We had a small celebration for our interns, who are leaving us after several months, and a co-worker who is just beginning her retirement after many years. We asked them each to tell about their best and worst moments. It was easier for the students, who have not been with us an entire calendar year, than my just-retired co-worker, who has been in this particular job for a decade. Over a long career, there are going to be many best and worst moments. Still, some stick in your mind.
Of course it made me think about my own best and worst. Once, when I was working in a nursing home, I developed a good relationship with a patient’s daughter-in-law. The patient was dying and the daughter-in-law was (appropriately) tearful so I put my arms around her to give her a hug. She sat like a statue and I immediately knew I had made a mistake. That was 8 or 9 years ago but I remember it vividly. It stays with me all the time. And it’s not even the worst moment in my career!
It was a good learning experience though. I was so sure this woman needed a hug that I forgot to read her body language and her cues. She didn’t give me any reason to think she wanted to be touched; it was something I would have wanted in the same situation so I went for it. I felt horrible about it afterwards. And I was too inexperienced to acknowledge my faux pas. Instead I think I held on for a beat too long and then excused myself right out of the room.
To be balanced, I should tell you about one of my best moments. But you may think it’s strange if I tell you how it sometimes feels like a victory when someone starts crying or when a patient holds my hand. So I’ll save some of my best moments for when we know each other a little better.
What I will tell you is that I hope you are able to turn your worst moments into learning experiences as well as revisit your best moments when you feel unsure of yourself. I hope the good outweigh the bad of course, but I also hope the bad lead you to reflect; then move forward. I can read a cue now in a way I couldn’t before and I can’t remember the last time I accidentally hugged someone. This work is a long journey full of moments that help us to grow. I think that may be the best part about it.