Heads Up!: A bit long this one. I'd grab a cup of coffee/tea and get comfortable..
Adjusting to my new routine and way of life was shaky and is honestly ongoing. I’d been out of school for two years, out in the liberated, 9-5, bill paying adult world a lot of us know and love oh so much. To switch gears and be not just a student but essentially a student anywhere from 10-12 (or more) hours most days of the week is like boot camp for the mind and spirit. Of course no one says you gotta spend that many hours studying, and you eventually figure out your own way of getting things done more efficiently, but the beginning of the road is far less clear than the end.
At first you’re excited, nervous, anxious to get started, to do your best, and do it with styyyyyle. But then the mountainous lists of resources comes at you, the “advice” from all your peers talking about what “definitely” does and doesn’t help, second years mentioning resources you’ve never heard of but everyone seems to already have, plus wondering what it means for your naturally ridiculous self to exude professionalism on a regular basis. What even?!.....
But you know what? No truer words have ever been spoken than to “take it one day at a time” and to “take what people say with a grain of salt”. These gems, which most people already sort of know, can go out the window when starting something new and huge in life, but they are incredibly necessary for your sanity which will be tested enough as it is, haha. This past year was full of some things I’d been lucky enough to have been exposed to when scribing in the Emergency Department buuuut also a crap ton of things I hadn’t. Those are where my opportunities awaited, in the unknown. I didn’t walk into my first anatomy lab session with confidence in my cuts, or into my first clinical shadow knowing I would gather all the right information from the patient without missing pertinent questions. Being subpar happened time and time again until it didn’t anymore.
*disclaimer: this is not me saying I am now perfect in all things, concepts, and skills from first year. I mean I’m pretty good but there is always work to be done. Like literally ALWAYS. A life of learning is what this is. And considering the cost of it, you best be learning!
There were countless firsts for me this year and that makes it difficult to really gauge where you fair with anything. You can’t really know until it’s done, your past it, trying it again, and hoping it gets better. And it’s not just about the skills you’re learning either. Yes, you're practicing what it means and takes to be a physician but there are all sorts of interactions surrounding every task. Conversations and introductions between you and established physicians, residents, nurses, techs, other students, etc. You want to do your tasks well yes, but you want to make an impression on the people you meet too. Here’s the thing about that. You will witness every kind of character, personality, speech in any schooling/profession. Why? Because people are people.
Now this is just kind of how I am and how my mind works, alright. Hang with me for a second...
I’m not a kiss ass. I wear my emotions on my face in real time which makes lying or faking quite difficult. I enjoy saying nice things to people, affirming/complimenting talents, skill, good deeds, a good character, etc. I say things when I believe what I’m saying to be true, whether that be in your praise or not. I also love any chance to be authentically me in formal or professional settings... a little goofy with a [large] splash of sarcasm, garnished with positivity and [a bit too much] laughter . But that is a luxury*.
Professionalism has a foundation, applicable to everyone and on top of that, a scale that is dictated by relationships, environment, and social norms in a particular setting. Like professionalism, I operate with a foundation. The minimum pieces of my personality that any being is welcome to receive, no familiarity required. I don’t have to know you inside and out to want your day to be better, to greet you in the morning, encourage you, share a laugh, or be kind and respectful. At the least, I try to be that consistently, all the while respecting a person's boundaries or the position one might hold professionally, and staying focused on my tasks. Some days in the year, I only got to be “minimal” me, and they were still good days. But others, I got to share more of myself, my character within professional settings with people who like to really see people, who wanted to know me. And while that’s common where I am, it may not be for everyone depending on location or line of work (hence...*luxury).
There is quite a bit of inspiration and empowerment in having your true self be seen and accepted by peers, colleagues, superiors. Acceptance is great but again not guaranteed. And funny enough, the thing that makes acceptance feel so great is the same thing that makes the lack of it so difficult... consistency. Being genuine, UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU day in and day out is essential. I love feeling included, welcomed and liked, who doesn’t?!! But if for some reason I'm not, I’ll know it’s because I’m truly not compatible with the person, place, situation, or whatever. And we have to know that’s OKAY!!! Whether it’s a doctor or a classmate, you are not required to be everyone’s cup of tea... respectful sure, favorite not so much. That's basically an invitation for fakes, and they will often show up without one anyway, so no need to extend it. What you’re looking for are what we like to call “real ones”... at home, at work, at school, you want to have these people in your life. And it doesn't take many.
For me, there is more excitement and enlightenment in seeing how my personality molds and intertwines in and out of my professionalism. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll learn that about yourself in a year, but it sure makes a difference when you do. It’s a new and unique kind of motivator and confidence booster. There is so much learning, growth, and change that has occurred, and with it all comes this immense, sort of all consuming epiphany about life, people, yourself, your purpose and so many other things...
I’m one of many young, black women striving for something that isn’t easy to attain but that I believe could one day benefit from what I have to offer as I am simultaneously being refined and changed by my pursuit. I have been discouraged from pursuing my dream too many times to count. When I say I’m in school, I am expected to be in school for almost every degree under the sun except the one I plan on receiving. But that’s okay. I’m here, with a year down. I have received far more support and encouragement in these last several months than I know what to do with. I have found companions that inspire me daily, mentors that are invested not only in my future, but my well-being. I have gained the confidence to live boldly and authentically as I pursue this passion, instead of in the shadows of it. Which by the way, is critical because it’s ME pursuing it, after all!
No matter what life has going for you right now, or where you’re trying get to, yourself is the best thing you can be. One- it's already in short supply (because you’re literally it), and Two-It’s a game-changer, like actually. frfr.
So takeaways: Be more. Each and every day strive to be more, learn more. Be bold; live in authenticity. Be fearless and break barriers because you can and you will! And last but not least, always always always Be ready...to say “miss me with that bullshit”.
The Third Voice