A Chapter on Choice

It’s a continual internal
struggle as a young mother
authoring a career in medicine

If I shift to part time,
will I be left behind?

I’m afraid of letting down
my 16-year-old self
who wanted to be a doctor
her whole life

What if I start to worry
about trivial things, like
the color of a simple outfit?

Stop caring about
what’s most important, like
continuous growth, giving back?

I want to set a good example
for my children to be driven,
motivated, resilient

What about being present?

If I could predict the future,
guarantee it wouldn’t constrict me,
I’d choose part time in a heartbeat

But for now, I’ll carry on
conflicted, put off my decision,
keep my questions close, quiet

At least until the end of the year,
just like last year
and the year before

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

This person was a pediatrician and medical educator. She was happy to be advancing in her career. At the same time, she felt conflicted. “I have an innate desire for simple things, like organizing the kids’ clothes,” she said. “But I also want to set a strong example for them, and as a mother–instill drive and motivation.” She told me she had been struggling with the decision to shift to part-time work for quite a while. She loved her colleagues and didn’t want to leave them short-handed, and fear was holding her back. “What if I leave and can’t excel later in my career because I did this?”

Interviewee: Anonymous, Physician
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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