December 1, 2021
Autumn has been a time of year for celebration of the harvest and of life for many years, so it’s no wonder Fall brings about fond memories for me. I grew up in Oklahoma and I loved when the first leaves started to change color. Even though I live in Houston now, I was driving to work today and I saw the most beautiful maple tree decked out in the glorious splendor of vibrant red and orange leaves. Before I knew it, I’m back in my childhood, reliving times of high school football games, drinking hot chocolate, dragging main street, working at the dairy dell, and spending time with friends and family. With the holiday season upon us, it’s only understandable to get nostalgic when the weather starts to cool off.
Fall, the changing leaves, and the variety of foliage shows us more than the concept of change. They demonstrate that change happens whether we’re paying attention or not. Many of us struggle to accept change in our lives. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher stated: “The only constant in life is change.” The changing colors of the leaves exemplifies this. No matter what I do (or don’t do) or whether or not I’m paying attention, change happens. Some things do stay the same and sometimes it’s okay to shed parts of the past and plant new parts of ourselves for the future. This is the first year, I will be celebrating the holidays without any of my parents or parents-in-laws and while I grieve their absent, I embrace the joy of the newest member of our family, Juniper Lee. A grandchild who views the world with awe and wonder. Who loves Honey Baked ham and all things Disney like her Father’s mother (Grandmother makes me sound so old).
We too in the APA are going through a lot of change. We live in a VUCA world (VUCA is an acronym standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Although this term was first used in 1987, I learned about it 5 years ago when attending a workshop by Bob Johansen, the former Director of the Institute for the Future. Little did I know, how accurate that term would be at describing the world today. As I was writing this message, I pulled out his book entitled: Get There Early: Sensing the future to compete in the present. He states, “Many people are so fearful and uncomfortable with uncertainty that they have a desperate need for answers.” When we don’t have the answers, how do we move forward, engage with the uncertainty and do something that will make a difference? The ending of the book reframes the VUCA world as an opportunity; volatility leads to vision, uncertainty yields to understanding, complexity yields to clarity and ambiguity yields to agility. Thus, in October, we as the leaders of the APA undertook strategic planning as a way to outline what we wanted to accomplish over the next 5 years. After the APA’s first ever hybrid strategic planning meeting, we left invigorated to think differently and to challenge long standing traditions while at the same time balancing the unintended consequences. We will be working on the strategies to reach these goals over the coming months and look forward to sharing them with our APA family at the upcoming PAS meeting.
It’s also the time of year that we are all reminded of the things for which we are grateful. One of those things is the people that make up the Academic Pediatric Association. It has been a long 30 months since I’ve seen many of you in person when we last attended the PAS meeting in Baltimore. Yet, connecting with you virtually in many different activities and continuing the work of the APA has brought me joy. Before you know it, the leaves will all be gone from the trees, the Holiday season will be over and Winter will be in full force. I’m reminded that time goes by way too quickly when I see my granddaughter growing up before my eyes. Take time to connect with friends, family and colleagues whenever you can, invest in these cherished moments and make memories to last a lifetime. Practice self-compassion, get in your 10,000 steps each day and keep your sense of humor. [I’m waiting for what will happen with toilet paper in 2022 – however in the meantime I’m ‘rolling’ with it]. But most of all, and in all seriousness, seize this time to learn and grow. Choose – deliberately – to be positive, optimistic and enthusiastic even in the face of uncertainty. Viktor, Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author of the book, Man’s Search for Meaning said it best: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I’m looking forward to seeing you, my APA family in the future.
Teri Turner, MD, MPH, MEd
Academic Pediatric Association