George Speak

If there’s one thing I like more than magic or superpowers in my TV shows, it’s voiceovers.

the cast

Grey’s Anatomy voiceovers are among my favorites. They speak to sweet, innocent little Georges like myself. Coincidentally, they’re mostly the kind of mushy crap I frequently ask myself and talk about in this here bastardly blog, only badly written. 


The game. They say a person either has what it takes to play or they don’t. My mother was one of the greats. Me on the other hand, I’m kinda screwed.

Like I said. I’m screwed.

I can’t think of any one reason on why I want to be a surgeon. But I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit.

They make it hard on purpose.

There are lives in our hands.

There comes a moment when… it’s more than just a game.

And you either take that step forward. Or turn around and walk away.

I could quit. But here’s the thing. I love the playing field.

So, I made it through my first shift. We all did. The other interns are all good people. You’d like them. I’d think. I dunno. Maybe.

I like them.


It’s all about lines. The finish line at the end of residency.

Waiting in line for a chance at the operating table.

And then there is the most important line.

The line separating you from the people you work with.

It doesn’t help to get too familiar.

To make friends. You need boundaries. Between you and the rest of the world.

Other people are far too messy.

It’s all about lines. Drawing lines in the sand. And praying like hell no one crosses them.

At some point you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy. That’s how we’re made.

So you can waste your life drawing lines.

Or you can live your life crossing them.

But there are some lines…

…that are way too dangerous to cross.

Here’s what I know. If you’re willing to take the chance, the view from the other side is spectacular.


We live out our lives on the surgical unit. Seven days a week, fourteen hours a day. We’re together more than we’re apart.

After a while…

…the ways of residency…

…become the ways of life.

Number One…

…always keep score.

Number two.  Do whatever you can to outsmart the other guy.

Number three. Don’t make friends with the enemy.

Oh and yeah, number four.

Everything.  Everything is a competition.

Whoever said that winning wasn’t everything…

…never held a scalpel.

There’s another way to survive this competition. A way that no one ever seems to tell you about.

One you have to learn for yourself. Number five. It’s not about the race at all. There are no winners or losers. Victories are counted by the number of lives saved.

And once in a while, if you’re smart, the life you save could be your own.


Intimacy is a four-syllable word for, “Here are my heart and soul.

Please grind them into hamburger and enjoy.”

It’s both desired and feared,

difficult to live with…

…and impossible to live without.

Intimacy also comes attached to life’s three R’s: Relatives, romance and roommates.

There are some things you can’t escape. And other things you just don’t want to know.

I wish there was a rulebook for intimacy. Some kind of a guide that could tell you when you’ve crossed the line.

It would be nice if you could see it coming.

And I don’t know how you fit it on a map.

You take it where you can get it…

…and keep it as long as you can.

And as for rules…

Maybe there are none.

Maybe the rules of intimacy are something you have to define for yourself.


Remember when you were a kid and your biggest worry was, like, if you’d get a bike for your birthday, or if you get to eat cookies for breakfast? Being an adult? Totally overrated.

I mean, seriously, don’t be fooled by all the hot shoes and the great sex and the no parents anywhere telling you to do. Adulthood is responsibility.

Responsibility, it really does suck.

Really, really sucks.

Adults have to be places and do things and earn a living and pay the rent. And if you’re training to be a surgeon, holding a human heart in your hands. Hello! Talk about responsibility.

Kinda makes bikes and cookies look really really good, doesn’t it?

The scariest part about responsibility– when you screw up and let it slip right through your fingers.

Responsibility. It really does suck.

Unfortunately, once you get past the age of braces and training bras, responsibility doesn’t go away.

It can’t be avoided.

Either someone makes us face it, or we suffer the consequences.

And still, adulthood has its perks.

I mean the shoes, the sex, the no parents anywhere telling you what to do. That’s pretty damn good.


A couple hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secret of his success. “Never leave that till tomorrow,” he said, “which you can do today.”

This is the man who discovered electricity. You’d think more of us would listen to what he had to say.

I don’t know why we put things off, but if I had to guess, I’d say it has a lot to do with fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of rejection.

Sometimes, the fear is just of making a decision.

Because, what if you’re wrong? What if you’re making a mistake you can’t undo?

Whatever it is we’re afraid of, one thing holds true. That, by the time the pain of not doing a thing gets worse than the fear of doing it, it can feel like we’re carrying around a giant tumor.

And you thought I was speaking metaphorically.

The early bird catches the worm.

A stitch in time saves nine.

He who hesitates is lost.

We can’t pretend we haven’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time, heard the damn poets urging us to seize the day. Still, sometime we have to see for ourselves.

We have to make our own mistakes.

We have to learn our own lessons.

We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore, until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering.

That waking is better than sleeping.

And that even the biggest failure, even the worst, most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.


Ok, anyone who says you can sleep when you die, tell them to come talk to me after a few months as an intern. Of course, it’s not just the job that keeps us up all night.

I mean, if life’s so hard already, why do we bring more trouble down on ourselves? What’s up with the need to hit the self-destruct button?

Maybe we like the pain.

Maybe we’re wired that way.

Because without it, I don’t know…

…maybe we just wouldn’t feel real.

What’s that saying? “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?”

“Because it feels so good when I stop.”


You know how when you were a kid and you believed in fairy tales?

That fantasy of what your life would be. White dress, Prince Charming, Who’d carry you away to a castle on a hill. You’d lie in bed at night and close your eyes, and you had complete and utter faith.

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Prince Charming, they were so close, you could taste them.

But eventually, you grow up. One day you open your eyes, and the fairy tale disappears.

Most people turn to the things and people they can trust.

But the thing is, it’s hard to let go of that fairy tale entirely. ‘Cause almost everyone still has that smallest bit of hope, of faith, that one day they’ll open their eyes and it will all come true.

At the end of the day, faith is a funny thing.

It turns up when you don’t really expect it.

It’s like one day you realize that the fairy tale may be slightly different than you dreamed.

The castle, well…it may not be a castle.

And it’s not so important that it’s happy ever after.

Just that it’s happy right now.

See, once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you.

And once in a while… people may even take your breath away.


Secrets can’t hide in science. Medicine has a way of exposing the lies. Within the walls of the hospital, the truth is stripped bare.

How we keep our secrets outside the hospital…Well, that’s a little different.

One thing is certain. Whatever it is we’re trying to hide, we’re never ready for that moment when the truth gets naked.

That’s the problem with secrets. Like misery, they love company.

They pile up and up until they take over everything.

Until you don’t have room for anything else.

Until you’re so full of secrets, you feel like you’re going to burst.

The thing people forget is how good it can feel when you finally set secrets free.

Whether good or bad, at least they’re out in the open, like it or not.

And once your secrets are out in the open, you don’t have to hide behind them anymore.

The problem with secrets is even when you think you’re in control…

…you’re not.


To be a good surgeon, you have to think like a surgeon. Emotions are messy. Tuck them neatly away and step into a clean, sterile room where the procedure is simple. Cut, suture and close.

But sometimes, you’re faced with a cut that won’t heal.

A cut that rips it’s stitches wide open.

The say practice makes perfect. Theory is, the more you think like a surgeon, the more you become one.

The better you get at remaining neutral, clinical.

Cut, suture, close.

And the harder it becomes to turn it off…

…you stop thinking like a surgeon.

And remember what it means to think like a human being.


I have an aunt who, whenever she poured anything for you, would say ‘say when’.

My aunt would say ‘say when’, and of course we never did.

We don’t say when because there’s something about the possibility of more.

More tequila, more love, more anything, more is better.

There’s something to be said about a glass half full.

About knowing when to say when.

I think it’s a floating line. A barometer of need and desire.

It’s entirely up to the individual.

And depends on what’s being poured.

Sometimes all we want is a taste.

Other times, there’s no such thing as enough. The glass is bottomless.

And all we want is more.


Surgeons are control freaks. With a scalpel in your hand, you feel unstoppable. There’s no fear, there’s no pain.

You’re 10 feet tall and bullet proof.

And then you leave the O.R.

And all that perfection. All that beautiful control just falls to crap.

No one likes to lose control but as a surgeon there’s nothing worse.

It’s a sign of weakness. Of not being up to the task.

And still there are times when it just gets away from you.

When the world stops spinning. And you realize that your shiny little scalpel isn’t gonna save you.

No matter how hard you fight it. You fall. And it’s scary as hell.

Except there’s an upside to free falling. It’s the chance you give your friends to catch you.


The key to surviving a surgical internship is denial. We deny that we’re tired; we deny we’re scared, we deny how badly we want to succeed, and most importantly, we deny that we’re in denial.

We only see what we wanna see and believe what we want to believe. And it works. We lie to ourselves so much that after a while the lies start to seem like the truth.

We deny so much that we can’t recognize the truth… right in front of our faces.

Sometimes reality has a way of sneaking up and biting us in the ass.

And when the damn bursts all you can do is swim.

The world of pretend is cage. Not a cocoon.

We can only lie to ourselves for so long.

We are tired. We are scared. Denying it doesn’t change the truth.

Sooner or later we have to put aside our denial … and face the world head on, guns blazing.

Denial. It’s not just a river in Egypt. It’s a freaking ocean.

So how do you keep from drowning in it?


Pain comes in all forms.

The small tinge. A bit of soreness. The random pain. The normal pains we live with everyday

Then there’s the kind of pain you can’t ignore.

A level of pain so great that it blocks out anything else.

Makes the rest of the world fade away.

Until all we can think about is how much we hurt.

How we manage our pain is up to us.

Pain. We anaesthetize, ride it out, embrace it, ignore it.

And for some of us the best way to manage pain is to just push through it.

Pain. You just have to ride it out.  Hope it goes away on its own. Hope that the wound that caused it heals.

There are no solutions. No easy answers. You just breathe deep and wait for it to subside.

Most of the time pain can be managed.

But sometimes the pain gets to you when you least expect it.

It’s way below the belt and doesn’t let up.

Pain. You just have to fight through because the truth is, you can’t outrun it. And life always makes more.


In general, people can be categorized in one of two ways.

Those who love surprises. And those who don’t.

I don’t.

I’ve never met a surgeon that enjoys a surprise. Because as surgeons we like to be in the know. We have to be in the know because if we aren’t, people die and law suits happen. Am I rambling? I think I’m rambling.

Okay. So my point actually, and I do have one, has nothing to do with surprises or death or lawsuits or surgeons.

My point is this. Whoever said “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” was a complete and total moron. Because for most people I know, not knowing is the worst feeling in the world.

Okay fine. Maybe it’s the second worst.

As surgeons there are so many things we have to know.

We have to know what it takes.

We have to know how to take care of our patients.

And how to take care of each other.

Eventually we even  have to figure out how to take care of ourselves.

As surgeons we have to be in the know.

But as human beings, sometimes it’s better to stay in the dark.

Because in the dark there maybe fear…

…but there’s also hope.


Communication. It’s the first thing we really learn in life.

Funny thing is, once we grow up, learn our words, and really start talking, the harder it becomes to know what to say or how to ask for what we really need.

At the end of the day there are some things you just can’t help but talk about.

Some things we just don’t want to hear.

And some things we say because we can’t be silent any longer.

Some things are more than what you say. They’re what you do.

Some things you say because there’s no other choice.

Some things you keep to yourself.

And not too often… but every now and then…

…some things simply speak for themselves.


In the 8th grade my English class had to read Romeo & Juliet. Then for extra credit, Mrs. Snyder made us act out all the parts.

Sal Scalperillo was Romeo. As fate would have it, I was Juliet.

All the other girls were jealous but I had a slightly different take. I told Mrs. Snyder that Juliet was an idiot.

For starters she falls for the one guy she knows she can’t have. Then she blames fate for her own bad decision.

Mrs. Snyder explained to me that when fate comes into play, choice sometimes goes out the window.

At the ripe old age of 13, I was very clear. That love like life is about making choices.

And fate has nothing to do with it.

Everything is so romantic. Romeo & Juliet. True love. How sad.

If Juliet was stupid enough to fall for the enemy, drink a bottle of poison and go to sleep in a mausoleum…

…she deserved whatever she got.

Maybe Romeo & Juliet were fated to be together but just for a while. And then their time passed.

If they could’ve known that beforehand maybe it would’ve all been okay.

I told Mrs. Snyder that when I was growing up I’d take fate into my own hands.

I wouldn’t let some guy drag me down.

Mrs. Snyder said that I’d be lucky if I found that kind of passion with someone. And that if I did, we’d be together forever.

Even now I believe for the most part love is about choices.

It’s about putting down the poison and the dagger and making your own happy ending… most of the time.

And that sometimes despite all your best choices and all your best intentions, fate wins anyway.


Gratitude, appreciation, giving thanks. No matter what words you use it all means the same thing. Happy.

We’re supposed to be happy. Grateful for friends, family. Happy just to be alive.

Whether we like it or not.

Maybe we’re not supposed to be happy. Maybe gratitude has nothing to do with joy.

Maybe being grateful is recognizing what you have for what it is.

Appreciate small victories.

Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human.

Maybe we’re thankful for the familiar things we know.

And maybe we’re thankful for things we’ll never know.

At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to still be standing…

…is reason enough to celebrate.


When you were a kid it was Halloween candy.

You hid it from your parents and ate it until you got sick.

In college it was the heady combo of youth, tequila and, well, you know…

As a surgeon you take as much of the good as you can get… because it doesn’t come around nearly as often as it should.

‘Cause good things aren’t always what they seem.

Too much of anything, even love, is not always a good thing.

How do you know how much is too much?

Too much, too soon.

Too much information.

Too much fun.

Too much love.

Too much to ask.

And when is it all just too much to bear?


Forty years ago, The Beatles asked the world a simple question. They wanted to know where all the lonely people came from. My latest theory is that a great many of the lonely people come from hospitals. More precisely the surgical wings of hospitals.

As surgeons we ignore our own needs so we can meet our patients’ needs.

We ignore our friends and families so we can save other people’s friends and families.

Which means that at the end of the day all we really have is ourselves.

And nothing in this world can make you feel more alone than that.

400 years ago another well known English guy had an opinion about being alone. John Dunn. He thought we were never alone.

Of course it was fancier when he said it.

No man is an island entire unto himself.

Boil down that island talk and he just meant that all anyone needs is someone to step in.

And let us know we’re not alone.

And who’s to say that someone can’t have 4 legs, someone to play with or run around with.

Or just hang out.


It’s an urban myth that suicide rates spike at the holidays. Turns out they actually go down.

Experts think that people are less inclined to off themselves when surrounded by family.

Ironically that same family togetherness is thought to be the reason depression rates do spike at the holidays.

Yeah, okay Izzie doesn’t count.

There’s an old proverb that says you can’t choose your family.

You take what the fates hand you…

…and like them or not, love them or not, understand them or not…

…you cope.

Then there’s the school of thought that says the family you’re born into is simply a starting point.

They feed you and clothe you and take care of you until your ready to go out into the world…

…and find your tribe.


Fresh starts. Thanks to the calendar, they happen every year.

Just set your watch to January.

Put your past behind you and start over.

It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning. A chance to put the problems of last year to bed.

Who gets to determine when the old ends and the new begins?

It’s not a day on a calendar. Not a birthday, not a new year.

It’s an event, big or small, something that changes us. Ideally it gives us hope.

A new way of living and looking at the world.

Letting go of old habits, old memories.

What’s important is that we never stop believing that we can have a new beginning.

But it’s also important to remember that amid all the crap are a few things really worth holding on to.


As doctors, we’re trained to be skeptical because our patients lie to us all the time. The rule is every patient is a liar until proven honest.

Lying is bad or so we’re told constantly. From birth, honesty is the best policy.

The truth shall set you free. I chop down the cherry tree. Whatever.

The fact is lying is a necessity.

We lie to ourselves because the truth, the truth friggin’ hurts.

No matter how hard we try to ignore it or deny it. Eventually the lies fall away.

Whether we like it or not.

But here’s the truth about the truth. It hurts.

So we lie.


In surgery there is a red line on the floor that marks the point where the hospital goes from being accessible to being off limits to all but a special few. Crossing the line, unauthorized, is not tolerated.

In general, lines are there for a reason.

For safety. For security. For clarity.

If you choose to cross the line, you pretty much do so at your own risk.

So why is it…

…the bigger the line, the greater the temptation to cross it?

We can’t help ourselves. We see a line. We want to cross it. Maybe it’s the thrill of trading the familiar for the unfamiliar. A sort of personal dare.

Only problem is once you’ve crossed it’s almost impossible to go back.

But if you do manage to make it back across that line. You find safety in numbers.


There is a scent. A smell of death.

Some kind of sixth sense.

When the great beyond is headed for you, you feel it coming.

What’s the one thing you’ve always dreamed of doing before you die?

Okay, hello, clearly, not my dream.

See, I told you, not my dream.


Some doctors say it’s a look patients get in their eyes.

Some say there’s a scent. A smell of death. Something. There’s just some kind of sixth sense. When the great beyond is heading for you. You feel it coming.

Whatever it is. It’s creepy.

Because if you know. What do you do about it? Forget about the fact you’re scared out of your mind.

If you knew this was your last day on Earth, how would you want to spend it?

If this was your last day on Earth, how would you wanna spend it?


There’s no such thing as a grown up.

We move on, we move out, we move away from our families and form our own.

But the basic insecurities, the basic fears and all those old wounds just grow up with us.

And just when we think that life and circumstance have forced us to truly once and for all become an adult…

…your mother says something like that.

Or worse. Something like that.

We get bigger, we get taller, we get older. But for the most part, we’re still a bunch of kids.

Running around the playground trying desperately to fit in.

I’ve heard it’s possible to grow up. I’ve just never met anyone who’s actually done it.

Without parents to defy, we break the rules we make for ourselves.

We throw tantrums when things don’t go our way.

We whisper secrets with our best friends in the dark.

We look for comfort where we can find it.

And we hope. Against all logic. Against all experience.

Like children, we never give up hope.


Okay, so sometimes even the best of us make rash decisions.

Bad decisions. Decisions we pretty much know we’re gonna regret the moment, the minute, especially the morning after.

I mean maybe not regret, regret because at least you know we put ourselves out there. But still… something inside us decides to do a crazy thing.

A thing we know that’ll probably turn around and bite us in the ass.

Yet, we do it anyway.

What I’m saying is… we reap what we sow.

What comes around goes around.

It’s karma and any way you slice it…

…karma sucks.

Like I was saying…

…payback’s a bitch.

One way or another, our karma, will lead us to face ourselves.

We can look our karma in the eye or we can wait for it to sneak up on us from behind.

One way or another, our karma will always find us.

And the truth is as surgeons we have more chances than most to set the balance in our favor.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t escape our karma. It follows us home.

I guess we can’t really complain about karma. It’s not unfair. It’s not unexpected. It just… evens the score.

And even when we’re about to do something we know will tempt karma to bite us in the ass…

…well it goes without saying…

…we do it anyway.


As doctors, patients are always telling us how they would do our jobs.

Just stitch me up, slap a band-aid on it and send me home.

It’s easy to suggest a quick solution when you don’t know much about the problem. When you don’t understand the underlying cause…

…or just how deep the wound really is.

The first step towards a real cure is to know exactly what the disease is to begin with.

But that’s not what people want to hear.

We’re supposed to forget about the past that brought us here, ignore the future complications that might arise and go for the quick fix.

As doctors, as friends, as human beings, we all try to do the best we can.

But the world is full of unexpected twists and turns.

And just when you’ve gotten the lay of the land, the ground underneath you shifts.

And knocks you off your feet.

If you’re lucky you’ll end up with nothing more than a flesh wound.

Something a band-aid will cover.

But some wounds are deeper than they first appear and require more than just a quick fix.

With some wounds, you have to rip off the bandage, let them breathe and give them time to heal.


My college campus has a magic statue.

It’s a long standing tradition for students to rub its nose for good luck.

My freshman roommate really believed in the statue’s power and insisted on visiting to rub its nose before every exam.

Studying might have been a better idea. She lucked out in sophomore year.

But the fact is, we all have little superstitious things that we do.

If it’s not believing in statues, it’s avoiding sidewalk cracks or always putting our left shoe on first.

Knock on wood, ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back’…

The last thing we want to do is offend the gods.

Superstition lies in the space between what we can control and what we can’t.

Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.

No one wants to pass up a chance for good luck. But does saying it 33 times, really help?

Is anyone really listening?

And if no-one’s listening, why do we bother doing those strange things at all?

We rely on superstitions, because we’re smart enough to know we don’t have all the answers.

And that life works in mysterious ways.

Don’t diss the juju. From wherever it comes.


A good basketball game can have us all on the edge of our seats.

Games are all about the glory, pain and the play-by-play.

And then there are the more solitary games.

The games we each play all by ourselves.

The social games, the mind games, we use them to pass the time to make life more interesting. To distract us from what’s really going on.

There are those of us that love to play games.

Any game. And there those of us who love to play… a little too much.

Life is not a spectator sport. Win, lose, or draw, the game is in progress.

Whether we want it to be or not.

So go ahead. Argue with the refs. Change the rules.

Cheat a little. Take a break. And tend to your wounds.

But play.


Play hard. Play fast. Play loose and free.

Play as if there is no tomorrow.

Okay, so it’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game. Right?


The key to being a successful intern is what we give up. Sleep, friends, a normal life.

We sacrifice it all for that one amazing moment.

That moment when you can legally call yourself a surgeon.

There are days that make the sacrifices seem worthwhile.

And there are the days where everything feels like a sacrifice.

And then there are the sacrifices that you can’t figure out why you’re making.

A wise man once said you can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.

What he meant was, nothing comes without a price.

So before you go into battle you better decide how much you’re willing to lose.

Too often, going after what feels good means letting go of what you know is right.

And letting someone in means abandoning the walls you’ve spent a lifetime building.

Of course the toughest sacrifices are the ones we don’t see coming.

When we don’t have time to come up with a strategy to pick a side or to measure the potential loss.

When that happens and the battle chooses us and not the other way ’round, that’s when the sacrifice can turn to out to be more than we can bear.


We all go through life like bulls in a china shop. A chip here, a crack there. Doing damage to ourselves, to other people.

The problem is trying to figure out how to control the damage we have done or that has been done to us.

Sometimes the damage catches us by surprise.

Sometimes we think we can fix the damage.

And sometimes the damage is something we can’t even see.

We’re all damaged it seems.

Some of us more than others.

We carry the damage with us from childhood.

Then as grown ups, we give as good as we get.

Ultimately, we all do damage.

And then we set about the business of fixing…

…whatever we can…


In life we are taught that there are seven deadly sins.

We all know the big ones. Gluttony, pride, lust.

But the sin you don’t hear much about is anger.

Maybe it’s because we think anger is not that dangerous.

That we can control it.

My point is maybe we don’t give anger enough credit.

Maybe it can be a lot more dangerous than we think.

After all, when it comes to destructive behavior…

…it did make the top 7.

So what makes anger different from the 6 other deadly sins?

It’s pretty simple really. You give into a sin like envy or pride and you only hurt yourself.

Try lust or coveting…

…and you’ll only hurt yourself…

…and probably one or two others.

But anger, anger is the worst.

The mother of all sins.

Not only can anger drive you over the edge.

When it does, you can take an awful lot of other people with you.


Human beings need a lot of things to feel alive.

We can’t control it.


(no voiceovers)


15 minutes. 15 hours.

Inside the O.R. the best surgeons make time fly.

Outside the O.R. however, time takes pleasure in kicking our asses.

For even the strongest of us, it seems to play tricks.

Slowing down, hovering…

Until it freezes.

Leaving us stuck in a moment unable to move in one direction or the other.

Time flies.

Time waits for no man.

Time heals all wounds.

All any of us wants is more time.

Time to stand up.

Time to grow up.

Time to let go.



At any given moment the human brain has 14 billion neurons firing at a speed of four hundred and fifty miles per hour.

We don’t have control over most of them. When we get a chill, goosebumps.

When we get excited. Adrenaline.

The body naturally follows its impulses. Which I think what makes it so hard for us to control ours.

Of course sometimes we have impulses we’d rather not control.

That we later wish we hadn’t.

The body is a slave to its impulses.

But the thing that makes us human…

…is what we can control.

After the storm, after the rush, after the heat of the moment has passed…

…we can cool off and clean up the messes we’ve made.

We can try to let go of what was.

Then again…


Surgeons usually fantasize about wild and improbable surgeries. Someone collapses in a restaurant; we splice them open with a butter knife. Replace a valve with a hollowed-out stick of carrot. But every now and then, some other kind of fantasy slips in.

Most of our fantasies dissolve when we wake. Vanished to the back of our mind. But sometimes we’re sure, if we try hard enough, we can live the dream.

The fantasy is simple. Pleasure is good.

And twice as much pleasure is better.

That pain is bad.

And no pain is better.

But the reality is different.

The reality is that pain is there to tell us something.

And there’s only so much pleasure we can take without getting a stomach ache. And maybe that’s OK.

Maybe some fantasies are only supposed to live in our dreams.


At some point during surgical residency, most interns get a sense of who they are as doctors, and the kind of surgeons they’re going to become If you ask them they’ll tell you.

They’re going to be General surgeons.

Orthopedic surgeons.

Neurosurgeons. Distinctions that do more than describe their areas of expertise, they help define who they are.

Because outside the operating room, not only do most surgeons have no clue who they are, they’re afraid to find out.

Believe it or not, I was trying to make everything better. I know you’re angry but I hope you can forgive me. Turns out, sometimes you have to do the wrong thing…

Sometimes you have to make big mistake to figure out how to make things right.

Mistakes are painful, but they’re the only way to find out who you really are. I know who I am now. I know what I want. I’ve got the love of my life, and a new heart. And I want you guys to get on the next plane out here and meet my girl. Everything’s going to be different now.

I promise, from here on out, nothing’s ever going to be the same. I love you. Bye.


First, do no harm. As doctors we pledge to live by this oath. But harm happens. Then guilt happens, and there’s no oath for how to deal with that.

Guilt never goes anywhere on its own. It brings its friends, doubt and insecurity.

First, do no harm. Easier said than done. We can take all the oaths in the world but the fact is… most of us do harm all the time.

Sometimes even when we’re trying to help, we do more harm than good.

And then the guilt rears its ugly head. What you do with that guilt is entirely up to you.

We’re left with a choice…

Either you can let guilt thrown you back into the behavior that got you in trouble in the first place, or learn from the guilt, and do your best to move on.


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