Just a few days ago, I was told by one of my attending physicians that to get through life you should try to never be on any radar. He was referring to the fact that I had a hard time in one of my rotations earlier this year as a first year intern. It was a kind of a smattering of events that lead me to not do well in the rotation. My lack of confidence in myself was one of the biggest reasons (and it will remain a big reason), but it also had a lot to do with a lack of willingness of my senior resident to show up on time and teach us the things that we needed to know. I’ve spoken to this senior and he openly admits to his behavior but I get reprimanded. My program director is a “good ole boy” from somewhere white America and my senior resident in this incident is the same. My program director also has his favorites in the program and all those individuals just happen to be straight white men.
What I am learning here is that I was on the radar before I even got here. My whole name is very long/complicated to say and it stands out in the sea of John’s and Jack’s that I currently am swimming with. I am a short brown woman surrounded by tall and balding white men (a few women and minorities exist at this program as well). I am one of three women of color here. I wish I wasn’t on the radar and that I could slip in and out of situations with ease, but I can’t. Unfortunately, this is my reality. I am by no means saying that these people are racists, but I am saying that we tend to observe those that are different from us with more care. Those people that are different are simply unknown. I work in an environment that is mostly white and male. To them I am unknown.
I want to be able to explain this to my attending, but I know my words won’t come out eloquently. I also know that this may simply be seen as a defense since I am already under scrutiny. So under scrutiny, I will fight. I will continue to do what I can and be the best I can. At the end of the day, the person on the radar cannot afford to be anything but the best. Sometimes being different means that people are waiting to watch you fail. And I have failed numerous times. Some of those times have been real deficiencies in myself that I have needed to improve on. Other times I have watched other people get away with things that I would always be reprimanded for.
All of this will eventually make me better. This I know. Meanwhile, I can work on letting the fear of failing go and just state my truths. The world is unfair. There is no point complaining about something I can’t change overnight. People in the past have made the world better for me and I will continue in that tradition. So I will continue to fail. As long as I fail forward, I am still making progress.