as do Kangaroos and Emus

by Jinryu

Fun bit of trivia– why are the kangaroo and emu featured on the Australian national coat of arms?  Well, aside from the fact that they’re both seen at the local zoos, the reason is because they’re apparently two animals who are only capable of going forward. (In reality, they actually can move backwards– they don’t actually spontaneously explode or something– it’s just that it’s very difficult for them to do so.)

It’s hard to figure out what you want.  You’ll read all this self help stuff about setting goals and stuff– sure, that kind of helps.  But setting a goal probably requires that you have some knowledge of the route to the destination, and, more importantly, that the destination is worth getting to, or appropriate to you.

Some things that have helped me keep my life moving forward:

  • I’m willing to admit that I don’t know exactly what the destination will be like.
  • I’m also willing to admit that as I get closer to the destination, I might decide that it is not be appropriate for me.  This admission also means, yes, I’ve spent (wasted?) all this time, and won’t finish.
  • And finally, I’m willing to admit that the destination might not have space for me.

There is certainly a lot of time for exploration in life, but one of the greatest journeys is really the one where you explore how you are going to live with yourself.  I know so many people who are in med school, for instance, who really, shouldn’t be.  Simply. I’m talking about people who are sociopathic, or even worse, sadistic.  Even if these traits aren’t present, I think that if the only thing getting someone through a degree is masochism, then it is likely the wrong choice.

I know I’m picking on med students, and that there are a lot of people out there who display similar traits– but I’m using it as an example because there’s a lot of similarities across cohorts, and the culture of low-self esteem and social cannibalism is virulently self-perpetuating.

More than likely, the typical Sydney med student  is an only child, or the child of a doctor.  Spent their primary and secondary education being told by their parents that they were special or clever– either in a positive complimentary way, or in an imperative tiger-mommy sort of way.  By the time they get to tertiary education, their whole life is structured by a psychotic need for booksmarts acheivement– and they don’t realise that they are socially handicapped.  The normal mechanisms for introspection into their own life, and to not only self-diagnose healthy and unhealthy habits, is ironically absent.  I should clarify– the diagnosis might be there, but there is no true willingness to correct their stunted social growth. There is only this strange mix of   and decide what is actually healthy– they are driven purely by structure of textbook tables of contents.  They may be clever, but they are usually not creative.  If they are creative, this is only going to be a problem– because creativity comes from having personality and substance, which a med school program comprehensively punishes you for having.

This kind of situation is virulent– it spreads in closed quarters among the med school population and is impossible to kill.  Yes, there are mutations in the medical school virus / culture, but the fundamental problem is that when you get too comfortable with structure, getting to the destination is more important than moving forward in life.  This is a root problem– because destinations are often difficult to decide upon, may be inappropriate, or may not be accepting visitors.

The average Australian med student that I’ve encountered probably shouldn’t be a doctor.

Signs that you shouldn’t be a doctor?

  • Nobody likes you.
  • You don’t like people / you are afraid to talk to people.
  • You are always failing med school exams.

But I know truckloads of med students who suffer from these symptoms and just stick it out.  They’re going to become the doctors that secretly, nobody likes, and nobody wants to go back to.  And you know why?


Because these are the sorts of doctors who don’t want to go back to their own jobs as doctors.


So what am I saying? Destinations aren’t super important.  What’s more important is that you’re constantly getting better at something that matters to you.  And by something , I don’t mean necessarily a particular thing.

Figuring out what that “thing” is, or what those “things” are (plural), is one of the great challenges of life, and it really is just a lot of luck.  The only way you have a chance of running into it is if you keep moving forward.  It is about understanding that your miserably life is because of the short diameter of your comfort zone, and that the likelihood of someone realising what a “nice person” you are and rewarding you just because you are you is not only highly unlikely, but probably laziness and some sense of entitlement on your part.

When I say “work ” at something, I mean, get things done, and get lots of things done.  It does not necessarily mean work harder.  There’s a very important difference– and you should probably think about that difference, for starters.

I know plenty of people who are technical geniuses but get passed over for promotions and better work– because they’re so busy perfecting hitting nails with hammers, and being upset that nobody notices that they’re so great at hitting nails with hammers, that they never get around to working with other people and getting appreciated and recognised rather than waiting for it.  There is just a scalar quantity, as opposed to a vector one– there is no direction to work that just sinks into a hole that nobody, even you, cares about.


If nobody cares? Be willing to change course, or to cut your losses.  You are never too old to start another life.  History is never in itself an adequate justification for the future.