I believe in digressing. During my first semester as college freshmen, I attended a sociocultural anthropology class. I was immediately interested in subject matter, and was eager to learn. My professor was a brilliant lady who had much knowledge to share with us. But my favorite parts of her classes were when she would impart a story about her husband, brother, nephews, or her trips to Peru. She would always end these stories with “But, I digress…” or sometimes, “But I totally, totally digress.”
Now, ten years later I am in the first semester of medical school. Studying consumes almost every moment of my life. My classmates and I often sleep four or five hours for days on end while studying for that looming anatomy or biochemistry test. I have a study-group. And we study several hours a night several nights a week together. Mostly, in our study-groups we focus on the subjects we need to master. But often someone (usually I) will stray from our study topic and start telling a story or asking personal questions. Like my professor, I always end these momentary breaks with “But, I digress.” And then we scurry back to work.
I didn’t even think about this pattern until the ride home from a potluck which my study buddies and I had so that we could meet the each other’s significant others and hang out while making no pretense of studying. On the way home, I stated how much fun it was. My study buddy agreed replying, “It’s really nice to spend some time together and just chat without being accused of digressing!”
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that digressing is the substance of life. The rest is just business. Without digressing, I wouldn’t know that one study buddy has three nieces whom she adores or that her middle name is Rae which she hates. Or that another study buddy majored in comparative religions in undergrad, and has studied in Mexico and India.
As I look back on my past jobs, most of what I learned about my coworkers, I learned during digressions. I learned about one co-worker’s affection for Colorado wildflowers, during a five minute conversation in-between drawing up legal documents. While filing labs at the medical office I used to work at, a co-worker told me the delightful story about how, over forty years ago, she happened across a great deal on a grand piano and bought it on the spot for her husband. It is digressions like these that changed these people from my coworkers into friends.
Digressions keep me real; they keep me from taking education and careers more seriously than necessary. They allow me to get past the one dimensional aspect of life that work or school provides and see the whole people who I work with. So this week, in the face of tests, and stress, and time management concerns, I will remember to spend a little time digressing.
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