What if it’s all actually going to be okay?

As often happens, and I hope it’s reflective of me listening to things that are contributing to my growth and learning, I got really curious after listening to a recent HBR Podcast interviewing Richard Tedeschi. He’s an authority on post-traumatic growth, and this interview in particular addressed the potential for traumatic experiences in the recent and current environment, and how we can use this as an opportunity to grow and to create something better, both at the individual and the systemic level.

I’ll openly admit that I’m generally in the “glass half full” camp. I also understand that a global pandemic (and our national mismanagement of said pandemic) is a horrible thing. The racial inequity that the pandemic has helped to place into the open? Again, a horrible thing. The greatest economic “mess” since the Great Depression? Yes, a horrible thing. But one of the questions I’ve been asking myself since March has been a principle that I learned during a post-traumatic growth experience in my early twenties.

What if it’s all actually going to be okay?

The backstory: Two weeks into my second year of graduate school at University of Colorado, my apartment burned (as did our entire building). The fire happened in the middle of the night, and I managed to get out- uninjured- with the pajamas I was wearing, my Aggie ring that was on my hand, and a cat. At 7am on September 10, 1990, those were my worldly possessions.

The month following was a blur…but the things I remember most clearly are my Mom magically appearing within a day, my best friend’s then-boyfriend helping me reconstruct what all was on my bookshelf for the insurance claim (PhD students in English are useful friends at times like this), my graduate advisor and his family taking me in for a couple of weeks followed by our Wesley minister and his family doing the same until my new apartment was available. I also clearly remember the two things that felt almost-normal in that fog: my academic work, and running. So much running…and once I replaced my bike, cycling.

I somehow made it through that semester and the next, and even got my thesis written. The plan was for me to simply forge ahead towards my PhD.

Until it wasn’t. In July, I let my advisor and our director of graduate studies know that I wanted my assistantship put on “hold” because I needed to take some time off. I packed up and headed back toTexas to sort through that last year of my life and to try to make sense out of any of it. I honestly believed I was going back to Boulder eventually. My director of graduate studies told me a few years later, once I was in medical school, that when I left he knew I wasn’t coming back.

I moved home. I nannied. I ran. I saw old friends. I had time and space to think and to try to make sense out of it all. And I realized that I didn’t really want a PhD in International Relations…I was back to Plan A from childhood and wanted to go to medical school. I’m not going to say that by the time I started medical school that all of the pieces were put back together, but I was on the way. In truth, it was more than a decade before September 10 wasn’t a hard day for me. And while it wasn’t okay in the moment, I’ve realized that I grew a lot from a pretty lousy experience. It gave me a heck of a story about my own resilience, as well as the ability to recognize that even in the face of great loss, good things still happen and things are ultimately often okay.

What if it’s all actually going to be okay?

1 thought on “What if it’s all actually going to be okay?