December 22nd, 2014

Thinking Introspectively About the Holidays

Photo by Mackenzie Kosut, June 15, 2009

In the midst of the holiday season, nestled as we are between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I find myself in a reflective frame of mind. December marks the end of the year, and it harkens new beginnings on the horizon — and I find myself transitioning to new phases of my training. Some readers might find this post to be very introspective, but I thought it apt given the recent completion of many fellowship matches, including my own.

My self-reflection began in earnest this past summer. The confluence of being a chief resident, taking the ABIM and applying for fellowship mandated a time-sensitive and earnest appraisal of my abilities, dedication, and professional and personal goals.Like many of my co-fellowship applicants, my choice of subspecialty was a field that resonated with me and had inspired me to commit much of the past 3 years of my life to get to this point. We probably have all asked ourselves why we chose a particular field and what attributes made us best suited to pursue specific fellowship training. These answers, and the efforts made to attain them, distill into a personal statement. Amidst the flurry of activities I undertook to be a competitive candidate, I was forced to pause, to think, and to remember. Taking stock of not only who I am, but also how I had come to this stage in my career. Revisiting the whos, whens, whats, and whys of a lifetime of choices and experiences that led me to the present was a welcome epiphany. The rapid pace of daily life and myriad items that require immediate action seldom offer an opportunity to experience the richness that comes from reflection. Although challenging, periods of transition offer us opportunities to reflect, to understand, and — most importantly — to make peace with ourselves.

As my fellowship interview season came to an end, our residency interview season had just begun. I have been fortunate to gain another perspective, now from the other side of the proverbial “desk”. I am honored to have a window into the lives of those walking the path I took just 4 years earlier. In interviewing applicants, I am able to trace their journeys among schools, jobs, and even continents. Learning about their struggles and hearing about their successes serves to remind me of my own journey and challenges on the road to residency. We have all been challenged and struggled in different ways, but we are bonded in our shared medical training experience. Perhaps, in this, there is that proverbial sense of professional identity that allows us to empathize and relate to each other. The interview process has allowed me to continue to grow and mature, and has provided me with a greater understanding of myself and my connection to my colleagues.

The lessons learned personally and by proxy have humbled me and strengthened me and made me more resolute — both in who I am and in what I hope to be. These reminders of past efforts, successes, and failures don’t dampen or deter current success; in many ways, they serve to accent the beauty of the present and mark our arrival point. This Thanksgiving, I have many things in my life to for which to BE thankful, and the opportunities to reflect during the past year have brought much warmth and richness my way. My New Year’s resolution is to take more time to reflect on the past. A little introspection goes a long way! Happy Holidays!

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