Embrace the moment
Catch the light
Count the stars among the night
Search for spring within all dormant
Seek the truth beyond the guise
Listen for the fledgling melody
This evening, my classmates from the summer Leadership in Health Disparities Program and I came together for one of our leadership discussions with Dr. Jane Binger and Mark Gutierrez. It was so wonderful to be with my teammates from this past summer; although I don’t get to see everyone as often now because of our schedules, I treasure our times together. LHDP was, and continues to be, an incredible blessing, and I am so thankful to all the wonderful people who have made this program possible: Mark, Dr. Fernando Mendoza, Dr. Ronald Garcia, and so many others!
We talked tonight about “modeling the way,” which is an important component of leadership as described by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge. Over the summer, we had read and talked our way through another book by Kouzes and Posner, The Truth about Leadership, and we’ve now continued to discuss practical aspects of leadership as medical students and future physician-leaders.
Part of leadership involves defining our values, which allows us to recognize what we share with those around us and empowers us to live authentic lives. As part of the preparation for our session, I wrote out a personal credo to outline some of my own personal beliefs and values. This isn’t something that I spent a long time writing and polishing; rather, it is a glimpse into what I value and who I hope to be. I haven’t arrived yet by any means, and I’m still learning how to live out some of these things, but I wanted to share them as a sketch of what I hold in my heart. It’s funny that they came out sounding a bit like an epitaph, but perhaps by looking back from the future, I can live my life moving forward.
She was not afraid to live her life out loud. She did not hide who she truly was, yet she still found common ground with all those around her and listened to their points of view, remembering that all humanity shares the joys and sorrows and struggles of life.
She valued people above things. She remembered to dance in the rain, to share her umbrella, and to run through puddles with children.
She knew her limits but did not fear them, and she always gave her work her best attempt. When she fell down, she never failed to get back up and try again.
She lived for more than just the praise of those around her, and in her own quiet way, she was courageous.
I want to live an authentic life. I think often about how I fit in…although as a general rule, I think a lot. This is a question I imagine a lot of us have, and being a medical student has a way of amplifying this. I feel that we don’t talk about it all that often, though. It makes sense; if someone is wondering how they fit in, they probably won’t mention it to everyone.
Well, if you’ve had that question, you’re not alone. I’ve wondered it too. Even something as wonderful as being a medical student at Stanford (and that’s saying a lot!) isn’t enough to dispel the uncertainties that seem inherent in my life as a med student. I’m learning that it’s okay to ask the question.
It was remarkably timely that during our session this evening, we talked about how fitting in is now what we’re not about any more. We can’t just define ourselves by our roles and degrees; we need to know what we truly believe and live it out. In order to effectively lead, we must live our lives as examples.
For me, some of the key points I took from this is that it is important to find my voice and recognize that I don’t have to change who I am just to be accepted. There is balance to this, of course, and it must be done with respect, but I cannot be an effective leader if I am always trying to reshape myself into what I think people want or expect. It’s okay to be unique. That’s the heart of diversity; we all bring something valuable to the table, even when we don’t see it at the moment.
Your life story is unique, and no matter what has happened in your journey, there is something you can take from it to inspire others. Your story doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s in order to be valid; I know that when applying to medical school (and even now, as a medical student), it is so easy to be continually comparing ourselves to others.
I’m reminded of what a UC Davis medical student told me when I was still a pre-med. His advice to me was this: Don’t lose what makes you special.
So I package these words up into a gift and pass them on to you. Don’t be afraid to sing with your face to the falling rain or to dance barefoot in the puddles, even when the world is wearing boots and bustling past with its eyes on the sidewalk.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
does the young acorn
ever question whether it
will become a tree?
– The Stethoscopist
Yesterday morning, I ran some errands in preparation for the Fourth of July. I needed a beach towel to sit on while watching fireworks that night, but since I had a coupon to Kohl’s, I decided to pick up some kitchen items at the same time. Afterwards, I ran to another store to buy some granola bars, as they are an all-important nutritional group in the Food Pyramid of Busy Students.
Having secured the necessary granola bars, I started my car and began backing out of my parking space. It can be a small adventure backing out in parking lots—it sometimes seems that I am crossing a stretch of wilderness dotted with shifting landmarks. Watching for cars and pedestrians while trying not to brush the vehicles on either side, I eased out, my head twisted over my right shoulder.
Suddenly, a car appeared in my left field of vision. It looked so close that I had to immediately press down on the brakes, jolting to a stop. And in that instant…
…the driver honked at me.
You probably thought I was going to say that we had a fender-bender. Thankfully, it wasn’t that dramatic, but the fact of the matter is that I was honked at and it didn’t feel fair. After all, I was moving slowly, so the oncoming driver should’ve had time to see me pulling out before the car reached me. He or she could’ve simply pressed their own brakes and waited just a moment, rather than honking and driving on past me. It just seemed unnecessary.
As I finished navigating the parking lot, I tried to let the incident become the proverbial water on a duck’s back. I felt a slight twinge of hurt, though, and nothing I told myself could seem to make that little prickle of emotion go away.
Then, the thoughts began.
You shouldn’t let a honking car horn get to you.
You’re too sensitive.
How can you be a medical student?
How on earth are you going to survive in the hospital if you can’t even take a honking horn?
You’re going to be an embarrassment to yourself.
I’ve heard them all before. They are the self-doubts that dog my steps at times, even though I’m officially a med student. Even though I now have a name badge and a white coat, I still face them.
I’m sharing this because I hope that it will reach someone—some aspiring pre-med or fellow medical student—who also has doubts and thinks that he or she is the only one out there who does. Perhaps you think that everyone else is perfectly confident and has it together.
I know, because I sometimes feel that way myself. But I also know that I’m not defined by my doubts. They are challenges to overcome, and although they make me feel vulnerable at times, I will be stronger for facing them.
The acorn’s roots push against the solid ground, and with time and patience, the roots break through. The earth—which at one time must have seemed an insurmountable barrier to the tender shoot—becomes an anchor for it as it matures into a majestic tree.
Perhaps you are an acorn right now, facing the earth and needing encouragement for the journey ahead. Or perhaps you are a tree, having already overcome many challenges and able to share encouragement with others. I think we all have elements of each. Regardless of where you are in your journey, though, please know this: you’re not alone.