Time and Where We’re Going

I received a couple of messages lately and I’ve been thinking very hard about them. One of them was from my department chair about where I think I should be going in my career in the next five years and the other was from a friend and colleague who asks something along the same lines but in a different way, gently challenging me to contemplate my path in life. The web link which gives you a sense of that part of my life grounded in the world of psychiatric medicine is at the splendidly redesigned web page, Department of Psychiatry ::University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

My friend is Dr. Janeta Fong Tansey, MD, PhD, who sent me the latest newsletter about her new and growing enterprise, Virtue Medicine, P.C., which you can see for yourselves at her spectacular website Virtue Medicine.

My department chair asked me the question that some job applicants still get. What do you see yourself doing in the next five years? That question gets harder every five years, just because I get five years older again and again and realize that most of my career is behind me. Maybe what I mean is that’s how I tend to think about my career, more like a timeline with a definite beginning and end, moving in a linear path to…the answer escapes me. Anyway, he asked me to think about what my goals are for the next five years, and more, to identify metrics and milestones to firmly ground them in the external world, in other words to make them “SMART” goals–specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time sensitive.

Dr. Tansey, on the other hand, asks me to do something slightly different, about my internal world. The question is whether I’m finding myself “longing for a meditative space, or realizing that it’s time to schedule and protect some time for personal growth and introspection.”

In a way, their challenges are similar. What is my path and where does it lead? Janeta mentioned the new WRITING MIND workshops with Mary Allen from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, http://virtuemedicine.com/2012%20Fall%20MAllen.pdf. And she reminded me what she surely tells others, “You are very welcome here!” My department chair wanted to hear about not just my goals but what I perceive the challenges and obstacles might be as well.

I gradually realized that these two challenges are the proverbial two faces of the same coin. It’s both/and, the principle I’m always preaching. It was easier to think of the obstacles in reply to my department chair. It was not so easy to dismiss Janeta’s welcome. Yet the hindrance is the same for both, at least in my perception–time, or the lack thereof.

So where am I on the readiness-for-change scale? I’m probably in the tar pit of contemplation. I’m so glad I have choices.