I rarely talk about my work or my colleagues to you folks. I have my reasons. But today I shall throw caution to the winds and open Pandora’s box. A box rife with excitement, prejudice, innovation, sexism, toil, blood, gore, guts, hard- work, parties, gossip, laughter, tears, stereotypes, misconceptions and sempiternal action.
My work gives me pure, distilled, unadulterated joy. It also takes an illimitable toll on my family- life and drives me to the edge of sanity. It exhilarates me. It unhinges me.
I have been “studying” this subject for a decade now. And nudging the end of my third decade of existence, I still am at least half a decade away from becoming a SURGEON.
I work in an unapologetically male environment. I have never been harassed or abused. But I have been teased playfully and taunted willfully. I have been poked and prodded in ‘jest’. I have been ‘asked- out’ by some and ignored by a couple. I have been laughed at by some and singled out by others. I have been assumed to be inept and dumb. Have been thought to be a girl who landed here by chance. Or worse, by momentary stupidity in decision making. It doesn’t help that I am a petite 158 cms and that I barely tip the scales at 100 pounds. Strength and weight jokes are common when I am in the OR. Being a “girl- woman” is another bane. Patients often are hesitant and less- forthcoming to a young- looking, small, girlish, woman doctor, let alone a surgeon who might have to cut them.
I had to stave off 83, ooo odd people to get hold of the undergrad seat that I wanted. And after 6 years of toil and madness, I had to kill the hopes and dreams of another 8,300 odd post- grad aspirants to get my dream (almost) residency, in the only subject that I wanted to specialize in.
I work- out to keep fit. I lift weights and do yoga to improve my upper body strength and core. I run to build stamina. I wear heels in the OPD to look taller. I dress to look older. I read to get smarter. I practice to get better. I aspire to be smarter, better, faster and fitter than all my peers- MALE or FEMALE.
Yes. A man has to work hard in my field. Just not as hard as a woman has to!
With time, and effort; I gain respect and acknowledgement. I can outlast my male peers, in long surgeries. I am more flexible and can stand still for longer. All the running had paid off- and given me some serious, kick- arse leg muscles. They rarely complain. Ten hours of standing is nothing to them. I have overcome the lack of strength (marginal it may be) by refining my technique. I have rid myself of any “girly” machinations and have built a hard- shell of no- nonsense demeanor. I try to reach earlier and leave last. I try to speak up, and am rarely shy to speak my mind. I have stopped trying to fit in, I prefer to stand- out. I am not “one of the boys”, but I do not wish to be “treated like a lady”, at least not in the wards or the OR.
I had just started to find my groove. My niche. My respect was well and truly hard- earned.
And then it happened.
Now there is a big chink in my armour. My little baby. My helpless little Zoe. A human who is entirely dependent on me. And it has began all over again.
I am considered to be less “hard core” because I am a mother. My male peers think I am done. That I have gone “soft”. They think I am now to be left by the wayside. That the flame has dimmed and shall finally be extinguished by the blanket of motherhood.
Aah, here we go again! The same bias. The same prejudice. How many times am I to prove myself?
Yes. I have scaled back. Taken a step back. It is a choice I have made. But I do not for a moment believe I’m out of the game.
The chink in my armour has hardened the flesh underneath. Scarred it enough to make it impenetrable. It has revealed strengths and talents that I did not know existed within me. I have now reached a new level of expertise when it comes to multi- tasking. I can now think, plan and execute tangentially diverse matters and tasks at the same time. I have also stripped away all inconsequential and irrelevant facets of my life. Time has expanded exponentially. I now have to prioritize every task, errand and chore, true; but it’s not something that I think I should complain about.
My life is now a million times richer, thanks to The Little One. I have a steadfast pillar at home – The Mister. And a fortress filled with people who love me and will support me in any which way they can- My Family. So yeah, I shall not complain. Or whine about petty matters like biased fools and ignorant sexist morons. I shall just keep my head down and keep at it. Working.
I really do not care what people think I should be doing. And I do not want to know how other female surgeons are working in “softer” environments. I shall do what works best for me. And my little family. We shall forge our own unique path.
The fun’s just started folks. Like I always say-it ain’t a sprint friend, it’s a bloody darned marathon!
And it has only just begun..
Till next time..