Author’s Note: After nearly a decade on the east coast, it’s time for Mr. & Mrs. Link to head West. In the last ten years, our lives have changed significantly. We moved in together, got married, bought a house, got promotions at work and earned higher education degrees, hiked, drank, ran, ate and welcomed our son to the world. For a gal from Southern California and a guy from Montana, Maryland took some getting used to – the pollen, bugs, humidity, and distance from home made the change all the more difficult. But as time passed, we began to grudgingly put down roots. We even began to feel at home in our adopted land. What follows is Mr. Link’s favorite (and least favorite) parts about living in Maryland. Other posts here.
Top Ten Things I’ll Miss About Maryland
Number 4 – Two Domes
Of all these countdown posts, this one has been the hardest to write because I don’t want it to come across as boastful, when in fact it’s actually quite humbling. For the past nine years, Mrs. Link and I have been incredibly fortunate to work in the respective hot spots of our chosen professions; medicine and politics. We have been surrounded by competence, challenged by genius and educated by life experiences that cannot exist anywhere except the epicenters of activity where we spent most of our waking hours.
I’m talking, of course, of Mrs. Link earning an MD and PhD from Johns Hopkins Medical School while I worked in the United States Congress. The letterhead for each institution features their respective famous domes, a feature that I have always found aesthetically symmetrical.
I doubt either Mrs. Link’s or my own experiences in these places could be condensed into a single post, so I’ll try to explain in three categories.
Johns Hokpins is the hospital you fly to if you have a rare or exotic disease, or are in search of a rare or exotic new treatment. As a result, Mrs. Link didn’t just learn about the most interesting and challenging medical cases from textbooks, the saw them first-hand after attending lectures by the very doctors that were on the cutting edge of new cures.
In the mean time, how many people can say their daily activities are often the subject of heated debates on broadcast and cable news, newspapers, blogs and social media? When the country was debating health care, it was my job to help shape that debate in a small part of world. I realize this probably sounds boastful. And I’m not going to lie, the exposure of the job was gratifying. But instead of making me feel like a big shot, the scope of what I was involved with was truly humbling. It made me appreciative of the opportunity to participate, and drove me to leave it all on the field every day.
One of the great things about a place like the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus or Capitol Hill is that it tends to attract ambitious, intelligent, hard-working people. Any one (or even two) of those traits is fairly common in a person, but I’ve found that the presence of all three is truly rare. As a result, Mrs. Link and I have been honored to associate with some of the most incredible people in the world – and I’m not just referring to the big name doctors and politicians. At every level – fellow medical students or researchers or co-workers and even a few interns – the quality of people in our lives over the past nine years were self-selected to be the best of the best.
Why does this matter? Perhaps it is appropriate to quote a French maxim from late 16th century, as quoted by George Washington in his Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, Rule # 56 (ca. 1744): “Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.”
Okay, fine. There’s an element of ego too.
Look, if Hollywood wants a shortcut to indicate a doctor is smart and effective, they drop in a line about them having attended Johns Hopkins (if they’re a lawyer, it’s always Harvard). Similarly – but with a less positive connotation – when Hollywood wants a shortcut to indicate the current suiter for the lovable loser’s love interest is a smart, well-connected socially acceptable catch, they give them a job in politics (often on Capitol Hill). Of course, the audience usually ends up rooting against the political guy, but that’s an artifact of the current feelings about politics in general, not individual participants.
These shortcuts work because they invoke preexisting social biases about these respective institutions. Those biases shaded interactions we would have with strangers when we told them where we worked. I’m not going to lie: that was cool.
For most of the last decade, Mrs. Link and I reveled in the activity, people and prestige of our lives between Two Domes. It was amazing, and I don’t think either of use would change a thing. That being said, being a part of a team driving that action requires a massive dedication of time and energy. 12-hour days were regular. 80+ hours weeks not uncommon. We both got used to being on call all the time – weekends, holidays, after hours. It’s the price you pay to work so close to the fire.
And, ultimately, it’s not a schedule that supports the life we both want for our family. The Two Domes are a huge part of our time in Maryland; a part we’ll both miss. But we’ll miss it with the nostalgia of a country song. Neither of us will be looking to recreate the Two Domes in our new lives.