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A Working Professional?

Lessons Learned from One Month in Washington D.C.

It’s been a little over one month since I moved to DC and even longer since I last posted here (my bad). In this time, I’ve been working, exploring, and learning more about myself. For instance, I never thought I’d grow fond of the massive city rats outside my building at night, but here we are…it’s nice to have constants in life. As long as they don’t sneak inside or start getting too close, they’re starting to grow on me. DC restaurant week is coming up: maybe I should visit one of the Michelin star Italian restaurants nearby and get the “Ratatouille” special 🐀🥘👨🏻‍🍳 

Alexandria, VA waterfront with Arlington in the background. No rats in sight 😂

All jokes aside, I feel alright with my life in DC. Many people have asked me how I like my life right now, and I never really know how to answer them. Sure, I love the IDEA of living in DC. The chances to run around here are beyond my dreams – the other day, I joined up with this random running club outside the Capitol and did a few miles with them down the National Lawn and Lincoln Memorial! There’s nothing that can replace the feeling of a good run – while I love my private runs to reflect and connect with my environment or music, I have an even deeper appreciation for running with people. If you’re one of the DC runners checking this out, shout-out to you and let’s be friends! I’m also excited to explore more museums, galleries, and coffeeshops. I’m not even gonna try to visit as many restaurants as possible – there’s just too many. Without a doubt, DC is a vibrant and energetic city.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel the loneliness of living alone out here. I’ve always carried anxiety over the idea of doing “enough.” Sure, I tell myself I’m alright: I’m a pharmacist working in one of the biggest cities in the country! I’m in a program that will connect me to the pharmaceutical industry! I have access to the best bikeshare system (I’ve been taking full advantage of that too). The list goes on.

That’s when I remember my one high school friend who’s been saving up for years already, or my other friend who just got engaged. Make that friends – everyone seems to be getting married. People have investments, side gigs, even children, and I’m out here feeling like I’m miles away. Am I really so behind already?

What’s Going On?
I want to share 4 brief lessons that I’ve learned or re-learned during my time as a young professional so far.
  1. It’s Okay to Feel Uncertain
  2. Your Attitude Reflects Your Aptitude
  3. Embrace Gratitude
  4. Every Day is a New Day

Let me do a deeper dive into each of these points:

1. It’s Okay to Feel Uncertain

This feeling of self-doubt – of uncertainty and anxiety, of feeling like you’re falling behind –  is more common than you (and I) think. It’s been around for forever: get this, the term “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) dates back to 2004 – that’s over 18 YEARS ago.1 There’s no doubt that social media, the normalization of being online 24/7, and a culture of unhampered hustling for the latest and greatest has created a filter where everyone seems to be doing, looking, and feeling amazing, except you. It’s important to recognize life for what it is and not for how it appears to be. I’m a fan of social media (I wouldn’t have found out about that run if not for Instagram), but I have to remember to always treat it with this filter in mind. What you’re doing today might have been done a million times before, but that doesn’t negate the fact that YOU’RE doing it now and that’s what matters the most. I’ve been learning more about hikers and mountains recently and I came across this quote by Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first people to ever climb the top of Mt. Everest. He writes, “it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Life is an endless mountain – the trick is not to figure out every trail, but to understand how and where you can travel to move ahead. Uncertainty is guaranteed, but action is not. You’ll never know what will happen until you try – so keep trying. 

“Recognize life for what it is and not for how it appears to be”


2. Your Attitude Reflects Your Aptitude

I wasn’t always a naturally upbeat person and I still don’t think I am. My 10th grade health teacher once called me a “cryptic b-word” (not that dog one, the other one) and honestly, he meant it as a compliment. Those who might have known me from my high school years will remember that I definitely had my brooding or pessimistic thoughts. For a while now, I’ve felt connected to this one song title “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic.” Coming from my background, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a positive outlook on life. Am I in the best place in my life? I don’t know, I can’t guarantee anything in life, but I know that when I look towards the positive, I become a more positive and productive person. Between my work now and past rotations across the country, I’ve come across some very intelligent and capable professionals. I remember two types of these folks: the ones who looked toward the positive and the ones who rarely did. Now I didn’t do any scientific analysis on this so don’t start calling any journals, but there is probably a correlation between my positive coworkers/preceptors and my positive memories of them. 

I want to clarify: being optimistic and positive doesn’t mean being blind to real issues or concerns. It means holding a positive outlook in dealing with both good and not so great situations. Some people have experienced trauma where a consistently positive outlook is just not feasible and I also understand that. My ask: try to find a time every day to positively reflect in public. It doesn’t have to be the whole day, it doesn’t even have to be a whole hour, but finding a time to maintain positive thoughts for even a few moments with others does wonders for your own wellness. 

3. Embrace Gratitude

Gratitude is not just an emotion, but a mindset: a state and a trait.2 That’s nice and all, but what exactly is gratitude? 

According to the American Psychological Association, gratitude is “a sense of thankfulness and happiness in response to receiving a gift, either a tangible benefit given by someone or a fortunate happenstance.” 3


When I think of gratitude, I think of a process of recognizing the beauty and fortune of life amongst all of her challenges. Reflect for a moment: where would you be today if you had even one less person supporting you? How about five less people behind you? Everyone you encounter makes a difference in your life, for better or for worse. It’s important to remember those who have supported you even by accident. There have been people in my life who I continue to follow and admire from afar, yet haven’t interacted with directly for years: despite not having a close relationship, they’ve still made an impact on my life. On the other hand, reflecting may not be enough: the 20th century author Gertrude Stein writes, “silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.” It’s one thing to think about all of the supports in your life – it’s another to thank them for their support. Sure, you can try to do everything on your own, and you may find success doing that, but when you fail to embrace your supports and always insist on “making it on your own,” you can easily fall into arrogance and ignorance. Gratitude is especially important because it requires activity. Gratitude interventions, such as gratitude journals, letters, and the Three Good Things exercise, where you write three good things that happened in a specified period, allow for active recall of events or situations warranting gratitude.2 The more gratitude is actively practiced, the more it can make an impact in your life.

4. Every Day is a New Day

This one is perhaps the most important lesson: no matter what happens, tomorrow will come. There will always be things that are out of your control. Things may stretch out of just one day or period, but that doesn’t mean these things have to stretch you. Hope that a brighter future lies ahead. Trust in yourself, your peers, your faith, and never let go of that trust, even when it’s tested. It’s easy to be scared and it’s easy to feel alone, especially if you are on your own. I remember the wise words of the song “Feeling Good,” which was made popular first by Nina Simone and later by Michael Bublé:

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good.”

Alright: to recap, it’s okay to feel uncertain about things. When you face a challenge, your attitude determines your response and often your success. Gratitude isn’t just a feeling – it’s a lifestyle. No matter what happens, there will always be another day, at least while we have the fortune of life.

Have you started a new job? Going back to school? For all those who are starting new positions or roles, wishing you all the best! You’ve got this 📚 🙂

Let me know what you think in the comments!

References and Further Reading:


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