Ever since I was very young, I noticed that some people had their lives together in a way that I could only dream of having mine. Today, I see people at school who are incredibly organized, have their minds in the right place, and do very well in their classes. They get nothing but good grades, have time to volunteer their time, and have relationships (personal and professional) that are outstanding. I envy them. I really do.
Me? I’m a work in progress. I try every day to be better than I was the day before, and, though I fall flat on my face a lot of times, I’d like to think that I’m trending in a positive direction nine times out of ten and in five categories out of eight. It’s that one other time and those three other categories that I wish I could master and bring about change in my life. But they seem to get away. It’s almost as if I had a mental block of sorts that doesn’t allow me to overcome some obstacles.
When I was a child, I hardly ever had any new toys. My toys were bought at garage sales or traded with friends. Very seldom did I get a brand new toy for my birthday or for Christmas. In fact, one Christmas, my oldest cousin bought his brothers and my other cousin radio-controlled cars. I didn’t get anything from him. It broke my heart because he and his sister had always taken care of me. The explanation that was given to me was that my cousins didn’t have much going for them and that those toys would fill holes in their lives. Apparently, at the age of eight, I had a lot going for me… Whatever that meant.
I blame all that on my current desire to own the latest, greatest toys. Yeah, I know it sounds like some sort of thing that I should talk to a shrink about, but that’s pretty much the only thing that I can attribute my desire to own gadgets on. And why gadgets and not, say, RC toys? Because I grew up dismantling televisions, radios, and telephones to see how they worked, especially after seeing my dad dismantle engines and put them back together by memory. I’ve said it before: The world is much more simpler when I’m fixing things.
Then there are the relationships in my life. I don’t have a lot of friends. Alright, I have a lot of “tweeps” and “Facebook friends”, but I don’t have a lot of physical friends. I blame my chosen professions for that. There is not a lot of time to have friend when you work third shifts at a lab in rural Pennsylvania… And you’re Mexican. Heck, there wasn’t much of a dating pool then, either. It’s by the very grace of God that I met my wife. (That, or luck… But I don’t believe much in luck, being a biostatistician and all.) Then, because I live in PA and work in Baltimore, I don’t have a lot of time to go out and hang out with friends. Having a wife that works in the medical field compounds this. I don’t really like going many places without her, and she doesn’t have much time to go places. She doesn’t have time for her friends, either.
So I make some friends at school or at work, but they’re not the kind of friends that socialize a lot because, as it turns out, we’re all adults now. This is why I am envious of the people who have time to go out and get drunk and party and have parties, even in their adult years. I feel that I’m missing out on something. Though, to be honest, I’d miss out on other things too if I lived that life. I guess it’s a balance?
I’ve heard from some friends and colleagues that I seem to have it all together. I don’t. I don’t have much together at all. My home office is a perfect example of it. It is a mess right now, and I can’t seem to find the beginning or the end of how to clean it up. I can’t just throw things away because that annoys my wife. And I can’t just organize everything because everything in it belongs to a bunch of different categories. It’s not exactly something that I can do, and, when I do start to clean-up in there, it turns into some major undertaking that then becomes a waste of time. (At least from my point of view.)
Then there’s the marriage. We have definitely more good days than bad. I’d say that we have about 97 or 98 good days and one or two bad days. It’s those two bad days that really weigh on me sometimes because I hate disappointing my wife. I hate making her angry. She’s such a good woman, so hard-working, that I feel like a total piece of crap when I upset her. Even when I think she’s being unreasonable about something — and even when she apologizes for being unreasonable about something — it’s still my fault and it weighs on me. (Then again, someone told me to just face the fact that I’ll always be wrong, come to peace with it, and I’ll enjoy a long-lasting marriage.)
That’s me, the guy who frets and gets upset when one time out of ten things go in a negative direction. I’m the one that makes the proverbial mountain out of a molehill, and the one whose pendulum swings all the way in the opposite direction when trying to address a personal problem. I’m a little more pragmatic when it comes to professional problems. No one likes a child who throws a temper tantrum. And you just don’t achieve much when you tell people to “go eff themselves.” So I sit there and stew. And, in my personal life, I figuratively pound my head against the wall and find a way to punish myself for messing things up.
So, yeah, I’m not perfect. I don’t have it together. I wish I did. A graduate student at a world-renowned university should have it together at my age. I should be out there, saving the children of Africa or something… Finding the new virus that’s going to cause the new pandemic. Instead, I’m stuck with a dirty office at home, a long-ass commute to school, having to struggle with exams because I apparently have some sort of learning disability called procratinatitis and it’ll-get-done-osis.
What do I have going for me? Good question. Glad you asked. I have an awesome, loving and caring wife who is very smart and very pretty. She tolerates me. I have several quadrupeds who come over and ask to be petted when I’m feeling the worst. They have a soothing influence on me. I’m not dumb. I certainly could be doing much worse in the professional department. I’m a student at a very good public health school, something that, proportionately, very few people in the world can say. I certainly don’t have to pick fruit or hurt my back doing a job to get by. And I have a pretty good, albeit somewhat distanced, support structure in the form of my parents, my siblings, and my in-laws.
What else could I want, right? Why am I whining, correct?
I want my office to be organized, if not clean. I want to finally shed these extra pounds. I want to learn the skills to not worry myself sick over exams that I’ll eventually pass. And I want to not make my wife upset over things about me that go way, way back into my history and my psyche. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m working on… That’s the work in progress.
Thanks for listening.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.