Thankfulness

Yesterday was U.S. Thanksgiving and I have to admit that between the house guests, the cooking, the cleaning, and the finishing of Chapter 4 of my dissertation I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted reflecting on all the thankfulness.  I am blessed (and privileged, I’m not discounting that) in so many ways. With that comes a responsibility to live to the fullest and to give freely anything you might find.  For me, like Malibu Barbie, Thanksgiving is every day of the week.

I quit practicing medicine five years ago this month. People always ask why – it’s inevitable – and over the years the answer has changed so many times because nothing I ever said rang true.  Yes, I was in a challenging, isolating situation, and, yes, I was set up to fail in so many ways.  However, blaming my situation always rubbed me the wrong way,  like the ugly quit lit that’s been coming out of academia this year.  When you blame your environment, you are accepting your own failure. You might not be saying it aloud, but inside you get caught up in “if only I’d done this” or “if only I had tried harder.”  Blaming your work environment is a tricky thing, because somehow you still end up blaming yourself and it becomes a never-ending angry sort of haunting, maybe even with flashbacks.

Well, I can do better than that.  There has to be another way out.

If we get right down to it, I quit practicing medicine because I wasn’t ready to be the doctor I wanted and needed to be.  I had a lot of learning about life to do, but the environment in which I was practicing could not support me stepping out to do it.  I own my own behavior.  I make my own choices, related to what is best for me, my family, and my community. It’s empowering, really, and it rings true.

Therefore, in the spirit of showing the world that I have been trying to make the most of my opportunities (and my privilege), here is a list of what I have been doing and how I have been able to do it:

  • I am learning to accept uncertainty: things always become clear eventually but are rarely ever completely understandable in the moment.  Embracing this “not-yetness” allows for a certain readiness for and calmness about change.  This results in more flexibility in action.
  • I am learning to be curious first: When a different perspective is offered, I am learning to listen (thereby embracing uncertainty in that moment) rather than shutting it out.
  • I am learning to collaborate.  Collective Intelligence does not work in the presence of defensiveness or insecurity.
  • I am learning to ask and accept help.
  • I am learning to own kindness.  No, really, it’s okay that I care about you.  It doesn’t make me less of a professional.
  • I am learning that it is okay to be me:  This means mixing it all up – the caring, the existential angst, the creativity, the divergence and the convergence.  Then I serve it all up in public and on a stage. Like in a conference presentation, holding a coffee cup the entire time.

There are so many people and groups of people who are helping me learn and to whom I am so grateful.

  • There are the conference goers.  #ET4Online, #DLRN15, #OpenEd – I may keep up with all of you on Twitter, but something happens at conferences – it’s all in jetlag and intensity and the underlying message of coming together. I’ve met some very special people at conferences recently, but a special shout out goes to Marcia Devlin, who is one of those really great, highly successful, important people who still take the time to really see the people around them.  She demonstrates how powerful kindness can be.
  • And the tweeters. All of y’all who hound me to write instead of tweeting? I can tell you honestly want me to succeed, all for your own and different reasons, but it’s all great. It’s like receiving little Hershey Kisses all day long.
  • And the experimenters. Simon Warren, Suzan Koseoglu, Lisa Hammershaimb, Mariana Funes – I got to know you all mostly through TJC15. You are all up for anything, all the time and I love it so much.  You take curiosity to the next level and  help me to go on all the fun adventures.
  • And the collaborators.  You allow me to practice patience and making mistakes in public and, Lord knows, I’m still working on both. Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell took care of me when I really needed it, across an ocean and via Google Hangout. Don’t tell me you can’t connect with people online.  These women are my support group and I care for them very much.
  • The teachers. There are people in this world who know how to make safe spaces.  They hold back the judgement, quietly remove the barriers, add just a few thoughtful questions here and there to keep you moving forward.  Maha Bali is brilliant with this. Thank you.
  • The advisor. Jon Becker.  Jon is all of the above, like all the bullets in one person.  It’s pretty incredible, actually, and I am grateful to have someone modeling it all right in front of me.  He also models grace in the face of adversity.
  • The family.  I learn so much from and am so grateful for my husband and kids.  A lot of it is documented through Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr, but  I have this husband, Amit, who makes me possible. I wouldn’t have been able to leave my medical practice without him. I wouldn’t be working on this phd without him.  He’s my hero, and I love him very much. And then there are these really lovely children underfoot – Sydney and Lindsay –  who inspire me to try harder, be better, and laugh more every day.  They help me see all the beauty in the world.  They also help me use more glitter.

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I’m luckier than Malibu Barbie.  Thank you so much.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Maha Bali says:

    This is beautiful Laura 🙂 you are also many of those things for me and I also use u for medical advice i can’t get from my mom or husband so i guess those years in medicine weren’t a waste after all! 🙂 love u

    Like

    1. Laura Gogia says:

      :). No, the years in medicine weren’t a waste. They were very useful and I feel so grateful when I am able to help, provide insight, or translate what those pesky doctors are really saying. It’s a privilege. However, once again, your comments push me to layer even more onto the original post (see? you are so good at that :)). While sharing medical knowledge with my friends is and always has been a privilege, sharing my professional experience with larger medical groups has always been more complicated. Various faculty and administrators have always assumed I should go into medical education – “it’s a perfect fit!” they say – but it has always been emotionally hard for me to work with doctors. I’ve had difficulty explaining it until last week, when I was watching a John Oliver rerun. He had invited a guest on his show – a successful, articulate, happy man who was talking about prison reentry and the difficulties ex-convicts face, because he had been in jail once and had gone through the process. The man said that this may be the last time he does this talk, because being (self) identified as an ex-con is a little set back each time he does it. That’s exactly right. I think I’m finally done self-identifying as and letting other people push me into being a recovering physician. You all won’t notice the difference – I’ll still be meddling in your health concerns and offering to do your wound care but I’ll notice the difference. And if I ever go talk to the medical doctors again, it’ll be as an educator, full stop, and not as a former physician.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful post, Laura. And as Maha has said, it is mutual. We see & hear & challenge & support & inspire one another in so many ways. It’s not Thanksgiving here (though we will celebrate #ThanksgivinginIreland tomorrow 😉 ) but you’ve added Thanksgiving grace to my day. Thank You. x

    Liked by 1 person

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