The last days of residency passed – perhaps with a bang, and certainly no whimpers – and I am now full into my first week as a real, live doctor.
Everything feels the same, but with more sleep.
My graduation ceremony occurred 4 days ago, on Saturday. For as emotional as I felt that night, I managed to survive the entire ordeal without much blubbering. This had largely to do with my particular approach to the ceremony itself, which involved a skateboard, a wacky helmet and some iffy poetry.
Since there are only 6 graduating residents from our program, each of us enjoys (or endures) a sizeable amount of limelight as we graduate. It starts with a picture slide show of us from our earliest days up to the present. Some of my shots were strange, if not embarrassing, as you might imagine.
We are then introduced – for an agonizingly long time – by a faculty member. Here our history, foibles and dreams are put on display for all in attendance to see. This part can also be rather painful too.
It was then my turn to speak. We aren’t given time-limits on our speeches. As mentioned, there’s only 6 of us, so I guess we have the berth and he right to ramble a bit if we want to.
I survived the process with almost zero public display of emotion.
I’m not sure why this was some sort of goal for me. I’ve always been a lousy crier. I’m good at complaining, whining, moaning and bellyaching, mind you. Rather too good. But my crying skills must have atrophied somewhere in my childhood.
If I were to guess, I suppose it happened when I was about 5 years old and my biological father had just punched his girlfriend in the face. He then leered at me and asked, “You gonna cry about that like a little girl?” in a drunken haze.
“Nope.” I said. And I never have. These days, I can only cry when Ariel gets her statue of Eric blown up by King Triton, or the Broncos trade their franchise quarterback to the Bears.
So, I have some issues. Fine. I’ll bet you do too. Intellectually, I admire the Roger Federers of rhe world who can stand on the international stage with unabashed tears streaming down their cheeks when they lose (or even win, sometimes) their latest tennis match. Emotionally, I want to smack them with their own tear-stained pink hankies, tell them to find their purse and go back to the parlour where life doesn’t hurt so much.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to cry. Smash my thumb with a hammer…we’ll talk. But for this? No way.
So, my approach was to first ride my Sector 9 longboard skateboard up to the podium wearing a tin foil-wrapped, overly-festooned bike helmet. Why such a rather dumb graduation display? Why, especially, at a solemn ceremony for a new practitioner of the healing arts?
Aside from the fact that medicine is frequently too pompous and full of itself, I figured that if I could keep it fun and light, I could keep my eyes dry. Plus, I ride my longboard to work most days, and I religiously never wear a helmet of any kind, much to the dismay and consternation of virtually every person I meet on the hospital campus. For 3 years I’ve put up with near-constant haranguing to wear a helmet.
Why don’t I wear a helmet? Well, I just figure that anyone traveling less than a mile, at about a mile an hour, while less than 3 inches off the ground…should garner me the right to feel the wind in their hair. Granted, there isn’t much wind at that speed…and I don’t have much hair. But that’s my metaphorical argument, people, and I’m sticking to it.
I also think that Americans are too stupidly safe these days. We think we have allergies to things that 6000 years of humanity had no problem with. We pad every corner in our houses and put seatbelts on our T.V.’s just in case the wall trembles and pushes that deadly thing over on a kid. We have warnings on things like plastic 5-gallon buckets and nylon shower curtains. Frankly, the fact that my children will never ride barefoot in the back of a bouncing pick up truck, screaming like golden-haired eagles as the wind whips wildly into their eyes, brings me no end of sorrow.
I grew up burning leaves, shooting bottle-rockets out of my hand and hunting fish with a whittled stick. I think life is risky, and living life is an exercise in managing that risk. Knee-jerk safety measures without true analysis of risk leads to heard-mentality that rarely leads to anything but really really bad groupthink: racism, genocide, militant nationalism, day-glo, Milli Vanilli, toilet-seat-shaped pillows for airplane flights that everyone carries around airports but never actually use for more than 10 minutes, to name a few.
So, in truth, I don’t wear my helmet when longboarding because I’m determined to not become a Nazi. Gotta admire a guy like that, right?
Anyway, I understand that most of you dear readers will find fault in my little tirade, and will probably want to admonish my opinion about helmets just like all of the faculty, nurses, staff and freaking maintenance workers I see.
But take heart! You don’t need to worry! I rode to the podium in a helmet for the first time. Just to make everyone happy. Just to acknowledge that I’ve finally heard the message. I give up. It’s time to be responsible and extra-duty safe. I’m a doctor now.
‘Course, my helmet was covered in tin foil and had sticks extending from it in every direction with tinfoil balls on the end of the sticks…but it was a helmet.
Then I delivered a poem. It was supposed to be a rap – with a thumping beat and maybe a couple of dancers and lights flashing/spinning with everyone on their feet, their hands in the air all hip-hoppin’ on the floor.
But I’m white. I’m a doc. I’m in a tie.
Forget it. It’s a poem. A really bad 1-2-3-2 rhyme sequence that rhythmically scans like ice cream might feel if you were dumb enough pick a pile of it out of a sandbox and eat it. But, in honour of my creation and the initial inspiration for it, I allowed that I would not in fact be delivering a rap, OR a poem that night. It would be an amalgam, a mixture…a PAP.
This is fitting, of course, since we were all gathered to celebrate my new status as a fully-trained family medicine doctor.
My Pap made my mom cry. I think my Dad too. Kinda my wife. And most of the people I talked to afterward said it made them a bit misty. My goofy, two-bit hyper-syllabic tossed salad?
Cool. People cried. I didn’t. I was too busy looking goofy, or saying goofy things.
Dear old Dad would be proud.