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Fear And Writing

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In, 2013

The first time I read those words was in the summer 2013. I was 34 and getting married. I found the book to be very interesting, but it didn’t ‘speak’ to me yet in my career. Perhaps because I wasn’t ready for the message. Perhaps because I wasn’t ready to face my fears, or was even aware of what I was afraid of.

Then came the most tumultuous years of my life.

In my personal life–I got married (yay!) to a wonderful guy, and love him dearly, but the transition to being married is definitely an adjustment.

From a career standpoint, I started working as the Medical Director for a camp that cares for medically complex children in addition to being an attending in the ED of a children’s hospital. The transition was challenging and required efforts comparable to my training years.

In 2015, I learned how palpable fear can be.  We were excited to finally start our family in the spring, and were  blindsided when we realized having a baby wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought. Over the next year we experienced miscarriages, prolonged medical fallout and a roller coaster of hormones that seemed to rage on endlessly. I felt a grief that I didn’t know existed (That is a post for another day…).

Time slowed down, and we had some really hard days, weeks, and months. Somehow we found ourselves in an intensive counseling group that not only resulted in closure and ‘redemption’ from grief, but also an incredible transformation that brought us to an unshakable togetherness. It was a true gift, but nonetheless fear followed me.

Then we had a baby.

Our beautiful baby’s first day home was Nov. 11, 2016. We had a party to celebrate our homecoming as well as the election. And Donald Trump won. And me and my pregnancy hormones cried for a week. I cried for the little girl in me who wanted to see my gender crack the ultimate glass ceiling, and I cried for the world that our new president was creating for me and my little family. And I cried because I was scared.

And then I read Lean In again.

This time, when I read those words, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid,’ I suddenly had all these thoughts about women in medicine and the reality of gender bias and invisible barriers.

I realized that more females make up our field than ever before, but the amount of leadership positions we hold is unrepresentative. That recent studies have reported women make about 20% less money than our male counterparts. But in truth the wage gap is still incompletely understood due to lack of widespread salary transparency.  And most importantly, I realized that we as women still haven’t figured out how to fully support one another. 

We haven’t learned yet that if we were to band together, we might actually see more change than if we suffer in silence, slowly burning out from a career that doesn’t always appreciate our efforts or sacrifices. And I realized, that if I wasn’t afraid I would try to talk about my thoughts and concerns in the open. To create community with my female colleagues, to model a way of being supportive of others, so we can learn that we don’t have to play the ‘zero-sum-game.’

So I decided to start a blog.

Sheryl Sandberg, this is what I would do if I wasn’t afraid. Truth be told. I STILL am, but my fear is less than my desire to help other women, to start the conversation.

How about you? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?