is growing more and more damaged, more unsalvageable every day.

How can I not do something? How can I continue as I have been, in my safe little world? This is not just about assuaging guilt. This is standing on the street, gaping at a woman being assaulted, and not doing anything more than feeling horrified. It's so wrong, my entire being is protesting.

But what can I do? Me, an average woman, living in Japan, fluent only in English, and hopelessly unqualified for anything useful. Should I pack my bags, say bye-bye to my dog and husband, catch the next flight to Washington, join an NGO, lobby the politicians, protest the so-called collateral damage caused by military troops?

When I was six, I knew I wanted to become a doctor. As I grew older, I kept adding to the dream, dead certain I'd join Doctors Without Borders right after graduation. I had it all mapped out. When I got too old for dodging bombs between delivering babies and amputating limbs, I'd return to Canada, start a private practice, make loads of money, then move to Thailand to build a shelter for child prostitutes (but of course they'd also receive educatation and training so as to be self suficient). I figured I'd eventually die of a terrible disease, like Father Damien--or be snuffed by a pissed off pimp whose sex slave had come under my protection--but I knew it would be worth it.

Embarassing, huh? Not my dreams, but how far removed my life is now from all those childish aspirations. I feel like I should apologize or at least travel back in time to tell my young self to forget med school ("Cause you just plain suck at chemistry.") and to definitely forget majoring in magazine journalism. I can almost see my 12-year-old self looking scornful, saying, "Why would I do something dumb like that?" Why indeed.

I am sorry, truly I am. I know you're probably thinking, Sweet Baby Jesus, stop whining and do something already. Hey give me a break. I'm just starting to figure this all out. Nobody wakes up from La La Land and instantly knows the plan from A to Z. Well, not me, anyhow. Better late then never is the only cliche I can think of to keep up the optimism. If all you can do is roll your eyes...just don't roll them in this direction. But if you've got any ideas, then tell me.

I'm also sorry I said I hated Harry Potter. Well, I do. But I guess I didn't have to be rude about it.

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Ok, I totally know how you feel! I keep saying that I want to change things, that I want to become a politician so I can have an impact on this world...direct more foreign aid to places where it's needed, stand up at the UN and tell them to get the hell into the Sudan. So what am I doing to become a politician...nothing except every few months when I lament about not being a politician and whine.

What should we do? 

from Jaime

4/22/2005 02:58:00 AM  

Oh, Jaime, it felt very good to hear you ask "What should we do?" Makes me feel less alone and more confident that maybe I really could help somehow. Well, first off, I'm afraid I'm of the opinion that becoming a politician would make it tougher to actively help people. Right now, being somewhat young and able, I would love more than anything to quite literally join the fray, if you know what I mean.


from Rachel

4/22/2005 03:48:00 AM  

I've had almost the exact same experience as you Rachel!! I too wanted to be a doctor and do selfless acts for humanity, but I too am HORRIBLE at chemistry (why art thy chemical equations so difficult?!T_T), so being a doctor is out of the question for me. Now, my problems mainly consist of trying to pass my courses in uni. and figuring out what I want to do for my future "career" once I graduate. My problems are trivial compared to a lot of others' probs., but I too don't know what to do about it. So don't worry Rachel, you're far  from alone! ^-^ 

from Tea

4/22/2005 07:08:00 AM  

Me too.... yada yada the Dr phase-I was gonna be a flying Dr..you know fly into jungles and and save all those poor people, then it was Peace Corps.. Mother wont let me.. Then I got my own dog-- well I cant bring it anywhere, it might become the main course.. so here I am in safe old Canada.
and..LOL ""I'd return to Canada, start a private practice, make loads of money"" If you wanna make pots of money don't come back to Canada..( Married to one and have lots of friends in same field)
Glad you ranted :) 

from keona

4/22/2005 09:57:00 AM  

Rach, it is very brave of you to at least rant. I just keep my head in the sand and pretend what I don't see, don't exist. I do feel a tiny bit better, just a bit, by donating to charities, Doctors without Border included.

I have a friend who actually went on assignment with DWB and another going to Guinea in a month (she's putting her 7 year-old dog up for adoption!). I feel like a coward comparing to them. 

from Lynn

4/22/2005 11:35:00 AM  

Me too!!
(Although I admit to a slight HP obsession, I don't believe everyone else has to have one, too. :-)

I was going to be a doctor, and then join DWB, and die of some exotic disease too! Seriously. But then I shadowed a doctor in college and decided I couldn't stand the lifestyle (so my excuse was pure selfishness, then--I was OK at Chemistry). So I switched to Theology, because I was enjoying it the most of all my classes at the time, and it seemed like an equally good path to helping people.

And then the big plan was to work in international development at some big church agency. But has that happened? No. Instead here I sit in a country that is, if anything, waaaay more developed than mine, basically catering to rich tourists. And talking, but ONLY talking at this point, about being selfless and helping people.

I would love to be in on the "what should we do?" conversation. 

from Jessica

4/22/2005 05:35:00 PM  

Tea, thanks so much for making me feel less alone in all of this. I very much hope that you'll still find a way to help people, even if it isn't through medicine. You sound like you have a good heart. Just hang in there!

Keona, flying doctor--double wow. I guess that would come in totally handy, huh? Okay, I was young and ignorant about the "making lots of money in Canada" part. I guess if I really wanted to make a lot of money for my shelter, I'd have thought about becoming an orthodontist instead.

Lynn, at least you *are* making a contribution. I can't even donate. It's terrible.

Oh! Your friend is with DWB?? That is incredible. Anyone who does that earns instant Hero status in my book, even if she has to give up her pup for adoption--that's kinda sad.

Jessica, what kind of doctor did you shadow? I did that in high school and was in seventh heaven! I couldn't stop talking about everything that happened that day, and my mom finally had to tell me to shut up.

You're good at chemistry? You earn instant Hero status too.

Okay, I can see that I'm going to have to write more about "What Shall We Do?" 

from Rachel

4/22/2005 07:43:00 PM  

The summer after my sophomore year of college I shadowed two doctors for two weeks each: my uncle, a podiatrist (snore! what a horrible, boring job) and a family friend, who was a family practitioner. This was more interesting but he worked so much that he barely even recognized his kids. Plus he was up practically every night delivering babies and then headed right on back to the clinic in the morning. Even the miracle of birth (and it is *really* cool) did not convince me that I wanted to do this for forever. Hmm... I don't think I necessarily deserve hero status for something that I am just well-wired to do. Seems unfair somehow. Make me earn it! :-) 

from Jessica

4/22/2005 08:17:00 PM  

I think that the first thing we need is direction. There are so many issues out there it seems almost impossibe to choose just one, and yet I don't see how we could fix everything at once.

You know what we need, we need an organization for professionals who want to help but only have a week or two a year. I would totally give up a huge chunk of my vacation time to make a difference but I guess I always figured that two weeks wouldn't accomplish much.

Hmmm...food for thought 

from Jaime

4/22/2005 10:54:00 PM  

Jessica, I gotta say, I've always been curious about doctors' motives for specializing in, say, podiatry or gynaecology (and I'm not just talking about the men) or choosing to become...I dunno, a rectal surgeon, for example.

And you may be "well-wired" for chemistry, but I forced my brain to endure enough years of it that I know even the most well-wired kids had to work hard in those classes. So you get to keep the Hero status--too bad.

Jaime, that's an interesting idea. I bet there are tons of people who think, "I would be totally willing to volunteer, except for that pesky real-life thing called a job and those pesky people called my family." Although I do wonder if a constant stream of ever-changing people coming in to volunteer (at...?) for two weeks would be tough, in terms of coordination and lack of training. Still, something to think about.  

from Rachel

4/23/2005 07:40:00 PM  

Pardon the long absence from your blog. I haven't been round for a L-O-N-G time...

Yeah, Danny and I always feel we've been so blessed and that we should give back. Admittedly, most of it is just talk - Danny's busy with work and although I sit at home twiddling my thumbs, the baby provides a neat excuse for not getting out there and doing something. We do want to give back and like you, the question is how.

I agree baby steps are best. It isn't all that easy to find volunteer and NGO work here. We used to do a little volunteering at church preparing rice cakes for the homeless at Shinjuku. I looked into serving food for the homeless at Ueno, but it's difficult to do with baby in tow. I once got in touch with Oxfam here as they needed someone to do administrative work (perfect for a homebound housewife!) but they needed a Japanese speaker/reader. On a positive note, though, a girlfriend of mine just got a job with an NGO. It pays peanuts, she has to travel a total of 3 hours a day to get to and fro work, and it can be quite frustrating (the pace is very slow compared to the corporate world), but she says there's lots to learn and she admires the people she works with.

There is a lot out there we can help with. Some are more glamourous than others, but all are equally noble. I've not given up trying to find something to works within our contraints - you shouldn't either! 

from Hsin

4/24/2005 12:02:00 AM  

Hi Hsin-Li! No need to apologize.

Thanks so much for bringing up Oxfam. I never knew they had an English-speaking branch in Tokyo. Will definitely try contacting them, and see if I can't persuade them to receive my help.

Could you please tell me more about your friend who found the job with the NGO? How did she start looking? Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Hmm, maybe I should just email you directly... 

from Rachel

4/26/2005 06:19:00 PM  

You can always do what I did and start training for a marathong (oops marathon). It's not quite a baby step but lots of steps all the flipping time. There's tonnes of doable stuff out there, but sitting on bum needs to be done too... it's all about balance.  

from Slivia

4/26/2005 09:01:00 PM  

Thanks for the tip, Silvia, but I'm afraid my life has been badly unbalanced--too much bum, not enough foot work.

Wow, a marathon, huh? My body would never agree to that.  

from Rachel

4/27/2005 12:56:00 PM  

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