“Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed." — Maya Angelou
I recently spoke with a friend about how infrequently we acknowledge the difficulty of leaving a job or career. Our society celebrates grit, perseverance, and the steady accumulation of nice, tangible assets that make for an artful 'gram shot. Other cancer survivors had warned me that the transition back to “real life” after cancer treatment would be tough, in some ways harder than being in treatment. In treatment, your only job is to get up every day and keep fighting and make it to the next treatment. As Winston Churchill wrote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” When this hell ended, I was immensely relieved and appreciative of not feeling *horrible*, but also disoriented. To go back to life the way it had been before was incomprehensible to me. On Michelle Obama's podcast, I heard Conan O’Brien describe how at BMW’s car production facilities they periodically lift a car up, shake it as hard as they can, and see what flies off as a safety check. While Conan aptly used this as a metaphor to describe what child rearing does to your marriage, I found myself relating it to what cancer had done to my life. Cancer picked me up, shook me as hard as it could, then dropped me and said “You’re alive! Good luck, go figure it out!”. Turns out a few things had flown off in the process ;)
The two realizations I had almost immediately after being diagnosed were:
- I’m so happy and thankful I went to New Zealand and took time to travel and enjoy life while healthy.
- I’m not done learning and being a student and I want to go to graduate school.
When the pandemic upended things once again, it further reinforced that I needed to make a big change in my career. A work friend who had kindly listened to my repeated struggles helped me pick a date to leave and brainstorm ways to work part time while I took the break I so badly needed. I realize what a huge privilege it is to be able to take time off and I'm so thankful to have had the resources and support to do so. In this time of rest, I put my focus on healing - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I turned to the mix of six and started prioritizing exercise, cooking, yoga, therapy, journaling, and sleep. The physical and emotional transformation I felt as I healed was astounding. And through my own health journey, I realized how separate these components of health are from our traditional, curative health care system. While this model is very effective at treating disease, there is so much progress that could be made to better prevent chronic illness and improve the quality of people’s lives. While I don’t know exactly what direction I want my career to go in, I’m going to focus on learning and helping others improve their health, using the origins of the word as a guide:
Health: from Old English hælþ "wholeness, a being whole, sound or well"
I’m excited to share that I will be enrolling this fall at UC Berkeley for a Master’s in Public Health, planning to study how nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction can help prevent chronic illness. Go Bears!
A few things I’ve felt grateful for recently:
- Liz & Mollie perfectly expressing my evolving views on success:
2. Celebrating getting into Harvard’s MPH program and a good hair day (continuing to appreciate these little locks after losing em!)
3. The Huberman Lab podcast - A Stanford professor breaks down neuroscience and it’s FASCINATING (Neuroscience: how our brain and its connections with the organs of our body controls our perceptions, our behaviors, and our health). Very heavy on the science and almost feels like a college lecture, but I’ve learned so much! I periodically pause, take notes, and google things for more info :)
4. My first time in a bookstore in a year and the resulting haul!