Quite the week. Epilogue is the week following Match Day. Four years of SELECT: health systems, emotional intelligence, and leadership training reviewed in a flurry of activity. Throw in the Awards Gala on Wednesday night for a mid-week extravaganza that left many of my peers hungover and very slow on Thursday morning.
In short, this has been an emotional roller coaster. Many goodbyes that were not really goodbyes, since we will see each other for graduation. As the week progressed, I believe we all felt a sense of inevitable sadness.
Personally, I had been anxiously awaiting the Awards Gala for weeks. I had been appointed to give a farewell address to my peers, transitioning the evening from introductory remarks to recognizing student excellent with plaques and awards.
For a while, I put off writing the words that I would say. I knew the broad strokes: that I would pull a Mr. Rogers in asking the audience to consider the wonderful people in their lives that are not with us. This strategy worked wonders on the Emmy audience, and I figured it would work well with the collected audience of graduating medical students, faculty, and family.
I chose this route from the outset for several reasons.
First, I think our class needed a good cry together. One of our classmates experienced a great personal tragedy only two weeks ago. Others may be on the precipice, but wouldn’t allow those emotions to flow on the final day of Epilogue, a few days later.
Second, by going through this Mr. Rogers approach, I don’t need to elicit the emotions myself; I simply set the stage. I don’t make the audience cry. They make themselves cry.
After the bachelor party a few weeks ago, I felt the words flow out of me and into the keyboard in one fell swoop. The initial draft bears a strong resemblance to the final delivered words, with some minor tweaks here or there.
Going into the evening, I wasn’t entirely sure that the silence would work. I had confidence in the method, as evidenced by Mr. Rogers, but I am not Mr. Rogers. Maybe my efforts would fall flat.
I practiced reciting the words many times. I felt that I had the cadence down, the steady delivery that would keep the audience’s attention. However, I wouldn’t know until Wednesday night.
My parents were able to attend the Gala, since they are around to help with Joonsu. I have struggled so much with medical school, between the preclinical failed exams and this whole baby thing, that I was glad to bring them to an end-point celebration of these four years.
I didn’t tell them that I would be delivering this address to my fellow students: I didn’t want them to be nervous for me!
The evening went well. Far beyond my expectations. I wish you could have felt how vigorously my heart pounded during those five breaths of silence.
I think the audience was surprised as well. Folks came up to me and gave me a congratulations, usually very earnest and heartfelt. The best compliment was telling me who they thought of during those moments.
After giving the address, I went over to Mackenzi and Joonsu, bouncing away in the corner of the large room. Holding Joonsu brought me back down to reality, so that I didn’t take myself too seriously. He even fell asleep through all of the awards and applause.
I ended up winning the Psychiatry Student Excellence Award. I didn’t anticipate that, since I was such a marginal student in the academic sense. Going up on stage after delivering the address felt like a victory lap in the greatest way. I was glad my parents could be there to witness the moment.
We had all sorts of energy in that car ride. The full moon coming up into the sky. A happy family going to bed.
When we arrived home, Joonsu had an enormous blow-out of his diaper.
The poop went everywhere. When peeling off his clothing, we made the decision to simply give him a bath rather than trying to wipe everything away. Less risk of contamination, as he is starting to learn how to flip over with great regularity without much predictability.
While Mackenzi got the shower going, I held the naked and poopy baby. As she signaled readiness for the hand-off, I felt a comforting warmth run through my arms and my belly. Then, I realized that my son had just peed all over me.
A simple reminder that while I may win awards or deliver memorable speeches, he is the boss of the house.
I am merely his humble servant.
Long Form Sundays
- On revisiting a placeholder
- On placeholders (or the beginning of Match/Epilogue)
- On gentle hazing (or the end of Inpatient Medicine)