10 Things I’ve Learned: Erin
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There are so many good friends I have met over the past few years who make me feel like we’ve known one another our whole lives. But today’s contributor to our 10 Things I’ve Learned series is actually someone I have known for most of my life.
Everyone, meet Erin.
I actually met Erin way back in the awkward days of braces and the Backstreet Boys thanks to my sister. Sarah and Erin became fast friends back in middle school, and just as quickly, it felt like Erin became part of our family. (Since she comes from a family of brothers, we were happy to adopt her as an honorary “third sister” whenever she came over.) From long afternoons spent swimming at our next door neighbor’s pool, to birthday parties, to family trips, to graduations and more, Erin was a part of so many of the big occasions and everyday tiny moments of our family’s life, and we were all the better for it. Because Erin has a way of making any situation all the more awesome.
First off, let me just tell you that this girl is smart. Like, super smart. For example, she’s graduating from residency this month (big yay!) and will finally be able to live out her life-long dream of beginning her practice in family medicine. But everyone loves to be around her because she’s the cool, curious, humble, fascinating, kind, and hilarious kind of smart. She’s someone whose opinions I’m always curious to hear, whether they be about the government, health care, religion, dating, or (her favorite subject) Queen Elizabeth. And between years spent growing up as a pastor’s kid, having a brother in politics, years of crazy experiences in med school that would rival Grey’s Anatomy, faithfully “getting out there” and trying online dating, and just generally being someone who gets to know all sorts of people, I say this without exaggeration — Erin tells the best stories. The best. :)
But aside from the fact that she lives very fascinating and thoughtful life — and has even continued to do so despite the insane demands on her time during years of med school and residency — anyone who knows Erin simply loves her because she loves people well. She is a natural “connector” and has always been the girl who’s great at gathering together people whom she thinks would enjoy one another. But even more impressive, I think, is that she’s the girl who stays connected to everyone and actually makes the time to stay in touch with people as seasons change. My sister may live a plane ride away in Chicago, but it goes without saying that Erin is one of her closest friends, as so many others would also say. I was one of the lucky ones, because life somehow had it that her residency was in KC and she now lives just blocks away from me downtown. (And yes, now I’m totally hoping that she’ll be my doctor too!) But through the miles and through the years, Erin is someone I admire for continuing to stick with people in her life, and love them unconditionally through the ups and downs of it all.
Anyway, I think she’s pretty awesome. So I’m thrilled that she took the time — even in her crazy last month of residency — to jot down 10 things that she has learned. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy. Thanks, Erin!
1. Dating is a necessary evil.
I’m no expert in the dating arena, but after several dozen first dates (followed by a far lesser number of second dates), I think I’m finally starting to see the point: for better or worse, dating is a ritual in experiential learning. I don’t always enjoy dating, and I’m not particularly good at it. I think I probably would have thrown in the towel altogether by now were it not for the listening ears, the wise counsel, and a few proverbial kicks in the behind from some pretty wise friends. I’m learning — and yes, it continues to be a work in progress — that it matters less how I feel or what I think about guy #72 at the end of a date. At this particular point in time, it might just be the process that matters. Simply meeting people — all kinds of people; learning to be comfortable with (or at least be respectful of) the presence of a stranger; investigating the art of both insightful conversation and primordial playful banter; occasionally amending the list of values I will and won’t compromise on (so it turns out, that as I age, my values sometimes change, too); and quite simply, just relaxing. That last one is a work in progress, for sure. These are the lessons learned thus far. And yes, I’m hoping that this “process”, in the end, will result in a relationship, but in the interim, I’m working on being open to more lessons along the way.
2. The self made man is a myth.
Most certainly, a person’s story is molded by his or her own decisions, motivators, work ethic, and ethos. But there’s something profound about how a person’s life story is largely shaped by his or her circumstances, family, culture, and community at large. I am one of the fortunate ones — to have grown up with parents who loved me and who implored the “it takes a village” to raise a child model. My village has impacted, in remarkable ways, my development, my personal and spiritual ethos, my security in feeling loved and valued, and my physical safety. And in the moments of my personal failings, my village has reliably and consistently demonstrated compassion, empathy, and has helped me to find the lesson in the failure. Every part of me has been shaped by my community. And I’m learning that’s an inescapable truth for every other individual as well, for better or for worse. We are all touched and changed by our fortunes and misfortunes, our cultural systems, our neighbors and bosses and friends. No one does it alone. And on a somewhat related note…
3. People do not always get what they deserve.
The idea of karma, I think, is appealing because of its implied “fairness in the end”. But even in my short 28 years of life, I’ve seen too many people, with their good decisions, intelligence, and kind hearts suffer tragic and traumatic and entirely unfair losses. Who deserves to be told of the death of his or her young child? Bad things happen to good people, and conversely, good things also happen to bad people. Sometimes the good and the bad and a person’s life circumstances are not at all deserved or wanted or fair.
4. Try as I might, I will never, EVER be a morning person.
Really, I thought that with a fair amount of dedication, consistency in routine, and sleep/wake cycle manipulation, that I could overcome this hurdle. Nope. After four years of medical school, three years of residency, and too many workdays that began at 5:30 in the operating room or the ICU, I concede. Call it a lack of will power or just plain ole biology – either way, the morning is a victorious winner over me. She and I will never, ever be friends.
5. You can learn to like any food. By adding bacon.
Seriously. I’ve spent my entire life avoiding two dreaded foes: the onion and the brussel sprout. But just in the last six weeks, a family friend introduced me to her prized roasted brussel sprouts and onion recipe, which I initially turned my nose at, but quickly came to love. Her secret weapon: bacon. Consider me a convert.
6. The most important lessons in life can be learned from… brothers.
Younger brothers, most especially. I could never have imagined how enriched my life would become by having young-adult relationships with my brothers. And the even more surprising revelation for this bossy, pretentious, type A oldest sister has been that, despite my best efforts, I am not always the lesson giver to the lesson-receiving younger brothers. They are the better teachers. From Ian, I learned how to value and honor a grandparent, that the stock market is a thing, and that there is both a serendipitous and an energizing nature in finding a life partner. From Adam, I have learned (and continue to need reminders) that laughter is often the antidote to a trying situation. He reminds me to breathe and to smile. What a privilege it is to learn from the two people in the world who will likely know me longer than anyone else.
7. Sweat pants are essential.
And scrubs are a close second. Because, well, comfort and warmth and English Breakfast tea in hand have made this (and every other) January survivable. Sweat pants will now and forever reign triumphant over heels and formal dresses.
8. Birth and death are the holiest of moments.
One of the greatest privileges of my life is that I get to share some of the most vulnerable and difficult and beautiful moments with my patients. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but in both the birthing and the dying process, it seems to me that there exists a raw and sometimes frightening humanity that can’t be fully understood at any other moment. My faith tradition tells me that these are the two respective moments in which every individual gets to experience what their Creator has also experienced. We get to co-opt, for lack of a better word, birth and death with our maker. It’s impossible to describe the peace and the holiness, and in certain situations, the palpable fear of delivering a baby — and the same can be said for witnessing the moment of a person’s last breath.
9. An episode of “The West Wing” can make any day better.
Time with CJ, Josh, Toby, Leo, Abbey and Jed is time well spent. It nourishes the soul and expands the mind. Enough said.
10. To have a fashion-consultant friend.
Or family member. Or both. Fashion forward acquaintances come in handy for those of us who are uninspired by shopping but still have a desire to occasionally dress the professional or social part. I’ve learned to: try new things that I might not have liked at first glance (because the fashion friend told me to and she always ends up being right), to take pictures in the dressing room and text them to said friends for approval, and that purchasing clothes feels like less of a punishment when in the company of a shopping compadre.