Bullying, surgery and education

“Just finished watching the Four Corners report on harassment and bullying the medical (esp. surgical) community. Although there’s plenty of truth in it, I am concerned that the ways of the bad few will smear the wonderful many teachers that I have had and have. I am concerned that bad trainees will use this to shield their poor practice. I am concerned that the woeful lack of (constructive) criticism will diminish further.

The most distressing part of all of this are the good trainees, who after being bullied, simply get on with the job because they have to. That too often, only those with less to lose can afford to complain. This needs to change. May we, the Fellows of College, be the ones to do it.”

As someone passionate about surgical education, I find this entire process distressing. Although bullying touches on many different fields and areas, I think it is education that binds all of this together. Doctors have always had an obligation to teach those that come after them, just as those before them taught them. In the past, this happened under an apprentice model, where one learnt under one master until they were ready. I found it interesting that this model is still referred to, including on the Four Corners program tonight.


Because, the apprentice model was taken out the back and shot a long time ago. The body is suffering rigor mortis.

Under a master-apprentice model, there was a link between the master and the apprentice. The apprentice had their future linked to the master. But the master had their reputation, their livelihood, their very being linked with the apprentice as well. A master would train an apprentice who they hoped would work with them in the future. Who would be someone that enhances their reputation in the community. In other words, the master had a vested interest in the apprentice.

Under the current model of training, the surgeon has no vested interest in the trainee. The trainee comes for 6 months, a year at most, and then disappears again. There is often no continuing relationship. If anything, the trainee’s only future vocation is as a future competitor. Even if the surgeon thinks highly of the trainee and endeavours trains them well, that surgeon or surgeons cannot be guaranteed the fruit of their labours: that this young, bright trainee will come back as a colleague.

This does not excuse any of the behaviour that was purported to have happened tonight. The model now is of a teacher and a student. There is not the same sharing of life, of goals or vision. There is, however, a trust between student and teacher. The student must learn, the teacher must teach. Only in cooperation can something beautiful be made.

However, I do not believe that education is an innate skill of every surgeon. Certainly, we do not teach how to teach during surgical training. This needs to change. We need to teach surgeons how to teach trainees, residents, medical students, nurses, allied health staff and their colleagues. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has brought in many educational activities in this area, including the Masters of Surgical Education which I am currently engaged in. Yet the take up has been relatively low.

What do we need to do? We as surgeons, need to honour those have demonstrated educational excellence. We need to help every surgeon that has contact with junior staff become a competent educator in the same way that they are a competent operator. And we must learn to give and take good critique, that looks to put the current and every future patient’s health as front and centre.

Although the trainees and younger fellows of today start with great intentions, I wonder if the same consultants that we accuse of poor teaching and bullying today also had those same intentions. Without action, will those intentions merely evaporate?

“That the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself…”

“— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin. D. Roosevelt; inaugural address, 1933.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” – King David, Psalm 23:4; ~1015BC

After a harrowing year with the fellowship exam, and the subsequent months to recover, I suddenly have impetus to write. I lament over the many lost topics that could have been; a diary to the exam, identity crisis, or the subject of momentous success or failure just to name a few. Alas, for another day.

As I reach the end of my surgical training, I am reflecting on those surgeons that I deeply admire. They have many common qualities – a deep compassion for patients, wonderful care of all their colleagues, be it peers, bosses or juniors, and the passion for their work are only a few examples. Yet, it is none of these that I think makes them stand out from the other wonderful people I have observed, been trained by and worked for.

It is their lack of fear. No situation seems to provoke even the merest inch of terror within them. They may worry, or be anxious, or even stressed about a difficult situation where a patient’s life may be in the balance. There is always concern about difficult outcomes or that the patient may deteriorate even further. Although they have an interest in how they are perceived, and take the opinion of anyone they meet seriously, they are not bound by that and will still press forward with what they must do, despite opposition. It can be perceived as arrogance. In all my time, I find that these people I admire are not thought of as proud at all, but rather as humble and meek.

Sometimes that confidence is misguided. Bad things still happen. Wrong decisions can be executed. Plans go astray. In all of this, their attitude does spill over into recklessness, or indifference towards the patient or those around them. There is no blaming of other parties, or looking for scapegoats. It is a fine balance between doubting a decision and blindly following their own instincts.

They are not gods. They are human, after all. It is only the rest of us, it seems, who are a little less than mortal.

Before the Throne

After a long, surgical fellowship exam hiatus, I’m back.

There will be a whole bunch of posts as I reflect on the year gone by.

As a prelude to this:

Before the Throne of God Above

Verse 3:

When Satan tempts me to despair,

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look, and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.


Verse 4:

Because the sinless Savior died,

My sinful soul is counted free;

For God, the just, is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

– Charles Bancroft

It is funny that I can read and song a passage many times, and yet it can hold me to comprehend even another level. This hymn almost became what my wife and I chose for our wedding hymn (until a friend of mine had it at their wedding barely 6 weeks earlier). I have played it countless times, in countless variation, on guitar, piano or bass. I have played it across at least 3 churches that I can think of, and heard it played almost at every church I have regularly attended.

Yet today, the 3rd and 4th verses have gripped me again.

“Upward I look, and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin…”

For God, the just, is satisfied, to look on Him and pardon me”

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul makes clear that sin will not be tolerated, and should not be entertained in the slightest. In 1 Corinthians 10, a way out of temptation is always promised. That which is not clear, is how. Yet here (and in passages such as James 4), Bancroft writes that it is simply look upwards, turn to Christ, and know that He was the end of my sin. This is powerful reminder that not only did Jesus come so that sin would be forgiven, he came so that sin could be taken away. The cross literally is the end of sin. We may still live in a sin afflicted world, where the truth of the cross has not quite established its pre-eminence over every heart and every situation. Yet it is clear that the end of sin started that day. In this moment, I understand more fully Paul’s words of Romans 8 – that triumphant understanding that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” That with death, we have been pardoned. The end of sin is here. All we have to do is look up, and be reminded of it.

The Dilemma of Abortion (Part 2)

Last week, we introduced the topic, and looked at the current state of play. This week we look at some of the theology that underpins this debate.


Those who have read the words of Jesus cannot escape the notion that life is incredibly valuable. Jesus himself said that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). This central tenant has led Christians to lean towards the preservation of life in any debate that they may encounter. At times, that tendency has been thwarted by sin, pride and prejudice (one only needs to think of the ‘Crusades’), but it is still a guiding light. How can life that has been paid for by the death of Jesus, because of the love of Jesus, be saved? How can life, that is in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27), be ceased needlessly?

When it comes to abortion, the question relates to the source and beginning of human life. Many of those against abortion have quoted the Bible as explicitly stating that human life, equivalent to a person who has been born, starts in the mother’s womb. However, the verses falls into two distinct categories:

  1. Poetry – There are many sections of Psalms that relate to God knowing the Psalmist before he was born. Due to the nature of their writing, it is difficult to take these as scientific claims. Is the Psalmist claiming his life started in ‘his mother’s womb’ or simply poetically expressing that God has always known him? Certainly, there are sections of the Psalms that Christians take as explicit truth (eg. That God is Lord over the heavens and the earth), but these are supported by other sections of the Bible. There are also sections that are simply poetic expression (eg. “I am a worm, not a man” – Psalm 22:6), that we do not take as literal truth.
  2. Statements about individuals – Jeremiah, Paul, John the Baptist have statements attached to them in regards to their state in the womb. Are these statements generalised to every human being? Although intuition or tradition may say yes,  there is nothing in the statements themselves that say this. Furthermore, Jeremiah is known before he was conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Does this mean that because God knew him before he was conceived, that before he was conceived he had the equivalent status to his mother? This seems a little silly. Yet, from these same statements, many make the argument that because God knew something or someone, it gives them equivalent status as the rest of humanity. This would seem flimsy at best.

Furthermore, most of these verses point nothing to when humanity started. Was it at the point of conception? Or some time later on? John the Baptist, when he leapt in his mother’s womb was already at the 6 month mark. This would correspond to around week 22-26, where in most states of Australia, there are restrictions on the right to access abortion. It speaks nothing of what happens to abortions before week 20, where most of them in modern times happen.

As I have argued here, the Bible is unclear regarding the actual start of human life. There is however, a couple of interesting points:

  1. Judaism, who share the Old Testament, and whose ideas and themes are linked with Christianity due to their shared history, view the beginning of equivalent human life at birth. This is taken from the Genesis story – that Adam had life breathed into him by God. Therefore it is when a child takes its first breath, that it is truly human. Jews today oppose abortion, but recognise that it may be necessary due to physical and psychological harm to the mother.
  2. Exodus 21:22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely (or miscarriages) but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.” This verse has been used by both sides, depending on your translation. What is safe to say is that the original Hebrew and context make no statement of whether the child is alive or dead, whether it has legal status as a human or not. A child who is prematurely born at 30 weeks, who would have probably taken a breath and then died, would have been viewed as human by the ancients – this could have been punished with death. A child at 13 weeks, who could not breathe, would probably not have been viewed as human (and probably punished with a fine). Further muddying the waters is the “no serious injury” clause. Almost certainly, if the child was born before 32 weeks, the child would have died in those times. From 32-36 weeks, the child’s lungs were not strong enough to support life in most circumstances. Even from 36-37 weeks, the chances of the child living were slim. So why stipulate the ‘serious injury’ clause if it refers to a child that is in most situations, is going to die (a serious injury)? It would seem to make more sense that perhaps it refers to the woman.

The Dilemma of Abortion (Part 1)

Over the last two months, I have been slowly writing a piece about an abortion. It is not meant to be a be-all and end-all view, but simply an exposition of my thoughts and ideas on the subject.  It is long, so I will be splitting it into parts. I am expecting a lot of strong views, which I haven’t really had until now…

Part 1 (The Start)

I have always been against abortion. Life, in all its form, is a wonderful thing. However, I am disturbed by the extreme views that many people on the side against abortion carry. I recently listened to Guy Mason from City on a Hill (my old church) on this topic, and was disappointed that the same arguments were repeated ad nauseum. In particular, the implication was that there was no times when abortion could be justified. The example particularly used was in the situation of rape. I was hoping for a more nuanced response to the issue, but perhaps that was beyond the scope of the brief.

In reply, since I know some of you are still there, I thought I would establish in print what I have told many of you in part. It is the sum of the journey that I have taken, initially solely as a follower of Jesus, but then as a medical student, theological student, obstetrics researcher and then finally, a training general surgeon. I will be approaching this as someone who views life as valuable and sacred, but with acknowledgment that the questions of where it begins and what it is may be beyond my understanding. It is not an all-encompassing view on the topic (that would take many, many pages), but a guide to this follower of Jesus’ view, and hopefully a light for those that consider life to be sacred on this vexed issue.


The heart of the debate is fairly simple. Either the life of the unborn child is equivalent to the mother (or any other human being) or not. All the arguments stem from this proposition. If you believe that the unborn child is equivalent to the mother, then abortion is murder. Not only murder, but murder of innocent children. On the other hand, if the unborn fetus is not equivalent to the mother in humanity, then abortion is possible. At the extremes, the fetus is viewed as nothing more than a group of cells, with no legal, ethical or social status of its own.

I want to say, at the beginning, that there are many extreme caricatures on both sides. The pro-life side view that the other side doesn’t think life is valuable. That fetuses are being aborted without concern, hardship or deep remorse. That we have designer children followed by designer fetuses. Having seen some of the discussions that happen between medical practitioners and pregnant women, I know that this is simply not the case. On the other hand, the pro-choice view the pro-life as a side that will drive us into a state that women will not be able to work, vote, or even have a public voice. This is not true either.

It is my personal belief that abortion should be a last resort choice for any mother. Life should be preserved, almost at all costs. It is a valid choice in situations where the physical or psychological health of the mother is under present and serious threat. What constitutes that physical or psychological threat can be difficult to define and needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Access to abortion should not to be limited by law, but only by the view of the mother, her social supports, and her treating medical professionals.

And thus it has begun.

Being employed in Jesus Inc

If the church was a political party, it would make the Labour Party seem like the Brady Bunch. If it was like a company, then it would surely rank as one of the most dysfunctional. I hope to explore this motif here.

Imagine Jesus Inc. it is a multi-billion people organisation, divided into multiple separate companies (denominations and churches), each with their own leadership team and employees. Ostensibly, they have the same goal; the same vision; the same fundamentals. Yet they operate independently, sometimes in cooperation, but just as often In opposition.

Each Christian is like an employee. They are employed by their local department (church). Yet, they seem to be at best, casual. They spend little time concerned with the department they have been employed by. They do not understand the department’s goals or aims. They are unwilling to work. They often pursue personal activities on work time. Others work seemingly for the company but not for the department. Sometimes this is condoned and supported by the local department, but often this is due to a lack of trust in the local leadership.

How many of us, including me, have simply sat in the chairs on a Sunday? Not lifted a finger to help. Not thought to advance God’s agenda at work, at home or with our friends. If we worked for our secular jobs like we worked for God, we would be fired. That’s the simple truth.

However, the organisation has sometimes gotten in the way. I have seen many of promising ministry receive little support from the volunteers’ home churches. It has been seen as a distraction, or a ‘nice thing that is happening somewhere else which is not my responsibility’. Worst is when the local church moves to actively thawt that ministry!

Department heads are constantly comparing themselves to each other. Sometimes this is to critically look at their own departments and think about how things could be done better. Sometimes it is in competition. Benevolent department heads might see those who are struggling and bless them with resources and their brightest employees. Other, less benevolent department heads might look to steal those best and brightest.

Whether I like it or not, churches compete. They look at each other, sometimes even overtly, and try to out-do each other. At best, there is usually little sense of co-operation or coordination over strategy, apart from a token invitation to the next special event. At other times, I have seen stealing of pastors, pastoral staff and even congregation members!

Like any company, sometimes employees disagree. Most of the time, this disagreement is nothing about company fundamentals. Too often the disagreement overshadows the common ground they share and hurts the company’s image as people brawl in the public space. In departments, people often take sides and fight. Departments often fight with each other over what is perceived to be differences in goals and actions – when head office approves of them all!

One only needs to think of Christian leaders fighting each other in the public space over side issues of theology that have little to do with the fact that although man sinned, Jesus died so that man’s sin could be pardoned. Others fight over perceived improper priorities, without recognising that perhaps God has called different churches to different things.

The company needs to market its brand. At times, there are great performers that project the company’s vision to the masses, extending the reach of the company ever more. Yet the message is often muddied in the many voices of the different departments. Worse are when company men and women openly defy the company’s goals and vision. The company, above all else, needs to ensure that it is known for its core product.

I cannot help but agree with Pope Francis when he said that “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time”. He was referring to abortion and homosexuality. The church has often become known only for its views on this. Francis then went on to say that the church needed to focus on “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”. I certainly agree with this. But the core message is not just that God loves the world. It is that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to die for it. If only he added that last line to it.

May  we think more strategically, more seriously, about God’s work in the world, and truly seek the Kingdom first (Matt 6:33).

(P.S Speaking about abortion, my mega post about it is being typed up. Don’t get me wrong; abortion is an issue, and I address some of its concerns in this large post. It simply isn’t the only issue, or the main one.)

The isolation of necessity

It’s been almost a month since I last wrote anything on this. Last time I wrote, I was enjoying the sunny shores of the French Rivera. These days, I’m sitting on one of the balconies of the hospital. It’s still warm and sunny, but the atmosphere is somewhat different.

This last month has been an enormous narrowing experience. When I last wrote about time, it was as if time was slipping through my fingers; that I did not have control of it like I once did. With one of the most difficult exams of my life coming up, it is now life that seems to be slipping away. The days on the Rivera are a fading memory; the busy life of 6 months ago fainter still. At that time, there was never enough time to do everything; now there is enough time to do only three things – exist, work and study. For the next few months, at least.

Earlier in the year, I did not appreciate what this journey would entail. The last major exams of 3 years ago was the most recent memory of intense single mindedness. Yet those were spent in a small country town, when I was without a wife, and apart from work, study and church, not much else to do. This time I am in Melbourne, with a wife, about to move house further away from work, a home church, and the many distractions of life.

It is not that I find any of these things distracting. On the contrary, it has been relatively easy to shutter everything else out. Through this, I understand how people become socially isolated. I would imagine that in normal lines of work, everyone else becomes enamoured with their own lives, leaving someone behind, who is unable, for whatever reason, to keep up with the social pace. The lack of outward phone calls leads to the drying up of inward calls. As you send less invites out, less invites are returned in kind.

However, in this life of medicine, there is an added danger. In very few lines of work is there such external and internal expectation that work will take precedence over all else. Recently an article was floating my Facebook feed “10 things you need to give up to become a doctor”. It was point 6 that stuck most with me – that you cannot always put your friends and family first. There is a great compulsion from within to put your patients first, even above yourself. In addition, society, the hospital, patients and friends will allow you to put work first. The minute that you say you’re busy and can’t make the wedding/anniversary/birthday/party, people subconsciously think that’s okay because you’re a doctor and you’re helping people. Friends are reluctant to disturb you – “he must be busy”, or catch up – “he must have more important things to do”. I’m surprised at how many people make excuses on my behalf. What I need is not excuses – but people who are willing to call me out, fit me into their lives and fit in my life. Understand there’s study to be done, but also that study and work are not everything.

How many doctors only have doctors for friends? How many doctors see no one but their partners and children, and then only fleetingly. This isolation is a pathological construct that is fuelled by internal motivation and external expectation. It is not an isolation of necessity; it is an isolation that has been artificially created. I recognise that as I pursue this path, that I cannot simply do what I want to do all the time. However, with some allowances from myself, my friends, my family and indeed society, isolation is not a requirement. Indeed, there is more to life than work and helping patients.



Currently, as we wander through France, we are visiting many of the old Roman Catholic churches. In fact, it is only on holidays through Europe that I ever step into a Roman Catholic church. At times, I even watch the Mass, usually performed in Latin. As I gaze at the enormous paintings, high ceilings and beautiful stain glass windows, I wonder about who still attends these churches. Occassionally, to the side, I see someone entering a confession booth. This is a scene often depicted in popular culture when a villian runs into a church to confess to the priest what he has done, and what he must do to be saved.

In the Catholic and Eastern church, it is part of the process known as the Sacrament of Penance and Reconcilitation.  There are four elements to this: contrition (a recognition of sin and remorse over it), confession (a outward voicing of sin), satisfaction (an action to make up for the sin) and absolution (the conveyance of God’s forgiveness from the priest). The first three are actions of the individual, the last, from the priest. However, the priest is involved in at least the last three actions – to be the person that the individual confesses to, the one who provides the terms for satisfaction, and of course, absolution. Without this last part, absolution, there is the possibility that the forgiveness of God does not reach the individual, although it is generally held that even without formal confession, God may still save those.

To Protestant Christianity, the idea of confession bringing absolution is ridiculous. Protestants are taught there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, as Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy. There is no place for another party to mediate between God and man, either in place of, or to assist Jesus. The idea behind the death of Jesus on a cross was to bring God and man together, through a party that was both God and man simultaneously. The idea that the priest is the one who ‘delivers’ the forgiveness of God was rejected by the reformers, and in my opinion, rightly so.

Yet as I am repulsed by the theological underpinnings of confession and penance, I am attracted by its practical applications. The concept of recongising sin, outwardly confessing it to a priest, pastor, friend, redressing the sin and then being reminded of forgiveness of God is a wonderful idea. Although all Christians are taught to confess their sins daily, Protestants have no formal method to do this with anyone else, be it a priest, pastor or friend. Confessing of sins is seen as a very private pursuit, which historically may be a reaction to the overinvolvement of the Catholic church in personal faith. It is also a result, perhaps, an influence of our modern culture where mistakes are to be hidden and dealt with privately.

We are, however, instructed to confess our sins in front of others, something that is rare in a Protestant church. Often the only times it happens are when leaders have had hidden sins revealed abruptly; for example, a pastor who has stolen money from the church and is made to confess when he is found out. Yet this simple concept of speaking sins to one another, being chastised to redress them, and being reminded of God’s forgiveness is something that we should not forget.

The Good Samaritan – Wrong Answers, Right Practice

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite (servant of the priests), when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii (coins) and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ – Jesus of Nazareth (Lk 10:30-35)

I love knowledge. If you’ve ever met me, you will realise that I simply love knowing things for the sake of knowing them. The pursuit of knowledge, for me, is its own reward. In some ways, the internet has been one of the biggest boons for me. I now I have access to near-infinite levels of knowledge on almost every subject known to man. Even without leaving Wikipedia, I can cover Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity and the plot summaries of Homeland (which I’ve never watched) in a single sitting. For a knowledge junkie like me, it is heaven.

However, as I have written before, knowledge is not always a good thing, nor does it always have a result, let alone a good one. The old adage, “Knowledge is power”, while true, is not universally applicable. In fact, this little story above demonstrates that not only does knowledge prove useless for informing good decisions, it also can actively hinder and obstruct a view of right and wrong.

The first two characters, the priest and Levite, were both highly religious men. Contained in the Jewish Scriptures, were many commands and examples of the need to love your neighbour, and help those in need. For example, the third book of the Law, Leviticus, contains commands to not slander others, to preserve the life of the neighbour, to love your neighbour and bear their faults (Lev 19:16-17). Ruth, a foreign Moab woman, is lauded as a hero for her unwavering care of her mother-in-law. Loving your neighbour was a clear precept that every Jew, especially one of the religious order would have known.

Why the priest and Jew do not help the wounded man is unclear in the story. It may have been that they simply were in a rush, and did not want to inconvenience themselves. It may be that they had become insensate to this level of suffering, as we often do when we pass beggars on the street. However, there may have been another reason. In Jewish law, those who touched a corpse became ceremonially unclean. Furthermore, priests could not enter a place with a dead body without becoming unclean. Touching someone with discharging bodily fluids was also unclean. Thus, according to this knowledge, helping this mean would make them unclean and unfit for service.

They had the right answers, but ended with the wrong practice.

The Samaritan had no idea of God’s laws. They were descendants of Jews who had intermarried with other faiths, and were considered to have completely strayed from the path that God had set out for them. For this reason, no one thought highly of them. In Australia 2013, there is nothing to really compare them to, although a smoker in a pregnancy ward in a hospital might be a situation that would be relatable. Yet despite this lack of knowledge of what was legally right and wrong, our Samaritan did the right thing. He helped this poor man, bound his wounds, and found him a place to stay, as well as paying for it.

He had the wrong answers, but the right practice.

In my own life, I can think of so many times where my knowledge has produced the wrong practice. Think of the charities that support people in need. We often use our knowledge of the fact that much of the funding doesn’t go to helping people but is spent on administration as a reason not to give. The beggar on the street isn’t really wanting money for food or shelter, but for his next high.

Next time you see someone suffering, in a small way, in a big way, think about their suffering first, and your knowledge of their suffering second. I will be striving to make my decisions based on the alleviation of suffering, and hopefully, not anything else.

Expansion, Contraction…

Tunnel House – by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck

It’s been over two weeks since I wrote in this. Probably the longest since I started this that I haven’t written. I was hoping to write at least once a week, but as you can see, it’s slowed down a little. Life is busy.

I’ve been oncall for the last 7 days, worked the last 13, and it seems like it will never end. Between church on Sunday, Bible study on Tuesday, study group on Thursdays and all the other demands – I wonder where my pet projects have gone. I wonder when I’ll see my friends (that I don’t see at work) again.

I have resisted the narrowing of life for a long time. The first phase of our life, our childhood, teenage and early adult years is one of great expansion. We start life in a small chamber that is around the size of a small pear. That chamber slowly expands, eventually with a maximal dimension of school ruler. Then we are introduced into the wide world, but really, it’s only the hospital, your parent’s home and perhaps the odd visit. You see your parents, your close relatives, maybe a few family friends.

Soon enough, the world expands again – suddenly, there’s school. And as you get older, other schools, the mall, perhaps even an overseas trip. Before you know it, you’ve reached university, and the world explodes. There are people everywhere. Everyone is going overseas at some point. You might as well. The world never seems larger and you feel connected to it like you have never before.

Then something funny happens. Life starts to get smaller. Work contains your time like nothing ever did before. You bid farewell, consciously or unconsciously to many of your university acquaintances. You go to work events less and less. You might get married, have kids…and suddenly most of your time is spent with them. The world grows a little smaller each day. The overseas trips are banished, the activities outside work and home grow fewer. The soccer boots haven’t been worn for years, the guitar left unplayed.

I have fought this ever since I started work. Boundless energy, flexible schedules – these have all helped. But it seems that time may have caught up with me. Between the exam, work, research – there seems to be no time. I haven’t included even all the other things that are going on. Life feels smaller than it did before.

Perhaps this is a good thing. I’m hoping it’s just a phase…