As she nears the end of her residency, Amy Pearlman, MD, reflects on what stressful moments from her time in urology have taught her.
It's only been 4 years, or it's already been 4 years. Depending on my mood when I reflect on my time as a urology resident, my sense of time passed can vary greatly. I have the bags under my eyes as proof of the former, but the smile on my face that favors the latter.
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I am now a chief resident. In a year, I will have completed my 5-year urology residency. Though I have learned an incredible amount of urology over the last 4 years, I have also learned a lot of intangibles, particularly regarding teamwork and leadership. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned, however, is that I have the capacity to overcome.
When I initially started reflecting on my time as a urology resident, I wrote about being grateful for those Wednesday nights when I had operated all day and was at home finishing up a PowerPoint I had to present in front of my department in no more than 3 hours. During these times, the only thoughts going through my head were, "I'm so tired," "How should I paraphrase this article?" "I wonder if that animation is too much," and "OMG, how am I going to finish this presentation in time for 6:30 a.m. conference?”
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I thought I was grateful for moments like these, when I felt so overwhelmed. What I realized later is that I was not actually grateful for these experiences in and of themselves. Rather, I was thankful for what I had learned from them; namely, that I had the capacity to persevere.
Next: "Rewriting reality"
In her book, "The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism," Olivia Fox Cabane explains the “rewriting reality” technique. She describes how she felt "nauseated, exhausted, and emotionally spent," at 4 a.m., just a few hours before she would be addressing 300 senior executives of a multinational corporation. She asks herself, "What if this unfortunate, unpleasant experience is absolutely perfect just as it is-the insomnia, the nausea, the fact that this is happening the very night before a high-profile assignment? In what way can this turn out to be absolutely perfect for me?"
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Cabane arrives at the following answer: "Maybe I'll somehow do well tomorrow and come to know that even sleep-deprived, and in a foreign language, I can still do all right. Maybe this knowledge will be key someday when I'm faced with an even more important assignment. And I'll be grateful for having had the uncomfortable experience I'm living through now."
So as I reflect on the last 4 years, it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I remember these unfortunate, unpleasant experiences. It’s these moments, more so than the pleasant ones, that remind and will continue to remind me that I can do it, whatever "it" happens to be.
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