Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No one can tell you what you know.

There've been times in my life,
I've been wonderin' why
Still, somehow I believed we'd always survive. . . . 

Now, I'm not so sure--
You're waiting here, one good reason to try

But, what more can I say?
What's left to provide?

You think that maybe it's over
Only if you want it to be

Are you gonna wait for a sign? Your miracle?
Stand up and fight. . . . .

This is it
Make no mistake where you are

This is it
Your back's to the corner . . . .

This is it
Don't be a fool anymore
The waiting is over

No, don't you run
No way to hide

No time for wonderin' why
It's here, the moment is now, about to decide

Let 'em believe
Leave 'em behind

But keep me near in your heart

Know whatever you do, I'm here by your side

You say that maybe it's over
Not if you don't want it to be . . . . . 

For once in your life, here's your miracle
Stand up and fight . . . . .

This is it
Make no mistake where you are . . . .

This is it
You're goin' no further

This is it
Until it's over and done. . .

No one can tell you what you know

Who makes the choice of how it goes?

It's not up to me this time

You know. . . .
Comes a day in every life

This is it
Make no mistake where you are

This is it
You're goin' no further

This is it
Until it's over and done

This is it
One way or another

This is it

No one can tell what the future holds

You make the choice of how it goes. . . . 

The waiting is over.

~ from "This is It" as sung by Kenny Loggins (with Michael McDonald on backup vocals!)


Feeling rambly. Consider yourselves warned.

Mmmm hmmmm.

Well. Graduation day has come and gone. And, like always, it just never gets old for me.


This year was particularly emotional for me. I know for sure that, since losing my sister, I'm a different person. While I always tried to live my life as intentionally as I could, something about the shift my world took on November 15, 2012 made me see it differently. Like . . .I don't know. . .I just feel like I don't want to be involved in any relationships that feel . . . insignificant.

Yeah. That.

I'm sure it sounds exhausting, right? This idea of trying hard at each and every relationship to make it count. The truth is that sometimes it is. But most of the time? It really isn't. I started listening to my spirit more and pushing open the doors that need to be opened. I've also been less afraid to close the ones that don't feel right or that don't nourish my soul.

I know, I know. You're probably saying, "But what does any of this have to do with medical school graduation?"

Well. I'll tell you. See. . . what we do is all about relationships. To be effective at it and to make it really count? It requires intention and building and pouring into people. So. . I guess what I'm saying is that now I find myself thinking more about my time with people. I think about our interactions and what they mean. And, in full transparency, I ponder the divine aspects of these relationships as well. Like. . what am I supposed to be doing right now? Why has this person been placed in my path?

Ugggh. Harry calls this being "heavy." Ha. I guess. But I'm just being honest about where my head is at these days. And the cool part about it is that it feels so much more right and rich now. It does.

This collection of pictures is really a story of relationships. I sat here this evening just staring at those faces and recalling the times connected to them. What we were doing, talking about, laughing about or whatever. I love the graduation photos with the smiles because even though they show the glory--what I see in them is the story. Yes, that. The story. And you know what? I have five trillion more images where these came from.


Anyways. As advisors, we get to put the doctoral hoods over the heads of our advisees. That's what those hugging on stage graduation photos are from. Usually, I feel quite verklempt about it but this year? I completely broke down crying. For real. I guess the story part was in higher def for me this year. And perhaps my mind was more present in it all. I don't know.

Seriously, though--it bordered on the full-on ugly cry. Like FULL ON. I managed to quasi get my face together, but I was doing those little kid cry-tics where you occasionally gasp for air from crying. It wasn't really pretty. At. All.

But so what.

The only issue I had with a real, true ugly cry was that this was not my moment--it was that of my students. I certainly didn't want my cry-tic-pop-locking to become the center of the attention. So, yeah. I'm gonna need to work on that.

I blame Kenny Loggins. See, the morning of commencement I was listening to Pandora radio and was on an old 80's soft rock station. Yeah, so what. Anyways, I'm rolling down Ponce de Leon on my way back to the house and on comes that song. This is fricking it.

So, did I mention? Part of my life of intention also means that I hear all the lyrics to songs differently now. So my mental iPod is really on overload these days. Damn, it is. Yeah, so I'm driving and listening, right? And then he says this one line that stuck in my head like a piece of gum in a little kid's hair. . . .

"No one can tell you what you know."

And though I've heard that song seven trillion times and even had it in my real iTunes library, never had I really heard that one line before. No one can tell you what you know. And you know? The minute I heard it--I mean really heard it--I broke down crying. See, some of those students? They were in situations where someone was telling them something inconsistent with who they knew they were. And those words just spoke to my spirit and cosigned all that I hope those I work with see in my eyes.

No one can tell you what you know. Who makes the choice of how it goes?

Then I started thinking of my own boys and even my husband and praying that they know who they are. Like really and truly know. Because when you believe that you're a winner and worth people's time and love and energy . . .then you receive it better. You also counter the negativity that attacks you from the outside and the inside.

Yes. The inside.

Another thing. Medical school is rough. But it is particularly rough for underrepresented minorities for a myriad of complicated reasons. I think Meharry Medical College--my alma mater which happens to be historically black--did a good job of sealing into me a positive image of myself as a young physician. So when I headed to residency and faced a few tricky situations or awkward teams? Or when someone was dealing with me like I was mediocre or even just ignoring me altogether? Man, please. No one can tell me what I know.

My parents did most of it but you'll be surprised at what something as hard and competitive as medical school can do to unravel all the good things parents pour into their kids. One sucker punch and they are on all fours redefining who they believe they are. And see? That's where we come in. To look at those learners with expectant eyes that remind them of who they are. And no, this isn't just students of color--it's every one. But I feel this urgency sometimes with the ones that look like me. Almost like, for some,  this is the first time somebody looked at them like that. Or at least some one that wasn't their mama or their daddy.


No one can tell you what you know. Nope.

It's been a weepy series of days, actually. Last week, I went to the annual Senior Banquet for our graduating medical students. They give student awards, have a lot of fun and also give some nods to faculty as well. I've been fortunate enough to get acknowledged by them in prior years. And in my experience, they usually send some kind of email that feels like a hint. Or sort of like one. The kind that says "we need to make sure you're there." Anywho. This year, I didn't get anything like that. And that was fine with me because I'm surrounded by amazing educators, many of whom deserve to be chosen by the graduates as "best attending."


So, as the story goes, they called my name. And when I heard it, I was stunned. Not stunned because I think of myself as some lackluster educator, but just. . .I really didn't think it would be me this year. I just didn't. So I go up and they have you say a few words which I stammered through. Something about the fact that I don't take this lightly. Which was true because I don't.

I don't.

But then I stepped off stage and that moment hit me. Here was a completely different class than the prior year. A unique panel of voters from any other time that award had ever been given. And you know? I know in my heart that I tried hard with those students. And I know I'm not the only one, but still. I did my best to value them and show up each day with an enthusiasm that let them know I was glad to be there. I tried to be intentional in our meetings and I tried to listen like Ira Schwartz--my friend and colleague who is literally the very best listener I've ever known. And then I thought about what I always think about when I've worked hard at something and it turns out okay. Or even really good. Or really well. Hell. You get the picture.

I wanted to tell Deanna.

No matter what I ever shared with her, no matter how many times, she was proud of me and happy for me like it was the very first time it ever happened. And she would look at me and tell me how it made her feel and how she knew how hard I'd tried. That was one of my favorite things about her. And every time I get even the smallest accolade, it is bittersweet because I want to call or text my sissy so bad. So, so bad.

So I left that stage and the tears started falling. Complicated tears that, at first, I thought looked super phony like I was feigning emotion. But then I realized how stupid that was and let it go. No one can tell you what you know. And I knew how I felt in that moment. I did.

So when I got home I called my baby sissy. And she stepped right into Deanna's shoes without even being prompted. And she got it when I felt emotional and she nourished my soul. Yes. That.


Look, I'm sorry for rambling. I guess it was just one of those nights, you know? I think I'll be pondering these words and maybe even saying them to my learners when they need to hear them:

No one can tell you what you know.

And you know what? I'm going to be saying those words to me, too.


Happy Graduation.

Now playing on the mental iPod nonstop. . .go ahead and admit it. . . . anything with Michael McDonald even humming in the background is officially a LEGIT JAM. Get up and dance, old people. And if you were old enough to either graduate to this or make out to it, you're older than me. Just sayin'. Ha.

What do you feel when you hear this song? Just wondering.

And reposting Mark's virtual graduation from last year's commencement.

Watching this video and hearing this song always makes me feel happy inside. Hope it does the same for you. 

Commencement 2013 from Kimberly Manning on Vimeo.


  1. Congratulations, Dr. Manning. I scrolled through so many young and radiant faces, including yours.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I wish I were there to have a slice of that decadent Armageddon cake you just baked!

  2. Ahhhhh. . . I was waiting for this one!

  3. Congrats Dr. Manning. I love this post "this is it"


  4. You are amazing. This post is beautiful. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your photos and your year and your heart with us here too.

    1. Mel--thank YOU for indulging me. I have no idea what I'd do without this space. The relationships I've formed with many of you feel significant to me.

  5. Label this "bumble bee (JoLai) would like this one" LOL! I love, love, love the graduation posts!!! And the throwback from your graduation is awesome.

    PS-- the message was also on point!

    1. I knew you'd love this. Because I tell you everything, you know the story behind the glory for many of these faces. And the throwback pic was found in a drawer recently. That was a very special weekend, wasn't it?

  6. Love it, I love that whenever I am done with your post, I feel better. Thank you for sharing and caring so much.
    DT from NY in DC

    1. DT, that's a high compliment. Thank you for telling me that. I appreciate it more than you know.

  7. My best friend's son will be starting medical school there in a few months. I hope he is lucky enough to interact with you. you are the real deal.

  8. Congratulations on your award and on these beautiful relationships that you are building and nurturing. Thanks for sharing all these great pictures and stories.


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

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