I was asked recently what I've learned from the last five years. An administrator at Midwestern Medical School asked me that question, and wanted to know what made me think I was ready to try again. It was not an optimal situation - she was busy, and I had just dropped in on her to wish her luck because she was moving on to a better position. I don't think I even tried to answer her question, and even if I had, I don't know that she would have found my answers satisfying. In fact, I'm never sure what people are looking for when they ask me that question. When East Coast Medical School asked me during the interview, I said, "I learned a lot - maybe most importantly, to trust myself and my own process." But actually, that was kind of a glib answer. So if I ever get to talk to this administrator again, here is what I'd tell her:
The cure for anxiety is pretty much always forgiveness and compassion - for others and for self.
Reminding myself that I can afford to have patience in almost any situation helps, too.
When I am frightened or overwhelmed, that is the moment to find a way to be of service to someone else. That's the moment to call a friend and ask how they are, or do something special for my family. That is not the time to engage in omphaloskepsis or to let hollow distractions numb me out.
I really, really need to concentrate on my health. Like, that is no longer optional. I need to sleep enough, eat enough, exercise and meditate. I can't skip out on my meds. I can't smoke because I'm stressed out. And I'm not always going to be perfect at this, but if I don't make my mental and physical health a priority, I will notice right away, and it will get bad so fast that I might not be able to get through. It's that simple.
No matter what happens, or what mistakes I make, I don't grovel before anyone. I own my behavior and do what I can to make it right. If I do my best and it's not enough, it will likely never be enough for that person or situation, but that has nothing to do with the value I place on my soul.
Action is the only cure for fear. You can't feel courage, or experience mastery or success without it.
My value is intimately tied to my word.
I must stay true to myself, meaning not only that I need to follow my truth - I need to know my truth before I can follow it. I have to tell myself the truth.
*Edit to add: Gratitude. All day, er' day.
It's not like I didn't know this intellectually before I came here. I did, and when things were going well, I was able to (suboptimally) behave in ways that supported my success. But when things got hard, that's when it became clear that I understood these concepts in a very surface way. They weren't a part of how I lived, and they weren't a genuine part of my character. Can someone change that? With practice and support, yes they can. People can recover, genuinely heal and then grow.
When I think about what happens next, I almost can't believe that it's really going to happen, it's so awesome. I wrote myself a letter when I started medical school here, outlining my hopes and dreams. I wrote another one shortly after I was dismissed. I cut myself short, but I had no idea how deep shit would get. And yes, it absolutely feels like something beyond just serendipity is at work. I feel like I'm being pulled along in a tide that has a guaranteed destination, and there's no use struggling against it. Might as well float.