I have always been a little bit of a misfit. Just a little bit. At school, I suppose you would say that I fit in with the popular crowd, but I did academic-type subjects and was in the school musicals so I was actually a bit of a nomad friends-wise. On casual days when most people were wearing adidas snap-pants, I would choose to wear corduroy. My pencil case was covered with the names of indie and brit-pop bands, not the Spice Girls or Pearl Jam.
Once I’d left school I realised that even though I didn’t really want to be like everyone else, being fully immersed in some sort of sub-culture didn’t really do it for me either. I don’t know if it’s a positive attribute or not, but individuality has always been something that I’ve really valued. The result has been that I’ve always kind of fit everywhere, but kind of nowhere at the same time.
Most of the time I find it’s a perfectly fine way to be. Of little consequence. But it’s been much more difficult for me to embrace in my professional world than anywhere else. At times, it’s created a barrier to my communicating and working with others and been the source of immense frustration. I think it’s why I left working in a hospital pharmacy. I felt as though my desire to push boundaries and find new ways of working created friction with certain people that we just couldn’t get past. I decided that it wasn’t doing me much good feeling so frustrated all the time. If I stayed I was destined to become a worse version of myself. So I left.
Thankfully I went to a different team environment that proved to me that I was capable of working with a wide variety of people. I don’t know if it was because the team was so diverse or because I’d matured (probably both) but I realised that there were plenty of avenues where I could contribute to quality care and not have the same level of frustration. Where I could make stuff. I also learned that its possible care deeply about the work while maintaining a level of disdain for the professional culture in which you work. Some may call that cynical. I call it realistic.
I’ve often thought about retraining and moving into another area of healthcare, or another industry entirely. I enrolled in a uni that didn’t have a Pharmacy school for this very purpose. I didn’t really care about Pharmacy, I cared about doing work that could contribute to better outcomes. Kind of ironic that my whole thesis is ending up being about the value that primary care pharmacists could contribute to cancer care, because that definitely wasn’t how it started out.
Here’s the thing. I still don’t care about Pharmacy. I don’t care about engaging in the pharmacist vs GP turf war about pharmacist prescribing. I don’t care about other people valuing what we do. I don’t care about securing our future or pay rates. I don’t care about calling myself a ‘clinical’ pharmacist, or my post nominals or credentialing status. Some might call me a cynic, disengaged, whatever they want I don’t care because they are judging me by a different set of values to which I apply to my life.
I care very deeply about doing work that matters. For me, the work that matters is contributing to changing things for the better in a way that I am proud of, whatever mode that takes. It might be writing a paper, interacting with a student, coming up with a strategy for a project, researching something, talking with someone about their medicines. That’s the stuff that I care about. And learning every day about how I can do it better. Caring about the details.
I read an article today that perfectly articulates all of these things that I’ve been thinking about not discounting the misfits. It shares the story of pixar, and uniting a team of disgruntled animators together on a project that gave rise to The Incredibles. Because dissatisfaction doesn’t always have to give rise to fight or flight; if given the appropriate outlet it can also lead to invention.
It wasn’t about getting angry animators in a room to complain about the system. It was about finding the people who felt like their skills weren’t being utilised, their creativity stifled by the environment.
“I want people who are disgruntled because they have a better way of doing things and they are having trouble finding an avenue,”
Pixar found the race cars that were spinning their wheels, took them out of the garage and let them race.
I think there are a lot of people who have experienced similar struggles to me. They kind of fit in, but kind of don’t, and each have their own personal reasons why this is true. But I don’t buy into the idea that they’re all cynical, disengaged and non-contributors. I think a decent proportion are frustrated by a system that doesn’t know how to utilise them. A profession that doesn’t push hard enough for quality or foster creativity and innovation. I think it’s time to remind these people they have the keys to their respective garages. Go get your race car off the blocks, bring it to the open road and let’s race.