Growing Places

We just finished our first afternoon of emergency medicine training, which for my group meant a practical review of phlebotomy (on ourselves) and lessons in how to place Foley catheters and nasogastric tubes (in mannequins).  While preparing for class, I learned that nasogastric tubes can be used to administer medications such as activated charcoal (which can be used to prevent the absorption of ingested chemicals).  Although I didn’t personally have the opportunity to try a nasogastric tube, I did have a chance to taste a sample of activated charcoal.

I eyed the charcoal solution for at least a minute, swirling it around the little cup like some odd potion in a paper flask.  It had come from a tube that reminded me of toothpaste, and I wondered whether drinking it would turn my teeth an unsightly gray before a meeting later that evening.  Would it be as bad as eating blueberries before going out in public?  Blueberries always have a way of messing with my teeth.  However, driven by a sense of curiosity and duty (and besides, my classmates were watching), I tipped back the paper cup and took it in one dramatic gulp.  As there was only about a tablespoon of liquid in the cup, my gulp wasn’t particularly dramatic, but oh well.

How does activated charcoal taste?  Well, imagine drinking something the color of octopus ink, with the taste of hummingbird nectar and the texture of a thinned-out protein powder shake, and you’ll have an idea of what it was like.  A good dose of sorbitol accounted for the sickly sweet flavor, but other than that it really wasn’t bad at all.  If I’d had it delivered through my nose, I probably would’ve felt differently.  

Running my tongue over my teeth (which thankfully remained white), I threw away the paper cup and prepared myself to practice with the Foley catheters.  Like with the other procedures we learned that day, preparation, organization and methodical work would be essential.  We learned to always test the balloon at the tip of the catheter to ensure that it properly inflates and deflates before insertion to avoid mid-procedure problems with inflating the balloon.  This, along with other things such as making sure everything is in place before starting, helps make the procedure easier for both the physician and the patient.

Learning how to do procedures is exciting but also leaves me feeling like I’m a kid wearing shoes a few sizes too large, waiting for my feet to grow into them.  It’s the same feeling I get when I walk the hospital halls in my white coat.  While my coat fits quite well physically, I’m still growing into it in other ways.

Growing is something that’s been on my mind lately, so when I literally crossed paths with these words the other week near the Engineering Quad, they made me smile.

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Later in the week, I received a copy of the book Mindset.  It’s authored by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist of world renown, and I was excited to begin reading it since I’m on a journey to adjust the palette of my perspective and develop greater resiliency.   Within a few pages, I came across the same phrase, its black font on the white page an echo of the white-on-gray letters chalked on the sidewalk stones.

Growth mindset.  It seemed to be more than just a coincidence, especially when my mom told me the next day that she had just requested the same book from the library, and then the topic spontaneously came up a few days later in a conversation with a friend.

So, I think that “growth mindset” is my learning assignment for this quarter.  Perhaps for my whole life–after all, I’ll never be fully “grown up” in the sense that I need to stop growing.  One of the things I’m growing in at this time is confidence, as I am beginning to realize that this is one of the ways I can be beautiful without changing my outward appearance.  To be able to walk tall, knowing that I am on a journey and that I am strong enough to address my shortcomings rather than defining myself by them.  To become comfortable with who I am, rather than continually wondering if I measure up to what I think others think of me.

The knowledge that I am continually growing is a gift that gives me the opportunity to focus, and it lets me to build on my past and present experiences.  It allows me to move forward when I hit bumps along the way, and to laugh at myself more.  To take some things more seriously and other things less so.

This is one of my growing places.

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Life is full of growing places…they’re especially prevalent beneath bumps in the road and around unexpected turns.  They are the damp mist in the shadows that makes the moss and ferns grow green.

Where are your growing places?