Wednesday, July 07, 2010


I had trouble at my graduation. Showing excitement is not my area of expertise in the first place, and stacked on top of my God-given personality traits (Lord help me, sometimes) were the sometimes complicated-overly-excited-family that had come to shower me with well-wishes and well, love. But the truth of it is that yeah, big deal, medical school is over. Residency is starting. But all the “aren’t you so excited to move on”’s, truth-be-told, got a little annoying after awhile. Because yes I’m excited to move on; on into the HOLY CRAP I forgot everything, into the “don’t kill anyone at work today,” onward to the 80-hour-work-weeks & the life-is-not-my-own. And in a way, I felt, I’d be moving backwards. All assumptions I was making, you see, but still backwards. Back to the ‘do I study or shave my legs for the first time in two-weeks’ attitude that ohmygosh my to-do list will never end.

And so, I had trouble at my graduation. And the ohmygosh’s have just gotten worse. But despite the occasional (or not-so-occasional) freak-out’s, I’ve had time to do something I haven’t had the privledge of in, well….ever. I’ve had time to think.

The pace is slow here, for the time-being at least. When I roll over in bed at 7:30 & realize that it’s been two hours since Jon got up & left for work, I usually don’t see any reason in greeting the day with gusto. And so I lay there. Letting my back sink into the memory foam & letting the fan blow around my bed-head a bit longer. And its there that I think. And sometimes, on days I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I think about those eighty-hour-work-weeks and choosing to shave my legs and kissing homemade pedicures goodbye for the next three years. Most of the time I get carried away with the ohmygosh thoughts; women have babies & raise children & start cooking blogs during residency for gosh sakes. But then I remind myself that I’m not them, that I had trouble at my graduation, & that I always have to prepare myself for the worst as some weird coping mechanism I probably picked up at 32 months-old when I started Montessori.

feb. weekends: unmade bed

I lay there for longer than I’d care to admit usually. Dreading my workout (thankyouverymuch p90x), wanting to workout, wanting a PopTart, hating PopTart’s, eventually turning eight again like it is 1992 & daydreaming about growing up. Wrapping my thoughts around things like eating chocolate for every meal (that ohmygosh has to do with my pant size) and little people that will hopefully someday inhabit our house (Mom, I said someday, not tomorrow) and work.

Yes, I said work. But they aren’t the “Jlyn saves the day!” daydreams. More like “JLYN YOUR PATIENT IS CODING, DO SOMETHING TO SAVE HIM!” daydreams. Or should I call them “daymares”—nightmares except in daylight? And in the midst of these thoughts, somewhere between the trouble-at-graduation and the daymares, I decide unofficially who I want be. Like, the toenails-always-painted girl who doesn’t use the name “doctor” because it feels too official & who keeps a clean desk, despite the crazy wordload, & eats oatmeal everyday for breakfast because, you know colon health. Or like the go-with-the-flow’er who downs coffee like its water & who has bundles of energy & rides her bike everyday to work & grows a garden just for fun girl. Or like something else entirely.

OPP office 2

But this thinking time, it’s good for me. Some things are matter-of-facts, no compromises, nothing-gets-in-my-way for-sure’s; things like oh being nice, showing Jesus, giving grace. You know, the normal stuff. But then there’s those other things—the things that come out when you leave the patients room or they call their best friend Sally & tell her about their ‘rather young to be a doctor’ Doctor. And it’s those other things that I’ve decided my back-in-memory-foam-fan-blowing-hair thinking time is about the other things.

And since I’ve mostly devoured the literary candy of Kelly Corrigan since I picked up her book last weekend, this morning during my thinking time I thought of her.

"...Coming down the hall in a silk Banana Republic scarf that I thought made me look professional, I could hear the booming voices of my aunts & uncles & cousins & I was glowing with tribal pride. I was a Corrigan. When I turned the corner, Greenie said my name so loudly that the whole room started laughing & clapping & tearing up while Greenie & I hugged & rocked back & forth & laughed into each other & my dad called out my name again & again:

"'Love-E! Love-E!'

"Until I became a mother, it was the most irreplaceable I'd ever felt. I had "made the night". But then I watched him greet Rocky Shepard & Chris Burch & Betty Moran &

I realized that making people feel irreplaceable was his gift."

--Kelly Corrigan, The Middle Place, p. 145 (emphasis mine)

Now, I don’t own a silk Banana Republic scarf. And I am certainly not a Corrigan. But my morning times, those daymares and those ohmygosh’s have all come together in the perfect pinnacle of thoughts. I’ve decided, once and for all, who I want to be when I grow up.

And I feel like the trouble at graduation is now justified. Because it wasn’t about graduation at all, really. It was about celebration. Celebration of a milestone, an accomplishment. And mine happened to include a velvet unitard & mushroom hat. But not everyone’s does.

For some, like my pretend future patient in room #502 with a bowel obstruction, it will still be about celebration, accomplishment, passing a milestone. And the future momma in Room 8 on the obstetrics floor will need celebrating for her work in bringing new life into the world. And the kid with the respiratory infection and the grandma with the broken hip and the brief-case-carrying business guy with newly diagnosed prostate cancer; they’ll all have their own accomplishments, pass their own milestones, run their own races & win their own medals (metaphorically speaking for some broken hips, of course).

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And I’ve decided. And I want to be there, present & in the mood for dancin’. I want to be that crazy Patch Adams-like-doctor who throws the chart into the air & dances with Mr.-Room #502 about his successful bowel movement, who hugs that momma with all I have in me because a new life breathing this Earth’s air & the physiological miracle of it all is too overwhelming. I want to be the ‘professional one’ who rips off those stupid yellow contact precaution gowns when the respiratory infected kid no longer needs isolation & who dances when the grandma with the broken hip takes her first step with her new Cadillac walker .

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Because gosh dang it, somewhere along the line I got two new letters after my name. And with those letters come a lot of ohmygosh responsibility. But at some point this whole gig needs to stop being about medicine & start being about people. And celebrations. And yelling “Love-E! Love-E!” at the top of my lungs, just like George Corrigan.

And on top of all that, I’ve decided something else: I want that gift, too. I want to make people feel irreplaceable.

Simple as that.


brianaandtim said...

i think you already do.... yes, you do.

ASH said...

Can you be my doctor? = ]

Aubrey said...

What a great post! I'm guessing, judging by your absence of recent posts, that you've probably started. I really hope things are going well - the beginning of intern year definitely felt like getting thrown in the deep end for me, but I loved it. May your call nights be filled with learning, but maybe not too much learning! :)

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