It was a gray Saturday morning, my first ever in San Diego, when I laid eyes on the Cancer Center. Yeah, it was the weekend — but it was the reason I moved west. It was an idea I had been chasing for almost 3,000 miles. I needed to know it was real.
Three years later and this building takes on a whole new meaning for me. When I look at the copper and glass I see a deepness behind it. Something I couldn’t possibly respect when I first started, let alone know was there.
I needed to live through it first. I needed to struggle, professionally and personally, to appreciate the miles later traveled by my shoes in clinic. I needed to see failure after failure to value any victory, no matter how small. I needed to hear the stories of those near their life’s end to finally hear my own; to listen to that narrative clear of noise.
I needed to go through all of that with others. I needed crazy work days laughing with my team inside our cramped office. Or long hours spent drafting manuscripts with my boss well into twilight. And most importantly, to be side by side with the clinic staff, who gave me the privilege of helping out as best I could within their world. Who took me for long walks rounding in the hospital, or down to the microscopes to show me secrets told only by blood slides.
I did not know that I was so empty to be so full1.
And now I’m just another transient shadow that used to walk across the halls, melted away by the following Californian dawn. Honestly, I always was one. Just another name written inside friends and colleagues or a string of letters spoken by patient charts and source documents. I can only hope remembered fondly for the work it represents.
But with that new dawn there’s a new day ahead — for me, too.