My residency program hosted a conference last week, and by luck, I had the day off to go down for it. It was so, so lovely to be back home. First time I’d been back since starting fellowship, and it felt like I’d never left. I got a chance to catch up with several attendings, as well as some of the junior residents who came.

I’d left in the near-pitch-black of night, a travel mug of coffee rattling along next to me. But as I left the city and suburbs behind, the sun started to rise just over my left shoulder, and the trees, still heavy with their summer leaves, started to glow. At one point, the road curved through farmland, and the mist rising up from the fields near took my breath away.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to wrangle my phone out of my purse and take a photo while zipping along at 55 mph. It came out poorly, as car window photography is wont to do, so I’ll spare you. It looked something like this:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

And I can’t tell you how great it was to be back in my old space, seeing my old attendings and catching up, chatting with the junior residents, snarking in the back corner with some of my NP friends.

I do like where I work now. I feel supported at work, and like my supervisors care about my development as a neurologist. But the team of folk down where I trained, that was something special. The department here, maybe because it’s so huge, is pretty formal, standoffish … I don’t feel that I’ve gotten to know anyone, really, in a personal sense. I tried to organize a couple of smaller events among the fellows (Fourth of July picnic, free-admission day at the Art Museum, that sort of thing) but it fell flat because, I dunno, the culture is just different. Come to work, do work, go home, be home. I get that you don’t HAVE to be friends with the people you work with, but still. I miss that.

Sometimes I wonder if I have Stockholm Syndrome about residency. You know the thing … you get so brainwashed by a person or place or structure that you start to identify with it and think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Let’s be real, I would not go back to 30 hour calls or stroke codes, or the ICU.

But I also acknowledge that my training program was a gem. We had a wonderful role model of a chair, and a fantastically supportive program director — the sort of guy who, if you said, “hey, I want to disappear for 7 weeks to go study abroad,” he’d be like “yesss! let’s make it happen.” I’m realizing, talking to my co-fellows and seeing the day-to-day here, that not everywhere is like that.

That’s what really makes a home, I’m starting to realize. Not just “address on your tax return,” or some tchotchkes on the wall, but having a sense of belongingness. A local pub. Knowing the best place to watch the sunset; the best place to get your car inspected; the best running route through town. I’m starting, slowly, to build that here… and when I get down, I remind myself that my first year of residency was not all puppies and butterflies, that I was finding my home then, too.

But let me tell you, it was good to be home, even if just for a day.


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