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Hand Me Down

To say that I come from a medical family would be a massive understatement.

My decorated grandfather, William Palin, was the only surgeon for miles surrounding the small town of Bedford, Pennsylvania. Every person within a fifty-mile radius knew of Dr. Palin and his wife, Frances, (my middle namesake) and marveled at their beautiful farmhouse located on Eastover Lane. My mother followed her dreams and became a physical therapist and wrote the graduate program at Grand Valley. Her older brother, William Palin Jr, is a plastic surgeon who has the totally uncomplicated and not-at-all admirable ability to sew on amputated hands… (like, WHAT?!) My Aunt Lois is a veterinarian. My beautiful cousin, Hannah, is a practicing OB in Miami, and my other beautiful cousin, Kathleen, is busy with medical school exams and classes as we speak…

I’ve often wondered why I didn’t inherit this calling to practice medicine when it’s all but evident that my family has a particular knack for it. Unfortunately, I get uncomfortably squeamish when it comes to blood— have been since the third grade when one of my classmates sliced open her forehead after running head-first into the bleachers in gym class. I remember my stomach flipping and an awful lump rising in my throat, before the word, ‘ew,’ popped out of my mouth without any remorse for the victim of the accident. The closest I’ll get to vital fluid is when I am separated from it by a television screen and an excellent script, i.e., Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., or any soapy medical drama with plenty of tacky background music.

However, I recently found myself desiring all the accumulated knowledge between my medically gifted relatives when I slipped and fell in my garage on New Year’s Eve and sprained my wrist. My hand is bruised and swollen but on the mend. As I was sitting and icing my wrist (and my pride) in the moments after I found myself splayed out on the cold ground, I’d wished to have Morpheus’s database on cue from which to download the complete understanding and education belonging to that of a proficient and gifted hand surgeon (cut to the scene where Neo says, ‘ I know Kung Fu’). Woefully, my medical prowess extends to just one simple phrase…Thank God for Ibuprofen. In the hours and days after my slip, I reached out to friends and family to glean what I could from their perspective. I’m grateful for all the remedies and advice that were given to me to help speed up my measly recovery.

Let this ring from the mountaintop: I have a profound respect for my family and friends who have dedicated their time and energy to helping people recuperate from accidents, misfortunes, and illnesses. This respect developed over time but was cemented within me when my amazing sister-in-law, Lauren, a gifted ER doctor, showed up late to a dinner party after tending to multiple patients who’d been in a horrific accident that I’d seen occur earlier that afternoon at a busy intersection in town. A small sedan had been impacted from behind by a Semi-truck. Lives were lost, and Dr. Lauren Coe, brave as ever, showed up to dinner with a smile on her face. Had I not known where she’d just been, I would’ve thought she had been indulging in self-care remedies all day at home. Nowhere within me is there a compartmental switch that could pull me out of an emotional situation so heavy.

Doctors truly are superheroes.

In the days since my fall, I’ve kept my wrist braced, which prevented me from getting back into my daily routine after a few months away from wearing my writer hat. In my mind, this hat is a glittery wide-brimmed creation, complete with glued-on macaroni and octopus tentacles that fall down and cover my eyes so that I can’t see the rubbish that flows out of me before properly edited. On the days when I choose to ruthlessly scrutinize my own work and subject myself to my own inner critic, I then switch over to my fancy editor hat; a sleek green fedora with a mallard feather. Editor Coe is CRUEL TO HER CORE. Think Trunchball from Matilda meets Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada and you’re on the right track.

I was required to keep these hats locked up tight in their respective boxes to rest these past few days, and it was difficult. My anxiety has peaked these past few months without the comfort of my keyboard, and damn, did I want to get back into it the arena more fervently than ever.

I was feeling sorry for myself this morning, wallowing as I iced my wrist, then triggered when a post popped up to tell me that someone from my past had gotten accepted into medical school… initially, I criticized myself for not being further along in my writing journey; it’s hard not to compare myself to others success when I’m surrounded by so many smart, talented and courageous friends.

“Why couldn’t I just have gone to medical school too?” I asked no one. I certainly have the connections. Just not the passion.

There are titles given to someone like me who strays from the pack. On the days that I’m choosing to be kind to myself, I refer to myself as a courageous lone wolf; a woman with a mission and purpose all her own. Other days, I find myself reaching for harsher terms; black sheep, weirdo, rebel, oddball… I’ve been identifying with the later titles as of recent, and for reasons unknown.

Being a creative artist often feels as if you’re riding a very long and very unpredictable wave. It’s a good thing I can surf! This wave I’ve been riding for the past five years has been GNARLY, BRAH. And yet, I can’t complain. I trust that many good days are on the horizon, and subsequently, there will also be bad days. It’s all a part of the process.

What’s important for me to remember is that all gifts worth practicing take time. Doctors take years to get their degrees. I may not be a scholar or have a doctorate in Literature, but I have lived a life that has brought me through incredible obstacles and made me better because of it.

I know loneliness and isolation better than most. I also know abandonment. Heartbreak. Vindication. The search for meaning and purpose. Finding strength in trying times. And I've risen from the ashes before. I can certainly rise again.

Really, there is no better person than me to write a story about a young girl reaching for purpose in the dark. Being the first of her kind, she discovers her story all on her own without the help and guidance of family to give her the answers she so desperately needs.

I’ve decided to look at my family’s mission completely differently now. I come from a family of healers. Many of my relatives heal the body. I, too, am a healer, only, my specialization is in healing the spirits of others through my gifts and talents. The road is tricky and with much less accolade and pomp and circumstance. There are no awards given to a person who sits quietly in a library for years on end. But if there was, I would be the obvious choice for the most deserving recipient.

My prayer for anyone reading this post is to encourage you; that's always been my mission in this space. I desire for your spirit to soar and for you to reach for your own unique purpose with passion and conviction.

It hurts to type. But this needed to come out. Falls happen, and when they do, brush off your bum, ice it, and move forward with confidence.

All for now.


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