Monday, December 20, 2010

Reflection on a Monday: The Snoopy Dance.

The Snoopy Dance

 "And I love how you came along
and made the world for me secure. . . 

It's deeper than you know--
You made me believe I'd found a love for my soul."

From Kindred and the Family Soul's "Just the Way You Are" 


Becoming a doctor is such a selfish walk. You declare a major in college and then you work super hard to make excellent grades. You align yourself with equally studious people (some of whom seem really cool on the exterior but are secretly as nerdy as you) and together you perpetuate the belief that you must, must, must study super, duper hard.

To get an A in Biology 101.
To get an A in Organic Chemistry.
To set the curve in Physics 102.

Then the MCAT rears it's ugly head. Because you want to go to the medical school of your choice, and because you'd prefer to not be explaining that, yes, I realize that I will graduate magna/summa cum laude yet I was having a bad day when I took the MCAT or although I was top of my major in pre-med I am not a strong standardized test taker therefore I am hoping this can be overlooked. So you purchase fat books and programs and bury your nose and your life into them.

And then you get into medical school.

Your parents/study partners/high school teachers/everybody remotely connected to your parents celebrates. And you do that dance that Snoopy used to do when he was super happy. You imagine yourself in a white coat dropping all kinds of diagnostic bombs like House, but without his drug problem. You envision your arms folded on rounds pontificating a clinical dilemma. You see the legions of patients whose lives will be better because of you, the one doctor who always listens/never rushes them/treats them with respect.

You arrive at your medical school -- and then. You meet a new posse of super driven folks; even more super driven than the people from your college/university. The stakes are higher. Everyone is going over $150,000 in debt, so failure is not an option. At all.

So you study like crazy. You have fun on the weekends after exams, yes, but always looming behind you is the need to achieve, achieve, achieve. So that you can have your pick at the next level. So that when you go for residency interviews, you aren't saying things like, yes, I did do well in medical school but I am just not a strong standardized test taker, or see, the preclinical curriculum was tough for me, but I came into my own when I started clinicals which is why I got all honors on my rotations including medicine and surgery.

You miss some things.
Even things you shouldn't have.
But you get so worried about achieving that it seems okay.
You fret a bit.
And on some days, you fret a lot.

Then, if you're lucky, you match in the residency of your choice. Your family celebrates. You want to do pirouettes and, if you aren't too cool at this point, you actually do them. Or even the Snoopy dance. On commencement day you see the proud look in your parents' eyes which, unbeknownst to you, has as much to do with the fact that you are now a doctor as it does the fact that you are a gainfully employed doctor to boot.

A doctor with a job.

You enter internship. And it starts all over again. New road dogs. New challenges. New hurdles to jump. Do I want to do a fellowship? Oh my, then I need to be the best thing since running water and Estee Lauder on every rotation. Especially the ones in the specialty of my choice.

And so.

After all this, at some point the dust settles and you finish your training. Suddenly you have a little more time and a little more money. You emerge from the cloud of me, me, me and realize that, oh yeah, there were other people who may or may not have been in medicine there along the way. Or they sort of were, except on an attentiveness scale of one to ten you were, at best, a solid five.

If you're lucky, somebody thumped your head early in this process and you had a wonderful partner to hug you tight and call you "hon" instead of doctor, doctor, doctor.  Or. You could be someone who had your head thumped early, yet fickle fate never brought prince or princess charming from out of the stacks of the library or from perusing the shelves in your favorite Starbucks study haunt to love you forever and ever.

So you worry. You wonder.  Wait, what's really important? Oh yeah, more than just me and my medical milestones.

Oh yeah.


Today is my husband Harry's birthday. And for this reason, I am reflecting on achieving what is really important. Whether you are a doctor. Or a nurse. Or any other kind of uber-achiever. Relationships with the people who matter most are what's most important. If you get a chance to narrow it down to one super-special person, hot damn. You've hit pay dirt.


For a while during and especially after my residency I worried about that.  All that hard work. All the studying and gunning to "get there" to the promised land of doctor-hood.  But my dust settled and I looked to my left and my right and with the exception of my (wonderful) immediate family, it was just me, myself, and I. Oh yeah, and my professionally framed medical degree.

I wanted a love for my soul.  But it hadn't happened and it wasn't happening.


What frustrated me most was the fact that I couldn't just work at it and study for it to achieve it.  There was no intense review book for finding a love for my soul.  And for nerdy academic types, that was a hard pill to swallow.

After some (very) unappealing dates and some (majorly) dead end getting-to-know-yous, I decided something very simple: I couldn't force this particular milestone.  No amount of studying would get me there. Instead, I focused on myself, but in a different way. At thirty one, I made a pact with myself to not waste a single moment on any human being who had not gotten the memo on my awesome worth.  I didn't want to be seen on the arm of Mr. It's-not-you-it's-really-me when the love for my soul came walking by. So that's what I did. Oh yeah, I also decided to make every effort to just be content with me in the interim.

It was worth a try.

Two weeks later, I met Harry. And just like that, I felt a different reason to strive other than me. Because finally, after all of that studying and trying and worrying and praying and waiting and achieving, I'd found the pièce de résistance. The one I'd been hoping and praying for. I'd found a love for my soul.

And sure, it probably sounds nauseatingly cliché, but that's okay. Because love does that to you. Especially a love for your soul.

Now that's a reason to do the Snoopy dance.
A love for my soul that led to two bonus loves for my soul.

So this one's for you, Harry.

Thank you for being a love for my soul
and the best and most important achievement I never studied to attain.

~ K.M.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .


  1. Thank you so much for putting things in perspective. Your blog is wonderful and awesome and all those other great words...especially in my position.

    -a second year MSM med student

  2. i love it-
    and your process is such an example of life-
    in letting it go- you find what you've been trying to hard to grapple on to.
    you and harry both scored!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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