“Would it make a difference if I told you to take the next month off?”
“I guess it would be easier – I would feel less guilty, I think.”
It was getting harder to keep my tears dammed behind my eyelashes. I didn’t want to cry in front of my surgical foundations liaison. Especially since she is also one of our urogynecologists.
“I can’t really do that, but I do think it would be a good idea. And, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have to make it up.”
She went on to tell me that the first year of our residency program is changing next year and they’ll only have to do two months of general surgery instead of three. All of my evaluations are excellent. She has no worries about my competency. She could make a good case for me.
“What is it that you feel guilty about? Your colleagues, the call coverage? Or something else?
The truth is that I feel guilty about taking time off that other people don’t need to take off. I don’t want to be seen as weak or incapable.
“But do other people have a husband and two kids, one of which is being assessed for high functioning autism?”
“…No… Not all of them.”
And now the tears were trickling down to my chin. I’m afraid of taking a month off. In the past 5 years since I started medical school, I didn’t take any time off (well, except to have a baby, but I was back the next week with him strapped to my chest) for maternity leaves or any other need. I even worked over my summers. I’m not used to taking care of myself.
I’m afraid to discover… something… with all that time. I’m not sure what, but something.
“What do you think? How about I talk to [your program director] and we’ll get everything worked out for you to take the next block off? Would that work for you.”
I wiped the tears off my face and got up to leave my mid-year evaluation. As I grabbed the door handle, I thanked her for her time.
“We like you.” She said, “We have to take care of you so you don’t leave us.”
Shortly after I left her office, an email popped up on my phone:
“I talked to [program director] and she will get everything arranged, as we discussed.”
I guess I’m taking the next block off work.