Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hypochondriac Post #3

Continuing into phase 2 from this post.

In early high school I joined the gymnastics team. I was pretty good and I enjoyed it. I loved the meets. One day our coach called a meeting where she ranted and raved. She was irate at our team and I had no idea why. She talked about the petty arguments, the backstabbing, the lack of team cohesiveness and then threatened to quit and disband the team.

I was in total shock!

I had been completely out of the loop with the gossip and the back biting going on. I had no idea if it was directed at me or not and became a bit paranoid!

This is something that continues to this day. I have a horrible time picking up on even not so subtle cues especially by people I am not really close with. It often takes me awhile to realize that I have annoyed someone and without it being brought to my attention I wonder how much I would simply miss. How many friends I have lost out on because I never realized their cues that I was doing something wrong.

In groups of people I am not terribly close to? I have rhino skin. I don’t get my feelings hurt and see most statements directed towards me as constructive criticism that I try to learn from. This makes it easy for me to work on a variety of teams and I think it makes me a decent leader, I don’t tend to get my feelings hurt. However, the opposite is true when I get to know someone well – my family and my close friends - my feelings get hurt preemptively and my rhino skin turns to tissue paper. I look for things that I fear I am missing otherwise based off of history.

After gymnastics team that year and swearing I would never go through that again, I fell in pretty quickly with the kids who hung out in the park and smoked – the punk rockers. I had been friends with a few of them since moving to Colorado, but suddenly it was the most inviting group. They didn’t chide me for not wearing my hair just right, or not having a bag from Espirit or clothes from Benetton. I found many of them to be very straight forward. If you ticked them off, they told you so. Expressing indifference was a rewarded quality among my crowd. Brusque, rude behavior… not a problem! I floated along with this crowd and established a few friendships that have stood the test of time.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I had to conquer my “shyness” in order to succeed.

I was working in a histology lab when I was a freshman in college. I was assigned the embedding station with Shana for the day. I didn’t look forward to this because she would talk. Talk and talk about people I didn’t know about nor, really care about. That day we sat down at our station and she said, “I had the most fabulous and weird night last night”. Then there was silence.

“Oh,” I replied lost in my own thought. What was I supposed to say? I had no idea.

She stopped, turned so she was facing me and said a little annoyed acting, “well do you want to hear about it?”

In my mind I was fighting saying - not really – but it dawned on me that the polite thing to do is to say enthusiastically, “YES!” So I said that. I think it was at that point that it first dawned on me that I needed to learn the proper responses to questions like this. But it wasn’t until I moved to Boulder for college, took a job in a dermatologist's office and started dealing with the general public on a daily basis, that I really HAD to put it in motion.

I enjoyed my job at the dermatologist and easily got along well with Dr. Stinkbug. He started increasing his expectations of me and my job there and I fulfilled them. I started working in the rooms with him as an assistant which I really loved. I worked my butt off in his office and when I wasn’t manning the histology lab I was working in rooms and setting up biopsies and other procedures.

Note that I did not say that I was heading into the rooms, introducing myself to patients, talking to them about their procedure and setting up for the procedure.

One day, early in my career at the derm office the doctor told me, “you know, you are really, really smart.” (I took this as the compliment it was meant to be.) And then he went on, “you are one of those people who can probably do anything you want to, but if you plan to go into medicine, then you have to know that if you don’t speak to people, you make them REALLY uncomfortable”. He was one of the first people who was brutally honest with me about what I needed to do to succeed.

I hadn’t realized my job actually had people on the other side who I needed to interact with. I was just doing the job I enjoyed. I spent the day watching his nurse, Jan, who was a very warm and tender person. I watched how she walked in to the rooms. Walked around to face the person in the chair and warmly announced, “Hi! I am Jan and I am Dr. Stinkbug’s nurse. How are you doing today? How is the weather outside? What a pretty dress you have on today! Do you have any questions about the procedure we are going to do?” And with people she knew a little about it went even deeper, “tell me how your daughter is doing! What college is your grandson going to now? How is your job going?”

I went back to my apartment and recited these lines. “How are you today? What is the weather like out there? Do you have any questions?” I was like a broken record.

And I went back in to work the next day and recited these questions to every person whose room I walked into. It seemed terribly monotonous. And I knew what the weather was like out there, there were windows and a door to outside in my lab. But people bought it! It seemed as though I was doing what people expected of me! And despite the fact that I didn’t really care what the answers were to the questions I asked of them, I enjoyed my work even more because for about the first time ever I was succeeding at interacting with strangers! And eventually, when I got to know the patients who came back repeatedly, I built up relationships with these people!


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