That was me, 14 years ago, at my college graduation and was I ever happy! My four scholarship-funded years at Louisiana State University were a blur. From a proud blue collar family, I lived at home during college and commuted to classes, packing as many as I could into a morning and then running off to work at my part-time job at a hardware store before returning home to study and write lab reports til midnight. But four years later, I had made it, I was accepted to medical school, and I had arrived. Or so I thought.
My very first day of medical school, within the first hour of orientation, one of the anatomy professors told the 250 of us fidgeting in the auditorium, "You think you have arrived, but you have only just begun." Oh. He was correct. Medical school was another four-year blitz and then I was done. I was there at another graduation day, on top of my world (in another dress carefully selected to show the least sweat stains possible, as May in Louisiana is already sweltering and those synthetic, non-breathable robes were like sauna suits). Then I did it again for internship, deeply humbled by how much I still had to learn and finally emerging giddy with victory and relief that I had made it. Another carefully selected dress. Residency. Fellowship.
It took me several cycles to realize, to learn that there is no point in life at which I am Done. No top-of-the-mountain day that won't be followed by the next great goal. It's a flowing cycle of journeying and arriving, journeying and arriving. As one of my favorite yoga teachers says, the time spent moving between the poses is just as important as the time spent in the poses. You get to have both: the wonderful congratulatory days with those silly hats and good dresses and the flowing, messy days in between. And you get to rest and play along the way because you can't wait until you are Done.
So, to all my beautiful patients who are graduating this month, from high school or college or graduate school or just a transitory time in your life: you get to have both. Savor both.
Posted on Fri, May 1, 2015
by Heidi Gilchrist