I tripped across my old transcripts which I had received in connection with my 1965 application for a renal fellowship (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the NIH.) I was remarkably consistent for all 4 years. 34th of 68. Top half of the class. Last man, in the top half of the class. Well, I made it, and by a lot more than the skin of my teeth.
It wasn't easy. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. No matter that the Nazis were gone, and the Spitfires were gone. John Wayne, Dana Andrews, David Niven, Tyrone Power, and the ladies that idolized them, blazed the way, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Arrested development, of course, and fantasy.
With the intervention of myopia, I was forced into a more realistic evaluation, and by age 12, I was convinced that I wasn't going to be a cog in a wheel, but sought some imagined level of autonomy and respect. This best fit with the professions, and I had an example on each side of the family. My mother's brother, Uncle Rudy, was a graduate of the University of Chicago, and he had started off to be a psychiatrist, when the war intervened and he enlisted, overcoming asthma, and spending a good part of the war aboard hospital ships transporting cases of battle fatigue. Apparently that was enough to re-evaluate the specialty, and he went on to become an anesthesiologist, settling in San Pedro, where he was inaccessible, geographically, and with his introversion, not really very helpful to me in encouragement, discouragement, or merely providing an understanding of what this profession that I was thinking about, would really entail.
On the other hand, Uncle Herb, my dad's youngest brother, was in Chicago where I was facing this dilemma, and he was very helpful, giving me a summer job in his law office, surrounded by paper, files, secretaries, banging typewriter and cigar smoking colleagues. there were lunches in dark, wood paneled restaurants where chefs carved meat and cheese into sandwiches, and lawyers sat and talked shop while I tried to see something interesting in the process. I never did get into court, as Herb seemed to spend most of his time in the office and talking on the telephone. Didn't seem very interesting, at all, and even with The Defenders, on television, adding glamor and righteous indignation as they sought to do good, help the falsely accused and seek justice, I leaned toward the unknown, toward a profession that was an association of people who wanted to help other people. Noble! Sounded just right. I wanted to help people, and I loved science, and my mother had subtly molded me into an empathetic liberal, a New Deal Democrat, and my father had demonstrated what goodness there could be in character and unselfishness.
To be continued.