A Surprising Discovery in Studying Public Health

It's Christmas Time in Dublin!

It’s Christmas Time in Dublin!

It’s nearly Christmas here in Dublin! My first semester of grad school comes to a close in 48 hours. Well, mostly-there’s still this pesky thesis proposal that’s been sitting half finished for the past few weeks I need to tackle-but that’s an aside. The first semester was, despite a fair bit of fear mongering on the administration side, quite good. And not at all overwhelming, challenging to be sure, but manageable. The key, as it always is, is not to procrastinate and everything will subsequently go quite smoothly. I’ve learned a lot, and could hold many a discussion on health policy, economics, or epidemiology. And I’m glad to have gotten this education outside the states. It’s given me an exceptionally unique vantage point most Americans trained in the system don’t have. Not to say it’s better, just different. But there’s been this one little thing that’s been underlying everything, and causes great concern for a future career in public health. It totally freaks me out.

I’ll explain. And it’s quite personal. I have this fear of death. Sure, everyone does, right? Mine is something I think about daily, not excessively, but it crosses my mind often. And, it prevents me from feeling like I can commit to anything long term. Like, who knows if I’ll even make it to thirty! I have to do things now! It doesn’t normally really affect me to a great degree (as far as I can consciously tell), and when I’m traveling the thoughts are usually non-existent. But being inundated with death everyday (and not having any feelings towards what happens after death) admittedly gets to me. This sounds whiny, I know. Like I want to be shielded from the harsh reality, like 7 million children under five died last year. But how am I not supposed to be horrified by that? Or you might think I would get desensitized. But I don’t, and the more I study it, the more it freaks me out. And thats hard to admit, I have a pretty strong ability at handling things that freak most people out well (giant Asia spiders aside). Mostly, it makes it really difficult to enjoy things that seem frivolous or granted to me because where I was born, and to whom I was born.  And makes me feel a bit hopeless. Granted, public health initiatives have made great strides towards achieving Millennium Development Goals , though some have proved far less successful than others. But then we reduce death to a fraction, we talk about acceptable levels of death from outbreaks. And this is all fine, but, it does get to me. I don’t really know what this means for my future, I debated even writing about it. The internet makes it all seem much more gloomy than it is. I’m actually very happy, and these thoughts are fleeting, but they are there. And thus, they must be examined.  And I’m intrigued to see how these feelings will progress as I get older. Or if I’ll ever come to terms with death. I’ve experienced virtually no death (aside from animals) in my conscious life, I’m very lucky. But it does make it difficult to reconcile something you have no experience in or belief system about. Sometimes I envy those with faith, it must be so much easier. But, my over-calculating scientific mind simply can’t accept what is not fact. Perhaps this too shall change. Mostly, I wonder how normal this reaction is.

In the mean time, and on a happier note, I’ve been keeping my mind busy with exams, papers and planning for a Christmas/New Years in Central Europe! We leave for Budapest Sunday. I absolutely cannot wait, very clearly, I need a break!

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