the light at the end of the tunnel

“He’s done with medical school! A year into residency and you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“He finished residency! Yes, you’re moving, again, but he only has his fellowship left! The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer.”

“Yay! He finished his fellowship. Wait, what? He’s doing another fellowship? In another state? Well at least it’s only one more year. Can’t you see the light at the end of the tunnel?”

tunnel light

Honestly, I gave up on the tunnel long ago because I was pretty sure the light burnt out. I never was really able to see it. (Maybe I need glasses, but you would think a bright light in a dark tunnel would be easy to spot.)

It always seemed that when people tried to use those words to encourage me, the light kept moving further away. And when I thought our life was moving in one direction, suddenly plans changed.


And again.

But here we are. All six of us under the same roof. Five more months of this last fellowship and then…. what? We exit the tunnel?

I have this weird thing, I guess it’s my anxiety, but just when something seems so good (like finally finishing med training, our family together, a place to put some roots), I am struck with fear. A feeling like… no this can’t be real… it’s too good to be true…

I’m waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me.

I hate that. But it’s really how I feel. I try so hard to change it, but it’s there. I just can’t imagine we are finally going to be done with this long chapter and everything will be fine.

Fear. It’s a joy stealer.

Stupid fear.

Last night I came across another Ted Talk with Brene Brown (can I just tell you how much I love her! Well, I do!).  In this talk, she addresses exactly what I just mentioned. Take time to watch this if you can.

I am in that 60% she mentions. I said car crash.

But she says that response isn’t universal, not everyone thinks that way. She says that as a society we are losing our tolerance for vulnerability. She says vulnerability is at the core of fear, anxiety, shame.

But then says vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, love, belonging, creativity.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around all she’s saying. I feel a little (OK, a lot) drained lately.

In one part she states that as a society we have been led to believe that an ordinary life is a boring life. We have come to this conclusion about ourselves because we are not ______ enough or ________ enough. We compare ourselves to the thousands of images/people we see every day.

We never measure up.

So what do we do?

We numb ourselves. We numb our emotions to hide the hurt, disappointment, fear, sadness. But as we numb those things, we also end up numbing the joy and love, the good and happy emotions.

So what do we need to do instead?

We find the extraordinary in our ordinary life. (And of course it made me think of Sara Walker!)

We must savor.

The beauty and the gifts all around us.


The simple things.


Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

{OK, so I think I am finally beginning to understand – thanks for letting me hash this out, seriously. This post took a totally different direction than I intended.}

So…when we are willing to be vulnerable, willing to experience the pain, do the hard things, and go to the hard places, we will also experience and be filled with the greatest joy, love, gratitude we could ever imagine. Because even when we are in the dark places, we can find the light. Just like the one at the end of the tunnel.*

And that my friends, takes faith.


Are you ready to do that? Ready to experience emotions, both good and bad? Do you struggle with fear? Anxiety? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


*Ah-ha moment for me right there, folks. This post seriously had a mind of it’s own. But apparently I needed to figure this out. Thanks for letting me do that here.

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8 Responses to the light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Michelle D. says:

    Little bit off topic, but I thought you and your readers might like a new blog/facebook page I’ve created aimed at encouraging nonprofit employees/volunteers. Check it out when you get a chance!
    Michelle D. recently posted..Sometimes you just need to get back to the basicsMy Profile

  2. Tracy says:

    Amber, Amber, Amber!!! I love you and I love reading your posts, I feel like we are living in the same box of sorts. We started pursuing Medical School in 1996, and ended up in a 6 year PhD program, at the end of which came the realization that Medical School was still the dream, but that was put on hold to get a Masters in Public Health for 2 years to make the application more appealing. Finally after that in 2002 we moved again for Medical School which was a 4 year stint. Finishing that was a relief, but then it was on to the 7 years of residency, all of which is almost over. There is an amazing job on the horizon which is hopefully our final destination…but WHAT IF!?!? I get it…years ago I would say things like “I would wish this time away, but that would mean that my kids would grow up faster.” I always thought this last 5 months would be the time of my life, this is the time I have been waiting for, for over 15 years, just being “done” with the training, having a “normal” life…like I would even have a clue what “normal” is. But to the contrary, I am so stressed I can’t even describe it. Scott can’t even grasp what is going on, and I can’t even explain it. I am excited for him, I am excited for the final stage…but WHAT IF???!!! I don’t know what is happening to me, I am having total anxiety attacks, depression is out of control and the biggest part is I don’t understand why. I am going to watch your link and see if I can find some clarity I would just love to understand it enough to help my husband understand what is going on with me. I realized just yesterday that part of the problem is that we have only stayed put just long enough for me to find something of my own and start to love doing it before we are packing up for the next thing. Anyway, this started as an “I feel you sister” post but now I am determined to change my outlook. I love you sweetie!

  3. Leslie Howe says:

    I can relate to the “waiting for the rug to be pulled” feeling. I have an awful habit of worrying about the worst possible thing that could happen and trying to prepare for it mentally. I think in some way I feel like that will help me be prepared and not caught off guard, but it is really a fearful and useless practice because 1. the worst possible thing is usually not going to happen and 2. if it did, I probably still wouldn’t be fully prepared and would still have to get through it, and 3. I miss enjoying lie because I spend so much time in a mental place of the worst possible thing happening!! I wish I could learn to let go of fear and enjoy moments as they are without the negative projections and predictions. Thanks for sharing, Amber!
    Leslie Howe recently posted..Parenting Brave While Freaking OutMy Profile

  4. Nadine says:

    I suffer from that same fear/anxiety. When things have been going smoothly for a while and life is looking and feeling good it seems to good to be true…i wait for that next ‘thing’ to happen. Will I come through that ‘thing’ with grace or will it be my undoing this time. I try to remember and recognize the good…it’s actually why I began my blog, however i slip into the negative more often then not…of course it’s all made worse by the dark winter months.
    Nadine recently posted..The Bench ProjectMy Profile

  5. Sandy says:

    Amber, you have such a gift of being able to express your feelings and verbalize so authentically. (Aren’t TED Talks a wonderful resource?)

  6. Well said, the light is so much easier for those outside to see. And I have the same fears that all this anxious waiting will be for nothing, or it won’t be what I thought. I need to relax and just let whatever happens, happen. I am frankly too tired for anything else at this point.
    From A Doctor’s Wife recently posted..Stop Messing With Me!My Profile

  7. Gina says:

    Such truth in these remarks Amber. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Your posts come at the right time…thank you.

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