I sat surrounded by members of the Juravinski Cancer Centre at a retreat waiting for someone to pop up, point at me and tell me I was being punked.
I assumed twenty years in education being on committees, participating in countless professional development days and escapes out of the school to the board of education would have prepared me for a retreat in the healthcare world. But as I sat listening to one of the thoughtful speakers I realized that I had stepped into an alternate universe.
The most obvious difference was that the attendees included an equal number of surgeons, assistants, nurses, family practitioners, patients & specialized doctors and I had no idea who did what. Our name tags only announced our names, and nobody was asking the cocktail question, “so, what do you do” in order to label each other... well, except for me who was wildly fascinated by it all. Egos had been left at the door, and the 60 of us were like members of King Arthur’s court sitting at the round table, equal.
Everyone was engaged, we all laughed together, and the space created allowed everyone to feel comfortable being vulnerable with their experiences or questions. Coming from a profession where title is king, people get exercise by rolling their eyes throughout meetings, thrive on negativity and watch the clocks as they text who they are meeting afterwards, this was amazing and I was enamored by my view.
Then just when I didn’t think the day could get any better, something happened that still has my head spinning. Although we were scheduled to be there until 3:30, at 3 the grand Poobah stood up, thanked us profusely for our time, recognized the challenge it is to take a day away from whatever job that had been left behind, and announced the day was done. He recognized that we were saturated, and there was no benefit to pushing though another 30 minutes. I frantically searched the room for Ashton Kutcher to jump out to announce the grand joke, but as I watched people filter out of the room, I realized that this was for real. We weren’t being held captive, weren’t told that we owed them time, and I wasn’t given what we didn’t cover to take home to do for homework. We were just done.
I sat in my car after a powerful day of information, conversation, building relationships and a little kibitzing knowing that this is the kind of job I want; a job that puts equal value on all positions, a job that creates an open and safe space and a job that values my time, energy and contributions. It felt revolutionary and shattered any assumptions I had about our healthcare system.
I then realized that it doesn’t matter what job I return to, because I am the one who gets to decide what it feels like. I’m the one doing the job, I’m the one who decides how I do it, and I’m the one who has to live with me at the end of the day. Joy isn’t something I’m working towards achieving, it’s the biggest asset I bring to the table. So it doesn’t matter what job I do, I will do it with joy, or I won’t do it at all. And frankly, if I could make happiness a priority during a cancer journey, I sure shooting can bring joy back to education!