This week has been quite a professionally trying one. In fact, I’ve been having quite an extended period of professional tedium for the last few months. The restlessness has got so unmanageable that I’ve in fact made quite a hash of a number of obligations over the last few days, in favour of a bit of after-dinner whisky, which arrests the endless self-interrogation – “Why can’t I be better, push myself more, believe in positive outcomes, find a purpose to my life, explore the limits of my intellectual and physical abilities”.
So it’s interesting watching a documentary about Karen Woo, the doctor who was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. It is based on extensive interview footage of her, detailing her journey from professional dancer who left school with no qualifications, to medical school and delivering medical aid in Afghanistan. She appears to have been someone who was on a ceaseless quest to provide a service to humanity, and who could not be happy any other way. I obviously don’t know her, but unlike many people who appear very altruistic, she didn’t come across as interested in judging the more materialistic priorities of her medical colleagues – unlike a lot of people I’ve come across, who use altruism as a moral lever to put themselves on a pedestal. I’m sure she had her foibles, but she was just doing what she had decided made her feel alive. She was 36 when she was murdered, and only 2 weeks away from getting married. When I first read about the case last year, I just thought it was a complete waste of a life, and couldn’t really understand why anyone would take such insane risks, but increasingly I can see why.
Even if she died before she could really make a difference, it wasn’t any more of a waste of a life than those of us, like me, who never find their purpose, never find anything that drives them. My “mission” so far seems to involve sitting alone in London, helping nobody (unless you count software vendors and the Starbucks share price), and leaving nothing behind.