“Being a doctor is hard. It’s harder for women.”
This is objectively true. They actually did a real scientific study. Because you know it isn’t true until someone puts a p value on it and calls it a statistic.
I am not sure whether it matters if it is “true” or not, or whether it is statistically significant or not. There will always be someone who argues against this. They will say being a doctor is hard for anyone who attempts it.
This is true.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there are not gradations of this thing, “hardness.”
The quote is the title from an article in the New York Times last week, which was written by a doctor. I should say, it was written by a boy doctor, but as soon as I said doctor you pictured a dude anyway. I did, too. The reason I say “boy doctor” and not “male doctor” or “man doctor,” is that a lot of times I get called “girl doctor,” but never “woman doctor.”
When I realized it was written by a boy doctor, I immediately thought, thank goodness it was written by a man! Then other men, and a lot of women, will now believe its thesis. Also, it actually got written. “Girl doctors” are too goddam busy to write about how busy we are.
Who has time to write about this shit? We have too much other shit to do.
In fact, the very fact that we are so busy with other shit is probably the reason it took so long for anyone to notice how difficult it is.
We should be getting trophies but instead we get eye rolls.
Why do they even bother? The eye rolls suggest. They are going to fail anyway. They are just not [insert literally any positive adjective here] enough.
These eye rolls are not subtle, and sometimes, if they are not enough, they are accompanied by actual verbally expressed comments. That time a boy doctor sighed and rolled his eyes, whispering under his breath “mommy track,” when the female neurologist missed a conference because of her sick infant. Or that time that other boy doctor called my kids “parasites” and said “no one held a gun to your head and told you to have them,” when I told him I stayed up all night with a sick toddler.
I wasn’t even complaining. I was just trying to explain why I was yawning so much during his conference. It definitely wasn’t because his lecture was boring as hell.
Anyway. We notice. We feel it. We work extra extra hard and sometimes we don’t shower just so we can keep up. By keeping up I mean we are always teetering on the balance between courtesy and insanity because if we are not perfect it will MATTER and you will ROLL YOUR EYES and joke about how we lost our neurons through our breast milk.
That is another scientific fact, by the way.
So the very fact that we are busy and our busy-ness is being so scrutinized is the thing that keeps this in play. This sense that somehow we aren’t accomplishing very much.
So, what is the end point?
There are gradations of hard. This is as true for writing as it is for medicine. We talk of leaving laundry and dishes and other things to another time, to get the writing done. We encourage and we cajole. We try to make time. Still, no matter what, it is still harder.
A couple months ago, I decided to write 1000 words a day for a 5 week period. I came up with this lofty goal while at a conference for 3 days. I was heady with the cognitive rush that comes with 2 full nights’ rest. When I got back home, it all came crashing down as I clung to 6 hours of interrupted sleep over 3 days.
Two weeks in, I’d only written a few hundred words over a couple days. I thought, okay, never mind. This isn’t going to work. Just GIVE UP ALREADY. You can’t do it.
Four weeks in, I’d given up. I set it aside. Ignored it. I wrapped myself up in the business of the passing days, because there is plenty to do.
Six weeks in, I started to peck away one night. I wrote a couple hundred words. Then next night, a couple hundred more. After 4 days, I had a few pages of an essay. I sent it to a friend over email.
She wrote back, carefully: this may not be the BEST stuff you’ve ever written, she said. Maybe this is more like 4 separate essays instead of one multi-faceted essay with lots of ideas crammed in. Did you edit this?
All I wrote back was: “I’m writing! I’m writing!”
It wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t even a carefully crafted or edited essay. But I still felt like Bob in “What About Bob?” tied to the mast of a sailboat and ecstatically shouting “I’m sailing! I’m sailing!”
Sometimes, maybe all the time, we are as hobbled as Bob. It is harder – by design or by choice – for some than it is for others. Objectively. So sometimes it’s enough to be tied to the mast of a sailboat, full of fear and with too many other things on our minds, and to feel like we are sailing.