Last night was the Pediatrics Graduation Dinner for all of the residents that are about to go out into the world and start plying their craft as full-fledged pediatricians. It is a great night in a beautiful location (not sure how it got to be at the Indianapolis Museum of Art last year and this year, but I hope it stays there for many years to come!) celebrating excellent people.
This class of residents was special to me for a number of reasons. Some of the graduating residents (the combined Medicine/Pediatrics residents, because they stay for 4 years instead of 3) became interns (nickname for first year residents because they used to be interned in the hospital) when I was Chief Resident and I still identify them as “my interns” (at least in my own mind.) For many of them, they were interns during my first year as a faculty member and we sort of grew up together. (I was also Chief Resident then too, but that is another story for another day…) Finally, there are a significant portion of them that I got to work closely with for one reason or another.
I started working in one of the resident clinics on a frequent basis with some and this is the first class that I have gotten to watch blossom from scared and unsure interns who were flustered by many parent questions during a well-child check to graduating residents that have become so adept at examining and working with children that they no longer need supervision. There are also a handful of graduates that I have helped work through some tough situations, mentored and advised on projects and even become friends with. I even got to give an award out to one of the graduates! It was definitely a night to celebrate and be proud, whether you were a graduating resident, a faculty member or somewhere in between.
Given the descriptions of in the previous paragraphs and my penchant for non-stop talking you would think it would have been a smooth and carefree evening of sharing memories, saying some good-byes and meeting the friends and family members of some of the residents. But of course, nothing ever comes easy for this closet introvert who cowers in the face of most social interactions that involve me putting myself out there. (Remember, there is a reason why this blog is titled Mamihlapinatapei!)
The reason I do what I do is because I love residents. I love the energy they bring to learning about pediatrics. I love the hope, the growth and the endless possibilities. I love being there for the highs and the lows. I truly want each of them to be the best pediatrician that they can be and I want to help them as much as I can and as much as they need and want me to. Of course, the very last part of that sentence is the big key, as much as they need and want me to.
In my head, I am rarely confident and I am always nervous. It is no different when I am working with the residents. I worry about whether they think I am cheesy or an idiot. I worry that when I think I am making a great teaching point, they just want me to shut up and let them get their work done. Now that I am a part of the ‘administration’, I also worry about whether they think I am just another unfeeling part of the system. (For any of the residents that read this blog, this is not a ploy to get you to write glowing Facebook or blog comments about me.) (Although if you want to, I’m certainly not going to stop you!)
This lack of self-confidence and feeling of inadequacy carried over to last night as well. When the ceremony ended and graduates were gathering in small groups, what I wanted to do was go around to as many of them as I could, tell each of them how great they are and how much I look forward to seeing and hearing about all of the wonderful things that they are going to accomplish in the future. What I ended up doing was sheepishly wandering around, mostly by myself (although about halfway through, I teamed up with my wife, which definitely boosted my confidence) seeing residents and thinking to myself “Oh, they are talking to someone else, they won’t want to talk to me. Even if they weren’t talking to someone, they probably wouldn’t want to talk to me. I think I’ll just stand here and pretend to fidget with something. Wait, that looks stupid too. I wish I could just spontaneously combust right now. That would be a great excuse to run out of here very fast…”
I also wanted to give out some hugs, because I am a hugger. However, I recognize that some people are not huggers, so I don’t usually just give out random
hugs to people, because I am sure a decent percentage of them would not be particularly well received. There are all of the odd conversations that I have with myself (as shown above) which also keep my inner hugger in check. One other thing that keeps the hugger at bay, especially when it comes to the residents, is that there are a good number of women in pediatrics. One of my major goals in life, which I believe I have been successful at so far, is to not be ‘creepy’. And indiscriminately hugging members of the opposite sex that you work with would seem to be a pretty good way to punch a one-way ticket to Creepyville.
(Although, on occasion, I there have been times when I wish that I could be thought of as a little bit dangerous or at least mysterious. I remember when I was in the middle of my intern year, some of my classmates were talking about our upcoming retreat. Years ago, the retreats on occasion would descend into drunken debauchery and there would be some residents who would ‘get together’ who maybe shouldn’t be, if you catch my drift. Anyway, some of the married women said that they were a somewhat worried about this, but then they quickly discarded all worries because they remembered that there were few males in the class and they all, including me, were probably the least threatening men in the history of the Y chromosome. To which I thought to myself that I was flattered, but also a teeny bit disappointed that I didn’t even register a flicker of danger. Oh well, once a nerd, always a nerd I suppose!)
All of these thoughts and feelings/worries is crystalized in one mildly awkward (at least in my own mind) moment last night. In the process of giving an award to one of the residents, I read a description of the person the award is named for and then read some flattering co-worker comments about the winner. Then the name of the winner was revealed and she came up to get the award. That’s when the trouble started. I had practiced and worked on the speaking part, but hadn’t thought about the actual giving of the award part. Uh oh. Handshake or hug? What to do? Okay, she’s coming up here, let’s try to read the situation because it sure is going to look odd if I ask her if I can hug her in front of all these people. Okay, she seems to be open to a congratulatory hug. But wait, maybe that’s just me as a hugger thinking that she is okay with it and I am totally misreading it. Shoot, my boss is up here too and he is running the show. I don’t want to upstage him or the moment with a hug. Argh! Freezing paralysis! Spontaneous combustion would be good right about now. Then again, that would really upstage the situation and probably injure the winner and my boss. Okay, handshake it is… Come on, doofus! Be less awkward about it…” Luckily, we all survived with no burn injuries and no one was the wiser about my idiocy (well, until now, I suppose.)
So to all of the graduating residents, let this be your celebratory hug and kind words. I am so proud of each and every one of you. I have gotten to work with many of you and have gotten to know all of you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and I will never forget you. You inspire me be a better educator and a better pediatrician and to keep doing what I am doing on the days when it would be a whole lot easier to just throw in the towel. You will all go on to do so many wonderful things and I will get to say that I knew you “way back when it all began.” If you ever need anything, you know where to find me. I’ll be the guy muttering to himself in the corner, frozen with indecision and looking for a hug.