Trials & Transformation

Lets face it, life teaches us many lessons.  My greatest lessons-learned have really come from my failures.  The greater the failure, the greater the lessons learned.

What if we looked at our failures in life as opportunities?

FAILURES are simply:


One of the greatest failures in my life came when I was a dietetic intern at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  I was one of 18 interns selected from thousands of applicants for this coveted opportunity.  I was full of hope, a little cocky and proud, a hard worker and smart… until I did something utterly stupid.

It happened on the very last day of my pediatric rotation, a rotation I adored because of my inherent love for children.   It happened because of my incredible need to show off to my then-boyfriend, Peter, who later became my husband.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, Just Three Words:

You know that strong gut feeling you get sometimes… the one you often push past…the one you never really should ignore?  Well, instead of listening to my immediate gut feeling – that taking Peter into the hospital with me was probably not a good idea – I pushed it into the gutter and convinced myself that showing him around would do no harm.  The consequences I would suffer because of this choice were enormous. 

Together we walked into the hospital and up to the pediatric floor.   My preceptor, the dietitian in charge of me, wasn’t there yet.  She was a tough woman whom I never once saw smile.  Not even when the children did.  Who can’t smile at a hurting child?  I wondered what happened to make her so cold.  In my flurry to perform well, I missed seeing just how lonely she was.  How much she was hurting inside.  I didn’t know her story.  She scared me too much to ever delve that deep.  She held all the cards and from what I could sense, she wasn’t going to deal me the good ones.  Perhaps I threatened her in some way, or brought up something painful from her past.  Or maybe she just didn’t like anyone.  One fact remained, her feelings towards me would change my life.

As we walked onto the floor, we were greeted with smiles and hugs from the nurses, doctors and children. They all knew it was my last day and a real tenderness and mutual admiration had developed.  I would be sad to move on.  

At last my preceptor arrived and when she saw me with Peter, she immediately stomped down the hall toward me.  Her finger looked like a dagger as she shook it directly at Peter and in a stern voice asked, “Who is this person?”  My heart felt like it dropped out of my body.  I was in trouble.  BIG TROUBLE, and I knew it.

Instead of telling the whole truth, that Peter was in fact my boyfriend and wanted to see what I was doing, I said he was a friend of mine interested in nutrition.  True to a point, but not really.  She saw through it for sure.  Like a cat stalking her pray, she sensed the kill.  Her body stiffened as she physically came closer, invading my personal space and raising her voice as she did so. 

“Did you get permission to bring this ‘friend’ onto the floor from so and so?” The names slip my mind, but the tone and venom in her voice have never left me; it comes flashing back even when I beg it not to.

 Again and again she asked me if various people had given me the go ahead to bring him into the hospital and again and again, I said “No.”  She raged on, the tension growing as everyone turned to see what was going on.  Now she was shouting, drops of spit flying into my face and hair, as she asked if Dr. Bobeng, the head of the Dietetic Internship Program, had given me permission to have “this person” on the floor.  I crumbled and lied, a terrible attempt to escape her wrath. 

Instantly, she stopped.  My fate lay precariously in her hands.  A bit of an evil smile turned up in the corners of her mouth, and her eyes told me that she was going to ruin my life.  I could sense her triumph and her malevolence.  She could have just scolded me, told me I had made a huge mistake and punished me as she saw fit, but instead she told me to leave the hospital immediately and that we would discuss my future with the program in the morning.  My desire to say goodbye and hug the children that I had taken care of for the past month was so great, I nearly pushed past her.  I didn’t.  The look in her eye told me I couldn’t.  Still, to this day, it hurts that I never got that chance.  My preceptor would tell them something and whatever it was, I am quite sure it would not be flattering. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her rush to the phone and begin punching numbers.  I rushed too, and in a ridiculous attempt to cover my lie, I wrote a back-dated note addressed to Dr. Bobeng, asking permission to bring Peter onto the floor.  Before I left the hospital, and right there in front of the hidden cameras, I slipped the note under Dr. Bobeng’s door.  I was in survival mode and scared like I had never been in all my life.

 At no time in my life had I been this stupid, this reckless.  Why did I have to lie?  Why couldn’t I have just been strong and told the truth?  Why did I have to be a “show off” and bring Peter into the hospital?  The answer lay in my deep-seated unworthiness.  How could the world or Peter know I was so imperfect, that I too could make HUGE mistakes?  I thought if he could see that I was measuring up, important in some way, that he would love me more.  Never did I think that he could love me for simply being me.  Everything was tied to how high I could rise, how much I could accomplish, how good I was in the eyes of the world.  I never believed that I, and I alone, was good enough. 

My gut had warned me that it was dangerous territory bringing him in, but I ignored it.  Why did I have to be so downright dumb?

My whole body was numb as I made my way back to the apartment.  Peter was gone.  He had to drive back to Vermont, but left without saying goodbye.  He knew it was bad.

Perhaps Peter left in a hurry because he felt somewhat responsible.  The truth was, the trauma of the events to unfold were too much for him.  I got a glimpse into his broken ability to deal with certain emotions and situations.  Having nearly lost both his parents at a young age – first his father to a heart attack and then his mother to colon cancer – he learned to put up a wall and hide.  Pretend everything was fine.  The wounds from his childhood ran so deep, I could not reach him.  There I was, lost and scared, and my best friend was hiding behind a mask, unwilling to go to the dark places.

Alone, I tossed and turned all night.  Sleep was as elusive as catching the wind.  They called me the next day.  My heart pounded and fear gripped me as I made my way over to the hospital.  Never in my wildest dreams did I predict the outcome.  As I sat in Dr. Bobeng’s office, sweat dotted my brow and I felt like I was about to throw up.  The weight of it all nearly too much.  She point-blank told me that I was being dismissed from the program.  Permanently, forever, gone.  They could not keep a liar.  As far as I was concerned, I might as well kill myself.  I felt enormously remorseful, entirely abandoned and forsaken.  I would do anything to have made a different choice.  My burden was so heavy I could barely walk out of the hospital.  Tears blinded my steps.  Wandering, lost in my thoughts, my feet somehow took me to the nearby park.  The crushing sobs came in uncontrollable gasps.  I couldn’t stop.  My life was over.

Everything I had ever worked for was gone in a second.  I cried an ocean of tears until a man, who hadn’t seen a shower or soap in what appeared to be years, sat down beside me and said, “Honey, it can’t be that bad.”  He reached out and placed his hand on my back and silently held it there while my tears subsided and my breath evened out.  It was a long time.  The kind gesture was full of love, nothing more than that.  He didn’t want anything from me.

 I told him all that I had done…held nothing back.  Slowly, as the whole truth of my devastating mistakes surfaced, I began to heal.  Walking into the park, I thought to myself that I might just as well be dead.  Thankfully, everything changed because God sent me an angel in the form of a park bum.  

In that exchange, I learned great compassion for the homeless and those that are hurting right in front of our eyes.  Today it is nearly impossible to walk by a homeless person, the wandering souls, the lost, without stopping and shining a bit of God’s light their way.  I am compelled to ask their names and listen to their stories.  Perhaps theirs is not too different from yours.  More often than not, we are separated by just a few steps this way or that.  I was saved that day and will never forget what that touch felt like.  It was light in the darkness, God reaching out his hand to me through another.  We can all do the same.  Next time, maybe you too will be compelled to make the time to stop.  You can’t imagine how great an impact you might have.  You could save a soul just like mine.

My great lesson completely changed the trajectory of my life.  When I landed another internship, I didn’t take one moment for granted; every minute was a blessing.  I learned how easily a life or an opportunity can be snatched from one’s hand.   But I went on to succeed in my career, in love, in conquering two of the scariest diseases known to human-kind, and to rise to the top of the world in my chosen sport.

We each have our challenges.  The trial is often the catalyst for the transformation, if we let it be.  Know that we are all here to learn, to give back and that our failures are simply opportunities for greatness.  Forgive, start anew, and fly higher than you ever dreamed possible!


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