A big day for me! Headed to the Medical Center for a Farewell Reception being given in honor of my retirement! Almost eighteen years ago I started out with the School of Medicine as a data collector on a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It was a providential beginning.
Alex had died in January that year and I had spent the following months trying to figure out what to do with myself. I knew that I had to go on living. But I was so very tired. And sad. But one life was already lost; I could not lose my own life as well.
In a few months’ time I knew that I wanted to live more authentically. Not just “wanted” to live that way, driven to live that way. If I had breath and brains and physical abilities, it was the least I could do to honor my son. But waiting for a burning bush or a voice in the night to tell me what to do was not happening. So I began to live more responsively to “that little voice inside me” and to take baby steps of faith (as opposed to “leaps” of faith) and to follow my hunches.
One of those voices led me to call a college friend who was working at the medical school and to tell her that I didn’t know why I was calling but that I had been “urged” to do so for weeks and just had not followed through. I told her that I was looking for a job and that I was hoping she might know of something. Actually, she did. She was aware of a newly-funded project and she knew the project director and would pass my name along to her. The rest “fell into place,” shall we say. And that is another story for another day.
For a person who is most comfortable living from my brain, following hunches has never been easy. But when one is desperately trying to find a life to live, getting out of the comfort zone is no longer a barrier.
Let me say very clearly right now that I would NOT have even looked for this path if Alex had not died. I don’t know what course my life would have taken, for certain. But I know beyond a doubt that I would not have had the drive and the commitment that led me to this work.
I have had a satisfying, and in many ways, rewarding career with the medical school. I am still friends with colleagues I met in those beginning years when I worked in the General Medicine section of Internal Medicine. And I consider myself extremely fortunate to have strong, mutually respectful relationships with my favorite people in the world: pediatricians! (And that is also another story for another day.)
I have continued to grow both professionally and personally—earning a Master’s degree and creating and establishing a new position as Medical Education Specialist in the department of Pediatrics. I have mentored college interns, medical students, junior faculty, and have been a sounding board to many of the more seasoned faculty at the medical school. The relationships with students, that would never have been possible if I had not listened to the little voices and followed the nudges from my heart, have been by far the most inspiring and meaningful bonus to my work.
This has been a journey—with all the typical elements of that event: finding the right map, staying on the right track, taking little side adventures, picking up a souvenir or two along the way, running out of gas, having flat tires, finding help in the least expected places, and after all that, realizing that home has been the joy of discovery, the blessings of companionship, and the relaxation of return.
Thank you, Alex.