One of the cornerstones of the practice of medicine is finding imperfection in things. When the doctor encounters the patient, the latter expects the former to find out what is “wrong.” In fact, I often see a patient and find nothing wrong, and when I voice this out loud the parents often ask, “Are you sure?”
I completed medical school over 7 and a half years ago. During that time I’ve been constantly taught to search for that which is erroneous, and I recently realized that I have let that mentality invade my own personal life on occasion.
One of my favorite things to do is watch the San Diego Chargers play football. I’ve been watching their games since I can first remember being a child, and I continue to do so as an adult. The only contrast between my childhood and now is that I no longer just sit back and enjoy football. Instead, I pace all over the house, give myself heartburn, and then critique every play as if my analysis will eliminate world poverty. The pediatrician part of me has crept into my personal life and over time, I have learned to look for the imperfect instead of enjoying that which is perfect (not that watching the Chargers play football is anything near perfect).
These lessons in being critical started early in life. Being raised an Arab-American, finding things to critique is central to my culture. As a child I recall bringing my report card home to my loving mother was a terrifying experience; it felt like being audited by the IRS. My first “C” grade in life came during college. I remember telling my mother about my grade and getting a lecture about how I would never find a real job with those grades. Luckily I think I turned out OK though. (Side note, I love my mother; she raised me to be the man I am.)
In fact, I became the physician I am today, and as a doctor, it is critical that I always find what is wrong. But as a human it is just as crucial that I also celebrate everything that is right. There is a copious amount of beauty in our lives, and it often lies right beneath our nose. The other day, in the midst of a hectic afternoon at work, a little 4-year-old girl wearing a Frozen jacket came out of the bathroom, walked up to me in the hallway and gave me a hug. I don’t know if I deserved it, but I undeniably know I needed it.
It is challenging to not let my outlook as a physician affect my perspective as a whole. In life as in medicine, there is much imperfection and inequality. It is woven into the fabric of our humanity, and it is essential to my practice as a physician to be fully aware of these shortcomings.
Sadly, the world is not all rainbows and roses. Nevertheless, that does not mean those things do not exist. These days, I try to always remind myself to take some time and actually smell the roses in life. I live in beautiful San Diego, and so many days I go outside and watch the sunset. It is a reminder that no matter the hustle and bustle of the day, there is a perfect moment at the end if one seeks it out.
May we always seek out the beauty in our lives.
Ahmad Bailony is a pediatrician.