Six years ago this week I was in Rochester, Minnesota at the world-famous Mayo Clinic, not as a patient, but as a member of their External Advisory Board for their Social Media Network. I remember being asked to join the board in 2013 and being filled with excitement. It was a professional dream come true for me to sit on this board and be associated with both the Mayo Clinic and others in healthcare who were using social media tools to help patients and providers connect in new ways.
At the time, I worked with hospitals across Australia and educated professionals about the benefits of using social media in healthcare facilities. I loved this part of my job. I traveled around Australia training hospital staff, doctors and others. I took part in patient forums and looked for new ways to use social media tools. And I connected with the Social Media Network at the Mayo Clinic as they were world-leaders in not only healthcare delivery but healthcare communications and I wanted to learn from them.
My relationship with the Social Media Network developed quickly and deeply. On a professional basis, I fulfilled requirements to become a Bronze Fellow and then a Silver Fellow and eventually became their first ever Gold Fellow. I organised two international healthcare and social media conferences for them; the first time they had held conferences like this outside of the United States. And when they asked me to sit on their External Advisory Board, I was thrilled to say yes.
Organising their first conference gave me the courage and confidence to start my own social media consulting business in 2014, Navigate Communications.
On a personal level, I made friends through the network, often first on social media and then in real life as we met face to face. Some of those friends became important to me in a variety of ways. And most of them were surprised when I resigned from the board at the beginning of last year.
I resigned for a number of personal reasons. Mainly I had become disenchanted by social media and no longer saw it as a force of good, but a force of evil. I saw first hand how social media affects mental health, often for the negative and wanted to distance myself from this medium, at least for the time being. I didn’t feel I could teach others or consult in the healthcare space and use these tools effectively. So after searching my soul, I decided to resign.
I thought that was that.
Until this week, when I received an email from the head of the Network telling me that my term is up and that as of today, I am no longer on the board. I was flummoxed. I didn’t realise that officially I had remained on the board for all of this time.
I replied to the email and thanked the head of the Network and the other board members for everything they’ve done for me over the years. I thought that drew a line under the whole thing.
Except, somehow it hasn’t. If anything, it’s opened a can of worms in my mind.
I’ve been thinking about the choices that we make in life. How one minute we want something so badly and are willing to work hard to get it. We chase our dreams. Sometimes we reach our dreams, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball along the way and we have to dodge and shimmy and adapt.
And sometimes a dream we’ve held for a long time, just dies. Sometimes it’s not meant to work out. Sometimes it’s about the journey and the lessons we learn from it, rather than actually achieving the dream.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t be sad when a dream dies. We can. And today it’s important to me to grieve and face my feelings.
I feel sad that something that I put so much energy and effort into for so many years has died. That friendships and relationships I built with so many people have died and there is a good chance our paths may never cross again in this lifetime. But I learned a lot about others and about myself along the way. I learned what is important for me to feel fulfilled in my job. I learned how to set boundaries to protect my own mental and physical health. I learned that some people are meant to be in your life for a long time and others for only a brief time. And I learned that I am not my job. I am so much more than that.
My path right now has led me away from healthcare and towards travel and adventure and spirituality and writing. All things that have been part of my dreams since I was a small child. And so I have let one dream die, to follow a different one. A scarier one in many ways and yet one that aligns itself more with my key values.
As I let one dream die, I am grateful for all it taught me and all the people it brought into my life (the closest of whom are still in my life whether I am involved in healthcare or not, social media or not). One of those people is Kristina who I’ve been blogging with throughout Blogtober. And there are others. Thinking of them always brings a smile to my face.
I know I made the right decision to resign from the board. I know the new members of the board will bring passion and energy to the group that I just couldn’t maintain anymore. I’ve taken my attention away from it to focus on other things that are important to me.
But sometimes knowing you’ve made the right decision can still be bittersweet.