The difference between a remedy and a medicine
By JUSTIN COX
A few years back I worked a job as a publications writer for an insurance company in Monterey. I spent my eight-hour day transcribing notes into formally written documents. I took the job because I enjoyed writing and I figured it would be a good learning opportunity (and I was broke). I didn’t last (which is a story for another day). Here’s why:
About one month in, midway through my shift, my mind drifted from the demands of my job and I started to fall asleep at my desk. I got up and walked to the bathroom, sat down on a toilet, and slipped instantly into power-nap. A friend of mine had suggested the maneuver after I told him how tired I always felt at work. I laughed at the time.
It was shortly after that nap that I began to think extensively about how the job made me feel, and whether or not I should really be doing it. After all, I had just slept in a bathroom. I was uninterested and unengaged; as a result, I couldn’t concentrate. Quitting was not an option, because I really needed the money.
My inability to focus sent my mind drifting, and I landed on the following memory:
I had to write a 35-page research paper that was required as a capstone to graduate from my university. The process exhausted me, and I found a million ways to distract myself with the more interesting things life had to offer.
I tended to do my writing (at that time) very late at night, once all the action of the day had died down. One night, about four days before the report was due, I was relaxing and drinking coffee, waiting for a streak of brilliance to kick in. I was only 15 pages deep at that time, and had been unsuccessful in my last few attempts at writing. I knew something big needed to happen in order for me to finish on time. The ideas were in my head, but I struggled mightily to wrap my brain around how to pin them coherently onto paper.
I tried for almost two hours to get started, but nothing came. Nothing. In a fit of stress and frustration, I got up and took a walk to my neighbor’s house. I explained to her my problem. I made my frustration obvious. I had intentions.
Our conversation lasted about 10 minutes. In it we agreed that I would take her out for a burrito sometime later that week. I told her thanks, and exited the front door. While walking home, I reached into my pocket and fished out a tiny white pill.
I won’t name the pill, but I’ll say that it’s massively popular in college and often used to treat attention-deficit disorder. It allows people with chaotic attention spans to concentrate on a given subject for extended periods of time. It’s commonly prescribed to hyperactive school children and adults with short attention spans. So, there you go.
I put myself to bed seven hours later having written and edited 14 solid pages. I wasn’t at all tired, but it was past 7 a.m., and going to bed just seemed like the healthy thing to do.
I brought my neighbor a burrito the next day and requested that she not give me one of those pills again; no matter how many burritos I might offer.
Fast forward back to the insurance company:
I’m confident that I could have gotten a prescription as I muddled through that nightmare. It would have made my excruciatingly unstimulating workday an absolute breeze.
The problem with that, though, is that I don’t think my workday should have been a breeze.
When it all comes down to it, I hated those workdays, which is why it was worth it for me to continue on in search of something more fulfilling, rather than enhance my ability to accept something that deflated me.
What would have been the effect on the rest of my life had I allowed that pill bend my mind in the direction of a full-time job that I couldn’t stand?
I’m not going to categorically dismiss prescription drugs, but on the whole, we are much better served in the long run if we take a less medicated path, accommodating our actual strengths and interests, letting them be unaffected by daily enhancers.
Between the lofty demands of society and the patchwork solutions we often seek to help cope with those demands, we’re chasing ourselves in circles. We can choose to step aside and do more than simply exist.