Words of wisdom to a residency’s graduating class

To my residency class:

The clock is ticking, its hands spinning around its face faster and faster until I feel dizzy and disoriented. The remainder of the academic year can be measured in days, even hours for some. The carousel is slowing down to let some off, some on. Some, like me, will remain in the saddles of their brightly painted ponies. The cheerful calliope melody becomes distorted with the change in speed and then abruptly stops.

Over the years that I’ve been involved in resident education, I have come to find this time of year a bit melancholy. Although the outside world is warm and sunny and green and there is glorious light of day for 15 out of every 24 hours, I feel like I am being left behind. I feel like I am losing a group of young adults who have become some of my favorite people over the past few years. I feel like things are starting over. Again.

New beginnings are not inherently bad. We all know this in our heads though it is more difficult to feel it in our hearts. As I glance at the pamphlet with the photos of the incoming interns, I feel unsettled. Dread might be too strong a word, but I have to admit that I feel a little suspicious of those who are taking your places for this new academic year.

I will admit that I thought of you as imposters three years ago when I navigated our first interactions with suspicion and hesitance. I got to know some of you better and more quickly than others. I was still suspicious of some of you (I won’t name names) as we rounded the final curve of that first academic year. But as you moved upward en bloc on the hierarchy of the residency pamphlet, you started worming your collective way into my heart.

And here we are, two years later, imminently approaching the finish line of our time together. When I was in your shoes, I marveled at the equal but opposite forces of dread and elation that played tug of war in the pit of my stomach as the end date of my residency loomed ever closer. Some of you may feel that way; some may be skewed much more toward elation. Now, as this date looms closer again, I feel pride and gratitude and sadness.

I am so proud of all you have learned and done and taught and grown. I am so grateful for the chats and laughter and the many things you have taught me too. I am grateful that you have shared your youth and enthusiasm and skepticism and struggles with me. I am grateful that a few of you will still be nearby and that I will keep in touch with many of you in one way or another.

A few little words of advice, but more importantly, my wishes for you:

  • May you have white clouds.
  • May you find what brings you joy and be able to construct your life and career to have more of that.
  • May you remember that you’re human and learn from mistakes rather than let them paralyze or crush you.
  • May you stay humble and ever hungry for new knowledge.
  • May you love the next step of your journey, but realize that nothing is set in stone if you don’t. I know you feel trapped by the 6 figure debt and the investment of more than a decade of your life in this educational process. But please know that you can re-evaluate and find another path if you are miserable.
  • May you be able to prioritize your own lives outside of work, your families, and get as close as possible to that perfect and elusive work-life balance.
  • May you know that you can contact me at any time for any reason. I hope you do.
  • May you remember why you endured all that you have so far and never forget the impact that you have had and will have on countless children and their families.

I am proud of you. I am excited for you. I will miss you.

Lisa Sieczkowski is a pediatrician. 

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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