So, Intern Life was really getting to me last week.

I was driving to work at the end of the week at O’early again, totally worn out. With a familiar low-grade headache, the criticisms of a particularly peevish attending from the previous day, my recent run-ins with Hospital Political Bullsh*t, and memories of my last weekend off (when I finally realized how alone I really am here outside of work) pounding in my brain.

I had to stop for gas when I realized (at the last second thank God) the fuel light was on, and as I was attempting to mentally force the fuel to pump faster (For the love of God!!), I paused to lift my face up and bask in the day’s first rays of sunlight (the first I’d felt all week). And I thought for the first time since my first hellacious week of med school – “Wait a minute. Now why,exactly, am I putting myself through this again???”

I got grumpier, and the pounding grew stronger as I considered all the people around me. All of them in suits and civvies, nonchalantly pumping gas, leisurely strolling to the counter to pay, probably headed off to normal jobs with normal work hours, every weekend and holiday off, and normal lives with lots of friends and family nearby to spend all that free time with. I looked at myself, all alone in The Big City, in crumpled scrubs, scurrying to the cashier because I knew the precious minutes I had wasted assuring my ability to make it to work at all, would put me only at pre-rounds instead of pre-pre-rounds and therefore, most assuredly, directly in the path of the peevish attending and another round put-downs.

But, I reminded myself, I chose this job, and therefore the life that goes with it. I could have chosen (probably, okay maybe) any other job in the world, but I chose this one. I have continued to chose it, time and time again over the years, when life or fate (or whatever you want to call it) has presented me with multiple opportunities to do otherwise. And, cutting through all the scurrying and pounding, I heard that little inner voice asking again, “But why?? Aside from the crippling debt I have incurred in the last four years, why do I chose to live like this? Why do I choose to put myself through this?”

I soon arrived at work and had no more time for little inner voices or in-depth self psychoanalysis. Just the work, and the patients. They consumed my thoughts, and the rest of my day.

As I drove away from the hospital at the end of the day, just in time to catch the last rays of day fading over the horizon, I realized that I was still tired, but the headache was gone and I was smiling. The little inner voice was gone too, because throughout the course of the day I had remembered. I knew why.

I have been talking to a far-off friend lately who is struggling to find their own path and purpose in life, their own “Why?” Naturally, I turned to Great Quotes, because I happen to be a firm believer in the power of positive quoteage. (There is a Great Quote that is just right for any situation, celebration, conundrum, occasion, etc. Seriously, try it……..There. See? I told you.)

All of the GQ’s I collected for their particular problem ended up having a theme which I think is best summed up with this little beauty:

If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For passion will lead you right into your purpose.

~ T. D. Jakes

Searching for the perfect GQ’s for my friend and reading words like this, have only reinforced my understanding, acceptance, and ownership of my own Why? They help me remember my Why? in those moments when I’m exhausted and grumpy, wondering why in the h*ll didn’t grow up to be a dog groomer, or freelance photographer, or anything but a doctor.

This week, in an effort to improve my work-imposed isolation, I finagled a brunch with a fellow intern who confessed they also had been feeling alone and a bit overwhelmed lately (which, just hearing that admission was a massive balm in itself). As we delved into mango pancakes and Spanish omelettes, we discussed work. And as I described my experiences and plans for the future, I could feel myself practically levitating off my chair with excitement.

I had a similar experience at dinner last night with new friends. At one point, one of them stopped me in the middle of my animated work-related chatter, and looking around at the others while pointing at me said, “That. That is passion.” I shrugged, my inner voice satiated and quiet, and said “Yeah, that’s why I do what I do.”

I should have said “they.” Because they are why I do what I do. “They,” meaning patients. Especially the preggie ones. Every time I deliver a baby and the proud father asks to take a picture of me with their new little bundle of joy, every time I tell a patient how great she did during a surgery or a delivery and she thanks me for how great I was, every time I establish rapport with a triage patient who tells me she’s sure she hasn’t seen me before because the last doctor she met at this hospital wasn’t so (looking around and whispering) nice, every time I see reassurance, or hope, or relief in a patient or family member’s face, my heart is full, and every second of sacrifice is completely worth it.

Helping them is my passion, my purpose in life, my own, personal Why?

So………What is yours?