Work that matters demands difficult choices: this opportunity or that one? More formal education or less? Family or job first right now? Tomorrow?
Today is Meredith Clayton’s last day at Kaiser Permanente, the medical practice where she has worked as a full time pediatrician since 2010. For six years she has cared for a census of patients in two different clinics. For four years she has invested in the practice as a partner. Flu season in and flu season out, Meredith has thrown herself into caring for children and teenagers (and, just as often, their anxious and demanding parents)–vaccinating them, diagnosing them, listening to them, filling out their forms, conducting their school physicals–all while raising a daughter and supporting a spouse with his own full time career.
She’s choosing to leave that practice today for an uncertain professional future, because I followed an opportunity to Chicago. For the first time since her parents took her and her siblings to France at age four, Meredith is moving for something other than the dictates of her calling: college, medical school, clinical rotations, residency, second residency, job. It’s not by-the-book, and it’s not at all easy, and I’ve been slow to recognize the bravery in it.
Her colleagues have wished her well while questioning her sense with befuddled muttering about weather and rather less befuddled muttering about income; it’s clear she’s going to earn less, and there simply is no other medical provider like the one where she’s working now.
Nobody is expected to do what Meredith is doing. It’s something a person has to choose, and that choice is tortured by doubt, anxiety, love, and devotion. My gratitude for Meredith’s choice is a pittance. My resolve to honor her choice by excelling in this opportunity and finding us a thriving footing will only go so far.
Meredith’s commitment is of the type that shapes a person, a career, a marriage. These are so weighted with uncertainty, so brimming with promise, so mixed up with guilt and conviction. The contradiction of it all is more than a person can bear most days. But to be without that contradiction is not the path she chose (and re-chose, and is choosing again). Today that path deposits her at a turning point she wasn’t seeking and prods her to answer questions she hasn’t been asking.
It may work out beautifully for her career. And yet, it may not.
This is not a time for a pep talk. I thought it was, so I’ve been giving one for months. It’s peppered with language of “possibility” and draws deeply from a spring long tapped by the Tony Robbinses of the world.
Enough of that. Today feels like a moment to take off my hat and observe the dignity of Meredith’s work and choices, and to admit that I don’t have the power to engineer the perfect outcome. I can only receive her accompaniment as a gift, and then work and pray for her flourishing in this next chapter.
And so I do. Here’s to Meredith Clayton.