Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jennifer Frank, MD: What I love

Recently, I have rediscovered two old loves – soccer and ballet. Starting with a somewhat flighty dance instructor when I was three, I took ballet until I was in college. The discipline of the exercises and reassurance of doing things “the right way” is satisfyingly attractive. (Is it any wonder I found my home in medicine?) Soccer was a given in the suburb where I was raised and I dutifully played from elementary school until college.

With my focus on pre-medicine studies and the need for excellent grades to get into medical school, soccer and ballet fell aside as I pursued my ultimate goal of becoming a doctor.

In medical school, the work only became harder and the limits on my time and energies more stringent. The second year of medical school closed and I saw the end of heavy-duty “book” studying, but quickly transitioned into all-night call shifts and real-life learning from patients. Completing residency before the 80-hour work week rule, I remember 100+ hour weeks that found me asleep on the desk on L&D.
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During a “light” rotation in residency, I signed up for a four-week pottery class to rediscover a part of me that wasn’t related to medicine. I managed to attend two or three of the sessions, but didn’t have time to go back to get my completed projects. All that is left of my lessons are clay encrusted tools on the back of a garage shelf.

After residency, I suddenly had a lot more time and money…for the two months between graduation and the birth of my first child. Four kids later, residency a fading memory, and a more predictable schedule, I realized that if I don’t reclaim old passions and discover new ones now, I will next be exploring extracurricular options in my assisted living facility.

So, I signed up for a ballet class at the local Y and accepted an invitation to play on an over-30 women’s soccer team.

My ballet classes, open to adults and teens, have been populated solely with young women who have been alive for a shorter amount of time than has elapsed between now and the last time I donned tights. I can only imagine what they think of me as I glide through plies and pirouettes. Despite the limits of my older body, I love it. I look forward to my ballet class with eager anticipation every week. Gone is the need to be the best in the class. I am doing it simply for the love of doing it.

I am similarly enjoying soccer. We are not a great team. We lose every time and rarely score a goal. Once again, there is no pressure. Our team is not striving for a playoff title and no one is trying to shine in order to secure a college scholarship. Sitting on the bench for a few minutes is a privilege not a punishment.

I have finally finished my training and found a job that combines my interests and abilities. I am married with kids. I am terribly busy, but have learned not only the importance, but the absolute joy of reconnecting with a long-forgotten part of me.

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