Friday, September 30, 2016

The King and I

You ever see that movie with Colin Firth? You know the one where he yells swear words for a full minute? I’ll just leave it here. The King’s Speech is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. #1 Its British #2 Colin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy to me and #3 I like anything with Helena Bonham Carter in it. But I think perhaps the reason I found myself watching it on repeat while in Redding (okay, maybe I was a little lonely) was because the struggles of King George VI really hit home as a medical student.

King George had a stammer so severe his speeches were filled with painfully long pauses. One speech—perhaps his worst, the opening of Wembley Stadium—prompted him to seek help from a speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by the super talented Geoffrey Rush).

I really feel the King’s pain. We all know what its like to stand there stammering, trying to speak, trying to find the answer or have the courage to say something, or ask a question. Even harder still if an attending throws a line of questioning your way. I feel the fear. I feel the incompetence deep in my bones. 

But the thing with King George is that he didn’t run away from his speech problem. He didn’t run away when London was being bombed during the war either—and being King, he most certainly could have.

He stayed. He stayed and fought.

He did not deny the trouble he had with his speech. He recognized it. And he worked on it.

That's what we have to do too.

Watching the movie really highlights the incredible courage he had. In the face of overwhelming stress and challenges from his family, the country, the Nazi’s rising to power and his stammer—he worked to be better.

To be honest, I don’t much feel like embracing the things I am bad at most days. I’d rather people think I’m just naturally gifted. But we don’t learn via divine intervention (why isn't that a thing?) We learn by reading and studying and being wrong—and working on it.

So this is the part where I tell you to embrace the things you are bad at—and be happy about being wrong, and finding all of your shortcomings and lack of knowledge. I only threw up in my mouth a little bit from writing that.

Every time I get a question wrong I wish the earth would swallow me whole. I use how well rounds go as a sort of gauge regarding my self worth. I do that with other things to. How many carbs I ate, divided by the number of glasses of wine, multiplied by how many people yelled at me minus if someone said they liked my hair (bonus points if I actually brushed it).

But I don’t want to live like that. I want to start trying to be happy about getting things wrong—because then I have discovered something to learn (let’s just say I’m doing a lot of discovering about the kidney at the moment).

We don’t run.

We stay, we fight. Despite an imperfect system of evaluations (speaking of things I measure my self worth by), a method of teaching that doesn’t exactly lend itself well to learning (no, I don’t want to play stupid peds hematology jeopardy at 5pm on Friday anymore).

Sometimes my soul can’t take all of the things I don’t know or can’t do or do badly. But then I think of King George.

He was one of the most popular and most loved monarchs in Britian. He became a symbol of national resistance. He wasn’t perfect, he was human and others saw his humanity. They saw him recognize his shortcomings and work on them.

Showing those around you (especially other med students) that you don't know everything, gives other people permission to admit they don't know stuff either. Showing other people your vulnerabilities makes you more likable, more relatable, more like George. 

So the next time you wish the linoleum in the hospital would become a giant sinkhole because you didn’t know the mechanism of a drug, or forgot an acronym or couldn't remember a side effect. 

Remember the King. And know that you will be successful not in spite of your shortcomings, but because of them.

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