On growth and chunks

The theme of this week seemed to be “remember you are still learning.” I made a few rookie mistakes.

I initiated a conference call with a patient and her mother without really knowing the mother or the relationship between the two. Turns out, the relationship is tumultuous. I had to cut the conversation short when they began talking over each other and calling the other a liar.

So from now on, I will not put anyone on speaker phone with a patient until I speak with them in private. Lesson learned.


Friends tell me similar stories. They aren’t my stories to tell, but they do highlight how much learning is already happening.

How easily and often we resident physicians find the edge of our knowledge. We are reaching for higher levels of responsibility and engagement, yet continually find the floor lowering beneath us.

An untenable situation, until you begin to grow.

And growth can be robust without meeting the demand. The gap then grips. turning into a set of racks, stretching us out beyond limits. Leaving its mark in our bodies.

And to this we look forward for the next four years. Prime, wonderful years of my life, from 30 – 34yo. My son will be walking and talking by the end of this 4yr chunk.

So much of my life has been made up of 4yr chunks:

Elementary School (6-10)
Middle School (10-14)
High School (14-18)
University (18-22)
Working/Gap (22-26)
Medical School (26-30)
Residency (30-34)
and then… who knows?

Almost thirty straight years of 4yr chunks. Before long, Joonsu will enter the cycle of 4yr chunks.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really enjoyed a chunk while I remained in the chunk. Only in retrospect and with hindsight can I appreciate a chunk for what it truly is. Not merely a representation of my life: these are enormous sections of me.

Who I am has been changing so rapidly over the past thirty years. The Eugene who enters a 4yr chunk has little in common with the Eugene who leaves. And will this cycle continue?

I did not appreciate most of medical school for what it was: twenty-six to thirty. Perhaps my physical prime of life. I doubt the rhythm of change, growth, rebirth will let up, but maybe I can break the pattern of waiting for the next chunk.

Maybe I can appreciate this chunk of life for what it is: the complete absence of adolescence. No longer beginning adulthood, deeply in it. With a vision for what to come. And very soon, the tools and voice to achieve it.

Life is only going to become more and more strange. I would like to keep my head up and my eyes on my surroundings for this chunk, instead of waiting for the end and my head in the clouds.

I won’t want to miss what comes next.


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