Out of Left Field

It is interview time for admission into medical school.  Interviews always tend to be a time of angst and anxiety.  Some of the questions asked seem to originate from left field and I think these are the best kind of questions, at least from the interviewers perspective (perhaps not from the interviewee?s) because it gives you a glimpse into the interviewee?s psyche.  Most students are likely to be asked a question like ?What animal would you be if you could be any animal?? or ?Tell me three people from History that you would invite to dinner and Why??  A friend of mine interviewed for medical school the other day.  I had forewarned him of the kind of left field questions he can expect but if your experience is like most, you will probably be asked a question or two that you are not expecting. 

My friend had just completed his interview in the morning and I had made arrangements to meet him at the local cafe so that he could tell me how it went after I was finished with work.  Even before I could sit down comfortably, order my usual and ask him how the interview went, he blurted out, ?What is Life??

?Can you believe that?They asked me ?What is life?!??

On hearing the question, I couldn?t help but laugh.  He admonished me for my giggles as he lamented that his whole career depended on the answer to this one question, which of course only made the giggles worse.  Here was my young 23 year old friend with his more than comfortable upper middle-class existence and so far he had lead a life that revolved around fulfilling his parent?s high expectations and displaying his frustration over exams that were scheduled too close to each other.  Now he was being asked a make or break interview question?the kind of question where it does not matter that you are in the top one percent of your graduating class.  How much of life had he possibly seen to answer that question well?  No doubt my friend was also anxiously thinking the same thing.  The interview panel was looking for maturity and they would only be too willing to strike him out if his answer showed the slightest notion of fantasy. 

?So what did you say to that?? I said controlling myself.

?What could I say except the first thing that popped into my mind?I told them life is how a person feels, thinks and lives.  Life is whatever you want it to be.  If you think life is unfair, it is unfair.  If you think life is wonderful, it is wonderful.  Life is what you think it is.  Life is an approach.  It?s an attitude.  That?s what I said to them.  What do you think?  Was that good?? he asked anxiously.

It was a hell of a question to ask anybody, let alone a nervous 23 year old.   Life is what you think it is.  I suppose you fill in the blanks in your life. You develop your own interpretation of what you have been dealt with.  Hmmm.  I remember someone else telling me something similar, along the same lines.  It was a lady in her 30?s.  She had a daughter who had cerebral palsy requiring tremendous care, and she herself was just diagnosed with cancer, plus she was caring for a father who had just suffered a paralyzing stroke.  She had no other family who could help her.  Just hearing her story had made me feel sorry for her.  I had asked her a question screening for depression.  I had asked her if she ever felt so low that she thought that life was not worth living.  She looked at me, smiled and said, ?I have a good life.  I don?t ever let myself think that my life is not worth living.  I know that I have problems but who does not.  Maybe I have more than my fair share of problems?but that is not going to be forever.  I believe that things can change for the better.  I just have to work towards it.?  She definitely was not depressed despite her circumstances.  She stood in stark contrast to the young lady I had to see the next day, who was healthy, with no financial concerns but who felt ?life sucked? and was suicidal because of a break-up with her most recent boyfriend.
Getting back to my anxious friend, I reassured him that I thought that he dealt with that doozy of a question quite deftly and the interview on the whole sounded like it went very well.  He seemed less anxious after I provided my interpretation of events and I was less fretful after the waiter finally made it to our table with my order of a hot cocoa and my friend?s cappuccino. 

Hot cocoa on a cold spring day.  Warms the soul.  In my scheme of things, it is also the simple things in life that count.  


Author: Tanya Pinto- Canada