“Mom, every time I look in the mirror, I see something different. Sometimes it’s good, and I feel good about myself. But, sometimes it’s not.”
It was well after dinner, and my nine-year-old daughter was perched on the kitchen counter, nibbling on apple slices while I made tea. Her eyes were fixed on her reflection in the mirror across the room, her expression critical.
I leaned forward. “Let me share something with you, hon,” and then I whispered with maximum dramatic effect:
“When you look in the mirror, the question is not, what do you see? The question is, how do you define yourself? ”
She turned and stared at me for an astonished second. Then her face relaxed into a wide smile, and she nodded: “Yeah, OK, that’s a good one, it really is. I like it.” Then she asked pointedly, “But who said it?”
She just looked at me, with that classic pre-teen “Yeah, right” look.
The gig was up. I confessed: “OK, OK, it was one of my Peloton instructors.”
“It was Robin Arzón, wasn’t it?”
It was a few weeks ago. I had been sweating and spacing out on my Peloton, working out, but not working hard. My fave instructor:罗宾, pulled one of those psychological snap-to-its: “If you’re thinking about your emails right now, you’re not working hard enough.”
I pedaled faster, and she went into a pretty tough routine. It was towards the end, when the work gets harder, and the instructors get louder, exuding positive energy, throwing encouragement and motivation at you through the screen.
And as has happened more times on that bike than I’d like to admit, when she posed that question to us: “How do you define yourself?” I got a little misty-eyed. But not for the reasons you may assume.
But there was more, a lot more, like the uncomfortable weight of ultimate responsibility that all primary care doctors bear. Like when my patient skipped her mammograms for four years and ended up with a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer.
When that happened, I apologized to her and accepted a large part of the blame for her delayed diagnosis. Even though she was surprised to hear me apologize and continued to be my patient for many years, the experience was a harsh reminder of what I’d signed up for. (And as an aside,我写了关于医疗错误andabout owning them. I beat it into my students’ heads: The only option is honesty when you make an error. Let’s face it, all doctors make mistakes, but not all doctors are willing to learn from them.)
Primary care doctors, who arethe classic jacks of all trades,没有的大师, who are expected to know everything about anything, and be where the proverbial buck stops, and do it all with minimal administrative support, are set up to screw up. That’s the reality of the job.
Yet, I was proud of my role for many years, and the evidence suggests I was good at it, too. The way I saw it, the intellectual challenge, heavy responsibility, chronic understaffing, and even comparatively low compensation were badges of honor bestowed only upon the select few who chose to accept the mission. (And who allowed their admirable work ethic to be maximally exploited, I now understand.)
When I decided to leave, I fretted about losing that identity, especially about losing my fancy titles. Let’s just establish that most doctors are Type A over-achievers who place way too much importance on external measures of worth, like “A” grades, the honor roll, awards, promotions… Landing a physician job at Man’s Greatest Hospital and a faculty position at the world’s most prestigious medical school were like, even better badges. Golden sparkly badges.
Or, golden handcuffs.
My back-to-back pregnancies and maternity leaves created an unsightly gap in my active teaching record, and despite eligibility, I was advised to “wait at least one more year.” Both times, a year apart, same advice.
What does assistant professor even mean?
By the time one more year had passed, I wasn’t convinced that promotion meant that much to me. Then COVID happened, and I never actually re-applied.
Despite that experience, I thought I would be sad when I had to delete my shiny, sparkly “associate physician” and “instructor” titles from my email signature. Instead, it’s been freeing. Throwing off those restraints has allowed me to take in lungfuls of fresh air, opened up reserves of energy — all that academic irrelevance, gone with a click.
Yes, I secured the funding, planned the study, assembled and coordinated the team. Am I the P.I. (principal investigator) and thus the anchoring last author, or does it look better on my C.V. to be the first and corresponding author, or …
或者谁关心？现在，就像“圣诞快乐！”我可以愉快地让早期职业生涯营养统计嗡嗡声谁犯了所有分析并创造了所有表的首要作者，而我的前导师斜线 - 辅导员稳定的头部引导整个努力可以是最后的作者，他们都会益处。我喜欢叔叔斯克罗吉彻底扔礼物，因为我刚发现了我生命中的真正含义。我意识到的是，这不是倦怠。这是自尊。