It will do no good to deny it--classroom hierarchy exists, and I mean not the social ranking amongst students. I speak of academic hierarchy. The students society sees as intelligent are perhaps ranked not by actual intelligence, but mainly the perception of intelligence. It hardly comes as a surprise that the students professors perceive as "most likely to succeed" in his classroom are those who sit in front, who raise their hands the second a question is posed, or who jump at any opportunity to prove themselves.
Honestly? I do none of those things. In fact, I sit near the back of the classroom, prefer to scribble my answer into my notebook when a question is asked, and try to evade much notice in general.
According to common belief, I am therefore a disinterested and disastrously average student. I am a ghost, content to flit in and out of classes. I am not the brightest, or I would participate more actively. This is the tragic assessment of the general population when met with such a person.
Upon further investigation, however, isn't this assessment rather unfair?
Are we not able to form our own opinions, and know for ourselves the correct answers to questions? Are we incapable of thoughtfulness? Are we worth any less because we'd rather listen quietly at the back than project our thoughts in front of the entire class?
Yet we quiet people are told to speak up. After all, how will we succeed in life? In my case, I am training to become a doctor meant to interact with patients. I should show eagerness! I should distinguish myself! I should be an effective communicator! I should not dread public speaking! I should speak to strangers without fear so easily lodging itself in my chest! I ought to be ashamed for not doing these things, should I not?
Quite to the contrary, I personally wonder why I shouldn't be a much better physician because of my introversion.
Allow me to speak freely about my own circumstance and feelings about this topic. Mind you--I, perhaps, am far from representative of any group of persons. I simply think it is unjust for anyone to judge my ability to become an effective physician on whether or not I am an eager beaver in class (or in any situation, for that matter!). And perhaps this short piece will help others understand those like me.
Society so often forgets that mankind is composed of different personalities and perspectives. Each kind of personality has something unique to contribute to one's chosen field, and yet it is so easy to have ideal characteristics in mind--a doctor should be personable, intelligent, professional, confident. These are desirable characteristics, yet it's so easy to have a stereotypical image of how these traits ought to express themselves.
Must one be talkative and loud to be considered personable? Must one be the first to answer in class to be considered intelligent? Must one be stoic to be considered professional? Must one have swagger to be considered confident?
Can't one be quiet and yet develop rapport? Can't one think hard on his answer before giving it? Can't one be candid and yet be professional?
I think the interesting thing about introverts is how keen we are in our observations. We learn others' opinions because they readily give it to anyone who lends an ear. We are able to filter our thoughts before they flow from our tongues. We are able to notice subtle changes of demeanour resulting from words said. We are able to say the right things at the right times because we notice certain things overlooked by others. These we are able to do precisely because we are less eager to be the most perceived person in the room. Our ability to find security in the background lends to our perception of the world. And is this not a good thing? Shouldn't it attune us more to the feelings of our patients?
The entire reason I chose this profession was because it was so keen on humanity. With any other field, though perhaps one could argue that the ultimate goal was to touch a human being's life, none does so as intimately nor as immediately as medicine. There's a certain degree of compassion a physician must absolutely have to practise medicine. The fictional Dr House is, arguably the exception but perhaps even he represents the bare minimum: how does a doctor treat a patient's disease if he doesn't wish to save that person's life? Taking it one step further: aren't introverts capable of a grassroots sort of compassion? Furthermore, perhaps there is something special in a physician who is less eager to speak--perhaps we have understood the fear that comes with having to say something out loud.
I suppose the question boils down to stereotypes: can't we deal away with such things? Shall we admit that a successful doctor may just be the medical student who prefers to shun any sort of limelight and simply go about his duties the best he knows how--unconventionally? quietly?
If lavenders littered London,
Their scent would be masked by blood
Drawn from wounds bitterness had cut
Into flesh and bone of fiends
No different from those of friends.
If roses grew atop cobblestone,
They’d be used to mask wounds
Meant to bring peace as they split open,
Cast aside instead by the sight of petals
That obscured the effects of truth.
If lilies grew in fields,
They’d all be cut down
By rioters and ravers
Who destroyed hard-earned silence
With superfluous sound.
If your ashes fell in my city,
They'd use your final breath as propaganda:
Bring arms to your burial,
Weep tears of lies
And smirk into black handkerchiefs.
If lavenders littered London,
They would be swept away by morning
Before seeds of a simpler time
Take root in hearts
Long used to forgetting.
We have only just begun,
Yet I countdown
To the day of reckoning:
The day of Judgement
Isolation, I've heard
Is rarely walls
Or being pressed down
From seven sides.
A vast expanse
Without rock bottom.
Yet I'd prefer it to the way we'd end:
Hands held tightly together
Before realising we'd used paste
Too strong for our liking,
Wish to fly with our own wings,
Wish to navigate
Both free to dip
Into rain drenched clouds.
But we've clipped wings
Severed urges too strong to deny,
Forged contracts in time
That can never be brought back.
We wait for our last judgement,
Wait to be told off
For our conscious mistakes.
Wait for the end
As our world begins to bloom.
Summer is over in my side of the world, and in two weeks I will be on a daunting new adventure. I've spent the last month wondering how it will go--so much so that I haven't done anything but think about it. As usual, writing about it is the only cathartic way I have to get over my anxiety.
Summer's last breath
Ends in sky-tears
That kiss the soil
In its vain effort to console the earth.
I try to catch vapour
And remember hazy memories made
In careless, spontaneous moments.
But my hands
Are open system jars,
And the wind coaxes vapour
From my fingertips.
From double paned windows
As memory of its existence fades.
I hope to call it back,
To hear its gurgling familiarity
Tickle my ears again
But I cannot remember its name.
I've been meaning to write something dark and short for the longest time, so here it is.
“You can’t be serious,” Liam scoffed. He could hear the train rolling into the next platform behind him. The low rumble drowned out Adam’s reply. Liam watched his mouth move quickly—a rarity given Adam’s propensity to stutter. “By Jove, you are, aren’t you?”
Adam grinned back at his companion, his eyes glinting in the afternoon sun. The train behind them chugged lethargically from the platform behind them after offloading a single man tugging at a square rolling luggage. Liam watched the sun cast shadows directly in front of him so he was keenly aware of the man’s movements down the platform and into the underground passageway. Beside his own shadow, Adam’s moved ungainly about with hands flailing and feet shuffling.
“But that’s impossible,” Liam whispered after a long bout of silence.
Adam shook his head, sending his light curls tumbling over each other. “Liam, i-it all checks out. The m-math, th-the phy-physics, b-bi-bioch-chemistry—all of it.”
“See here, you’re trying to defy the laws of nature, Adam,” Liam said in a lower voice. “This is madness, my friend. You’re dabbling in things that you ought to leave alone.”
“No, Liam, thi-this is n-n-nature.” Liam had never seen Adam quite so serious. He watched as Adam’s long fingers twitched uncontrollably.
“You can’t separate the spirit from the body, Adam,” Liam said slowly. “It’s not possible, and even if you could—which you can’t—how would you reverse it?”
“That’s har-hardly the point,” Adam replied, exasperated. “I’ve just discovered th-the most n-n-novel thing—”
“No, no, y-you d-d-don’t understand.”
Liam moved away from the platform, trying to process the information. He thought Adam had called him out today to get away from the looming finals week, but instead he had shared his most insane idea yet. Adam claimed he had discovered proof of the soul—something neither of the boys believed in at all, as far as Liam was concerned. This, he decided, was just Adam’s version of an elaborate joke.
Liam heard the train rattling in the distance, and turned to face his friend. “Alright, Adam—”
His thoughts were cut off by Adam’s abrupt step backwards, bringing him dangerously close to the platform. In the background, Liam heard the train rumbled closer towards them.
“Adam,” Liam said warily. “What are you doing?”
Adam closed his dark eyes, allowing the wind’s breath to flow through his long hair. With grim realisation setting in, Liam inched towards the platform as the train sped closer and closer towards the platform.
“Adam, open your eyes,” he said frantically. “Adam, please. Look at me, mate. Adam—Adam, for God’s sake!”
The train screamed angrily against Liam’s own cracking voice. It drowned out Adam’s reply and movements so much so that Liam could have sworn his friend had simply vanished on the spot if not for the great thud that collided with his ears.
The train screeched to a stop, but it was far too late.
Adam, it seemed, had put his theory into practice. Whether or not he had succeeded was something Liam would never know—and neither was he inclined to think about his friend’s theory ever again.
Adam was, by physical standards, quite dead.