Aug 3, 2011


I grew up in Southern California. At least once a week during the summer, my dad could be persuaded to drive me down to the beach, where I would spend the day catching waves on my garage sale board. I loved it. Sometimes, I could catch them just right, and ride them all the way in. Other times, I would think that I had caught it, only to end up on the top of it. I could ride it for a split second before looking down and seeing only air between my board and the water, and then feel the weight of the wave crash on top of me. I would be spun underwater three or four times with the force of the wave, and then swim hard, only to run into the bottom of the ocean. I was disoriented from the spinning, and didn't know which way was up.

I really wanted to work out today. It was a long day on labor and delivery, and I had missed my last few days' workouts due to circumstances outside my control. All day, I planned to go to a favorite class at the gym. Another delivery? It's ok. I'll be out by 5. I didn't do that paperwork right? No problem, I can redo that. Did you see that postpartum patient? No, I'm sorry, I didn't realize I needed to. I will do that now, and it will be okay because in three hours, I will be pumping weights with friends. Dr. Kennard, did you see this patient's fetal heart tracing? Dr. Kennard, we need you for delivery. Dr. Kennard, you have a call on 2054. Dr. Kennard...Dr. Kennard...the med student is interrupting my charting again, to ask some inane question and interrupt my train of thought. Dr. Kennard, you have a new patient. My head was spinning. I just needed to leave, and go to the gym, and everything would be okay.

I ended up leaving late, and the drive that should have taken 35 minutes took over an hour for traffic and construction. I finally pulled into the gym, proud that I kept my resolve to go and not succumbed to the takeout and recliner that were now paging me. I was too late for the class I wanted to go to, but there was a Spinning class available, so I walked in for that. I set down my water bottle and scrub top that was going to double for a towel, and adjusted my bike. The pedals didn't work. I moved to another bike, not in the ideal position since the class was getting full, but it would have to do. Those pedals didn't work either. I was frustrated, as now I was missing the warmup and there was only one bike left. I went over there, and began to pedal. All of a sudden, the seat fell backwards, causing my feet to slip and the pedal to hit me in the shin. I burst into tears.

That was the low moment for me. Sitting in the bike with my knees above my ass, crying, wiping my face with the scrub top where my tears were probably mixing with amnion and blood from the day, disappointed and frustrated that this one thing, this one class I had wanted to do, was now full of people and broken bikes. And in that moment, this Spinning class reminded me of how I used to feel when I thought I had caught a wave, only to crash spinning into the ocean.

As I extracted myself from the bike, I wondered where these tears had suddenly come from. Rather than sadness, emotions that seem to bring tears to me include disappointment, anxiety, frustration, and fear. And the start of my residency has been laden with all of these emotions, among better ones. Disappointment in myself, that my skills aren't better. Disappointment of unrealistic expectations being unmet. Anxiety, elevated to a level that my baseline anxious self couldn't have predicted. Frustration, with myself and others, with the learning curve of learning a new job and a new lifestyle. Fear, that I'm messing something up. Fear that at best I will annoy someone or create more work for them, or at worst that I will hurt somebody. The first six weeks of my residency has left me spinning, not knowing which was is up. Just when I think I've caught the wave, that I'm on top of it, I find myself underwater, not sure how I got there or how to swim upwards, how to do it better next time.

I'm hoping I'll get better at catching the waves. I think I will, only because I watch the residents above me, confident in their skills and knowledge, able to manage multiple tasks and do excellent work. I have to hope that they were like me one day, desperate just to stay afloat. Somewhere between now and then, I'll get better, become more confident, and have the reserve to deal with a faulty Spin bike. Until then, I think I'll stick with the treadmill.


  1. Where is my Kennard???? You will do fine, and if you weren't smart enough to recognize you are spinning out of control you wouldn't have the drive to swim to the top..... when you do find yourself afloat.. just take a deep breath and get ready for the next wave!!!!

  2. Funny thing about those waves....they keep coming back to us in different forms.