For a long time people asked me about why I became a doctor. The reality is that I had no good answer for them. It bothered me a lot. I felt like I should have this great answer about how I had this transformative experience where some giant ray of light broke through the clouds and I knew what I was destined to do. But there was no transformative moment or ray of light.
The truth is I wasn’t great at that many things. I was good at school, a below average athlete, well below average on the cuteness and popularity scale. I was good at organizing and prioritizing which, if you didn’t know, aren’t skills widely praised in the high school arena. I think mostly what I was looking for when people asked me about my future was to give them an answer that would seem like something great. Turns out, I said it enough that I really believed it, and, well, here I am today.
I was reminded this week of the things that linger from when we are young. I think most days I can still feel the shadow of those thoughts that I might never measure up to those around me. For most of us, we have these small things that are difficult to grow out of. I can recall the moments in my past that are the reasons I still don’t like to be teased in public or get the feeling I am being left out. I spent time with a friend this week who remembers the feeling of never really having enough; the feeling lingers in his life today despite proof of the opposite. How do we move beyond the insecurities of our youth? How do we get past those things that always seem to linger?
I’m not sure letting them completely go is the answer. There’s no shame in wanting to do something great. What I had to do is convince myself that being great wasn’t about gaining approval from some person who I was sure didn’t think I measured up. Doing great things was about pushing myself beyond what I initially thought I was capable of doing or accomplishing. I’m fairly convinced that I push myself to write another research proposal or figure out how to improve our educational curriculum because I don’t ever want that lingering feeling that “I can’t” to take hold of me. I believe that small voice that continues to whisper that you might be left out is pushed further into the background every time you practice inclusion. When you live a life of generosity with others you squelch the fears of scarcity just a bit more. In a few months I will turn 39. Last summer one of my best church girls told me that my 38th year could be one of my best. And it has. I think this year, more than any other, I have discovered what it means to consciously shake the insecurities that bind me and learn what it means to find the joy that is discovering true friendship and fellowship with others. And I’ve only figured out how to do it about half the time.
In the evenings I am reading Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward.” It’s about the second half of life. Fr. Rohr reminds us that if we never move beyond the first half of life we risk missing out on the best that God has to offer us. I am reminded each night that although there was no transformative moment marking my decision to become a physician that daily I am transformed into a physician, and a person, who uses those lingering things from the first half of my life to liberate myself as well as others.
May each of us, friends, shed the insecurities and disappointments of our youth just enough to move forward, but not so much that we can’t use them to transform our own lives as well as the lives of those around us in meaningful ways.