As I mentioned previously, I haven’t been doing much work-related travel recently. In fact, the last pediatric endocrinology conference I attended was also in Baltimore, in 2016!
I was definitely due. As I finish this post, I am wrapping up my 4 day conference experience and headed to the last set of talks before my flight leaves from BWI. It has been such a pleasure to dive back into conference mode, and I am feeling so grateful that I am in the position to get to do this 1-2x every year.
Top 5 Reasons I Love Conferences
1- I get to learn in an envionment that encourages focus. In an ideal world, I would spend a few hours per week keeping up with the latest literature. Unfortunately . . . this ideal world does not exist. At least for me. But conferences provide an artificial environment where I will NOT be interrupted by patient calls or family obligations and can actually focus on learning! It’s amazing how much updating and learning and remembering can happen in a short period (ie, 3-4 days) under these conditions. And it feels so good. I took 21 pages of notes (on my laptop this time) mostly because the act of outlining and recording helps me to stay focused. And I had fun doing it.
2- I get to be an individual and cater to my own needs. I know that when the kids are older, I may feel tempted to make work conferences into a family affair. But I hope that I see this post and fight that urge! I spend the rest of the year (the other 360 days, or 355 at the very least!) playing a very important role in our family unit, always balancing my own needs with the needs of others. Having ~4 days or so to only cater to ME feels downright magical, even if the activities I am doing (attending lectures! catching up on work! exercising in a hotel gym!) aren’t exactly swimming with dolphins in Fiji. Honestly, I could care less. The independence alone is therapeutic and just a freaking TREAT. Even just eating meals (what I want, when I want it, not having to feed someone else!) feels amazing.
3- It is a confidence-boosting experience for me. I am not immune to imposter syndrome, but events like this help me eschew any thoughts that I am somehow faking it, or even perhaps that I am somehow less worthy for having chosen a non-research-based career path. It helps me to remember that just being here means I am valuable enough to be invested in by my organization! SOMEONE out there feels I am worthy of these days dedicated to just learning and networking in my professional field. (PS: as a medical student it probably would have shocked me that attending have these feelings too, but – there you go. Or maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.)
4- I love seeing old friends. During this trip, I got to meet up with several Duke mentors, some peds endo friends at different institutions, and even an old friend that I met on the application cycle who happens to live in Baltimore:
I even love watching other people see their old friends – when two very silver-haired pediatric endocrinologists drop their bags and embrace in a conference room lobby, I get a little pang of excitement. That may be me someday! Seeing old friends is also a reminder that I’m still the same person I was 10, 15, 20 years ago and in a way feels like travel back in time. Which is so much fun!
5- I get to make the schedule! Which means I can build in some relaxation time, as much sleep as I want, workouts, etc. I always make sure to include some total me-time, whether it’s a movie night in with room service (did this last night) or a massage (not this trip, but have done so on others). Even though there is so much to learn, I find I need to take a break at SOME point and usually it’s by day 3 or so. I attended lectures/talks throughout (see above re: over 20 pages of notes) but took some time to myself, too. Love being able to build in some rejuvenation time.
I will note that I did not get to sleep in on this trip because many of the valuable ‘meet the professor’ sessions were at 7 am and I wanted to go to those, plus morning is still how I prefer to fit in exercise! But that’s okay.
Additional bonus experiences this time:
- One morning I actually got to run a 5K race that was part of the conference, and pulled out a 23:45 (7:45/min pace)! Although Strava says 7:54/mi pace and that the course was a little short, but either way I was very happy. (I didn’t wear my Garmin because I forgot to bring it on the trip!). And now I want to actually train for a 5K . . .
- I got to record a podcast with Katie Lockwood of Mommy Call Blog and CHOP’s Primary Care Perspectives Podcast on the peds endo perspective in gender diverse care, which was so much fun.
- I did pump 2x/day (I skipped one night). I’m only making several oz/day, but I just felt like I didn’t want G to ‘ask’ for milk when I returned and then find it all gone. I mean, maybe that would have been a good strategy but . . . I just wasn’t ready. The twice daily sessions (I just did about 20 min) weren’t that annoying. I dumped it all which meant I didn’t have to keep the pumping equipment scrupulously clean either (just gave it a quick rinse after each session). We will see if G is still interested when I get home. If not, I’m honestly fine with it. I just didn’t want to remove the option.
Overall, it was a ton of fun and I am already looking forward to my next one. I’m ALSO looking forward to snuggling A, C, and G (my babyyyyyy) so soon! Tomorrow I will be off from work (strategic) and plan to mostly focus on the kids. Then I start a week of call . . .but I guess I am as fresh as I will ever be at the start of a call week!