Someone in my hospital bought a new Mercedes CLK AMG convertible. It's almost a crime to be driving it outside in the weather we've been having. Still, it's managed to keep its shine, despite some mud splatter and water spots. I saw it in the physician parking area while I was heading in, and I couldn't help but stop and gawk.
One of my colleagues spotted me in the parking lot and caught up to me. He saw what I was looking at and whistled. "Man, that's a beautiful car." We both stood there for a while, in awe of such a fine piece of German engineering.
When I became an attending, I bought a fancy car. It wasn't too fancy, but certainly was not entry level. In the parking lot, it's very respectable, but clearly shows that I am not a subspecialist. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Considering my salary, it's quite a nice car, but my car's sticker price isn't even half of the CLK AMG cabriolet. This person laid out near $90k and is driving it in winter weather in the Midwest.
Every now and then, I think that I could be making more money. I could be working better hours. I could have an easier life. I have certainly earned it. And when I see something so gorgeous, that I can probably never own, it hurts sometimes. I think my colleague saw me comparing the Mercedes to my car.
"Y'know," he noted. "It's too bad that you can't judge a physician by the car he drives. Then it'd be really easy to find a good doctor." We both got a good chuckle and headed inside.
One of the things that I realized during medical school is that the value of something can seldom be measured with dollars. Doing something I love, that is worth a CLK AMG Mercedes. It's worth a Lamborghini Murcialago. It's worth an Aston Martin DB9. It's worth far more to me than 4 wheels and some metal. I can't really quote scripture and verse, but there is one line from Isaiah (55:2) that I like: "Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?"
Sure, I'd like a fancier car and a bigger TV and a fancy house. I'd like a lot of things. But at the end of the day, they are things. And things cannot bring happiness. Joy is doing, not owning.