“You Don’t Always Have to Overcome Failure But You Must Move On”
As a child, I thought moving was an inherent part of everyone’s upbringing. I lived in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo, France, Switzerland and the U.S.A., all of that by the age of ten. Bouncing around from continent to continent was all part of the adventure. My mother told me that she was lucky to have such an adaptable daughter. From my perspective, it was the backdrop that changed while I remained the same. It took me years to realize how unconventional my childhood had been. Although I was oblivious to it at the time, each experience fed a seed in me that continuously grew and made me the person I am today.
I work in the emergency room as a physician assistant (PA), which is a mid-level healthcare provider. I am surrounded by a fantastic team of doctors and I enjoy the work that I do but getting here was no easy feat. On the contrary, it was a journey riddled with self-doubt. Doubt when I sent my applications, doubt when I got interviews, and a firm belief that there was an error when I got an acceptance letter. One would think this doubt would dissipate when starting my graduate program, but no. Every now-and-then I would feel like an imposter in class.
My peers understood everything while I secretly felt like I lagged behind by miles. There were some topics that I admit were too difficult for me to master despite my considerable efforts and determination. As a person not used to failure, the idea of that scenario playing out was inconceivable and yet it happened. I spiraled down a bottomless hole of self-criticism and had fallen so far down that it was hard to get back up. Needless to say, it crushed me. I felt hollow and useless. Where was that adaptability when I needed it? Did it get lost somewhere along the way or was it simply not applicable in this situation? Perhaps it was a little of both.
I eventually put some of that useless energy into more productive use by studying for the re-test and ended up passing. But passing is different from acing an exam; who knows what the result would have been if I had spent less time languishing and instead been more resilient.
Now as a PA, I believe the lessons I learned in grad school were stepping stones for my career path. Here is the thing, you cannot know everything in your field. And that lack of knowledge is not a failure or shortcoming. For instance, I do not know everything about medicine and yet deal with a wide variety of cases in the emergency room. I utilize my clinical knowledge and resources to manage patients appropriately, which sometimes includes asking for help. A good provider can have an idea of what is going on with a patient but also knows getting additional input will benefit the patient even more. So, I consult with other team members and read up on the illness to have that knowledge the next time a similar patient walks through the door.
Every experience in life feeds a seed that is perpetually growing. In PA school, I was no imposter. I was right where I was supposed to be. Looking back at that, I realize time must not be wasted. I regret spending so many days tearing myself down and now try to make sure that it does not happen again. Whatever the situation is, I must learn what I can from it and move on. This approach will help you to become more resilient in your career, at least it has for me. But how do you personally differentiate between moving on vs giving up? Or between determination vs stubbornness? Regardless of your answer, choose what is best for YOU.