I’ve been going to Sunriver, Oregon at least once a year since I was 2 years old. My family has spent numerous winters shredding the slopes of nearby Mt. Bachelor and going for snowy strolls along the beautiful bike paths. Summers were spent playing tennis, golfing and floating the Deschutes river. I have more cherished childhood family memories in that place than probably anywhere else in the world.
One of our favorite things to do while being in Sunriver, is biking. There are miles and miles of beautifully paved bike paths that wind through the vacation village. In fact, it was on those very bike paths that my dad taught me how to ride a bike. I always loved going for family bike rides as a kid – well, except for when we had to go up The Mountain.
The Mountain – the dreaded slope that we were destined to encounter at some point during our stay. No matter which house we had rented or where we were planning on going, eventually I would be faced with my kryptonite. It came to the point where I knew when it was coming up. I recognized the approaching terrain and I can remember a few times when I would start bawling as soon as I realized what was to come (I’ve never claimed to be a non-dramatic child, so this shouldn’t be too much of a shock). Year after year I would try and get my bike up this colossal slope, often I would end up walking with tears streaming down my little cheeks.
I recently spent two weeks back in Sunriver staying at my family’s house, studying for the second part of my national boards exams. One evening I decided to go for a ride and what do you know – I came upon The Mountain. Only this time there were no tears. In fact, this time I didn’t even have to downshift. My long legs didn’t even break a stride as I gilded up the slope and continued on my journey.
It turns out my childhood nemesis was not in fact a giant mountain, but a small hill. It appears that as with most things – this got easier with time.
I was reminded of this phenomenon a few months ago when a first year medical student came into the OR with me to see a case. I was on my elective at the end of my third year, and by this point, being in the operating room felt natural. The process of scrubbing in, gowning up and draping the patient like a dance I had rehearsed numerous times. As I walked this younger student through the process, it felt like teaching a bird to swim. Some of the mistakes he made were comical, and I found myself thinking “why on earth would he even do that?”
But then I remembered the first time I scrubbed into a surgery – well, not the first time. The first time a senior resident walked me through it and helped me gown and everything (it was magical). But the second time…
It was my last day of my first two weeks of medical school. I was a first year who hadn’t even had a single lecture yet. I was on OB/GYN and was sent to the OR to scrub into a C-section. Everyone was rushing, no one was paying any attention to me. While I tried to remember all the things I had been taught, as I attempted to gown I ended up contaminating an entire sterile table.
I have never been so mortified. In fact, my parents are the only people I have ever told that story to – which should tell you something about how embarrassed I was, as I am usually all about laughing at myself publicly.
It’s hard to imagine now how I would have made such a dumb mistake, but at the same time, being in a place like the operating room is such a foreign experience, until you get used it. You can learn all the steps in a scrub class, but until you have spent hundreds of hours being sterile, it’s hard to not automatically scratch your nose when it itches.
Successfully existing in the OR takes practice, time, and experience. It’s not something you can will yourself to become an expert at and it doesn’t feel natural overnight.
There are so many things in life that are like this and if you’re like me, you struggle with them all. I HATE being bad at things, I want to learn fast and be an expert immediately. Whether this is something in medicine, sports, relationships, emotions… but unfortunately there are some things I just can’t rush. I can’t will myself to get over someone I loved or make my anxiety and sadness disappear simply by deciding to. Some things take time to allow yourself to grow a little. To let your metaphorical legs grow a little longer and stronger to propel you over that challenge.
I struggle with this concept a lot, but I am trying and I’ll pass along some of the best advice I received, which was – “Tessa, just relax. The rest will come.”
While at the time I was given this advice I thought it was literally the dumbest thing ever (as it occurred after a particularly frustrating lap chole in which I couldn’t do a single thing correctly), I am starting to see some genius in it.
So I’ll give that same advice to you. If you’re like me and struggle with allowing yourself to be imperfect – in relationships, school, emotional state, your job – just relax, give yourself some grace and time, and the rest of it will come. With a little bit of inner growth, maybe that mountain won’t feel so big anymore.