Every summer I bring 2-3 medical students into my lab. I think of this as win-win. Firstly, I pay them. I have strong views on unpaid stuff (See here). I am constrained by my department as to what I can pay them, but no unpaid fellowships here. Secondly, we, that is my lab and I, try to provide an experience that is more than just bottle-washing, cage cleaning and pipetting of fluids into small tubes. There is some of that. But they are partners, albeit junior partners, in the research.
In return, I can do experiments that take 6-7 people intensively for a month. The wages of sin.
But what I also I get from working with these people, day in day out for 10-12 weeks, is revitalized. I get a different perspective on life and medical school and the world. This is their usually unknowing, gift to me.
Yesterday, I was sitting and chatting with two of the students. The experiments have come to an end. Everybody gets a few days off, after working 18 hr days, and things get a big more informal. One of the women said, who is starting her M2 year, "I wish I was done, I wish I was earning money and seeing patients and being a physician". I smiled and the other student laughed. The student who said this is "alternative". She's a bit older, and she's from a foregin country from which we have not had a student before. Not western europe, but someone who's had a long long path, including many years of interrupted college to get where she is. This woman is a survivor, and a fighter and unbelieveably strong and beautiful, inside and out.
So it was most gently that I said to her: do not wish your present away. The future will arrive soon enough. Before you know it, you will be 62 and your children and grandchildren will be off doing the things they will do with their lives. Hold on to each moment you can.
I understand the rush towards the future. There is still part of me that does. There is still that young and thin and beautiful 17 year old girl inside my not incosiderable bosum. But where did all the time go? All the partners, the children, the papers and projects? How did I ever get to be so old?