Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ten Years Later

Wait and Hope

As if it weren't enough to have one year to look back on, the news media tells us we should take the opportunity to reflect on the last ten. I suspect marketing has something to do with this, but aside from that, they actually do have a point. While every year, technically speaking, is ten away from another, we tend to think of decades in terms of the years that end in zero. For most of us, that covers a lot of territory, even though CNN hasn't been breaking down the door lately to ask what I've been doing with mine.

If they were, I'd have to begin by saying it was a decade of memorable and enduring friendships, not the least of which involved Lynn Smith and culminated in the publication of our book. I completed premedical studies, started working as a psychiatric clinician, and eventually entered medical school. I moved twice, once across the country, sold both my vehicles and bought another. I mention the latter because one of them was my father's 1989 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and, I'll tell you, it was one sweet ride.

It was also a decade -- I'm hesitant to use this phrase, but it's accurate -- of death. My father, two aunts, an uncle, two good friends, three dogs, and two cats. In addition, there were those of five patients with whom I had varying degrees of contact. I realize soldiers in the field or physicians involved with the terminally ill can experience even greater losses, but it still felt like a lot. By the time I entered medical school, I was sick of death.

In the long run, though, I guess you could say it was a decade of growth. I learned to cope with loss and appreciate the present moment in ways I'd never known previously. I discovered medical school wasn't going to be anything like what I expected -- it would be much harder and much more enjoyable at the same time. But what I think I got most out of the past ten years was a deeper knowledge of who I am and what truly matters to me.

Over Thanksgiving, a good friend of mine and I were discussing my interest in child and adolescent psychiatry. He reminded me that medical school is a time for exploring what we want to do "when we grow up," and to give my curiosity free rein. If I were to reveal my age (which I'm not), it might be tempting to ask about the wisdom of that advice, but from my perspective, he was exactly right. If the past decade has done anything, it's convinced me that life is too precious to be spent doing anything other than what we love the most. Frankly, I can't wait to see what comes with the next ten years and the ten after that and the ten after...

(Image by Pandiyan via Flickr)
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