Yesterday morning began with a plogging session and a bag of trash. I was feeling hopeful as I had eyed a large clear plastic single-use cup from 7-eleven sitting on the curb and circled back after my run to pick it up. Someone else had picked it up. It was a neighbor a bit older than me with a mask, an orange bucket and a grabber. I waved to him across the street with my own two plastic bags and said, “Are you part of the Street Stewards? We have a Facebook group.” He replied, “No. I just started picking it up recently.” I said thank you.
There are times when you know you have made the right decision and that you are in the right place. I remember being six months into categorical pediatric residency and working an evening shift in the Pediatric ED at Mans Greatest Hospital (MGH). It was a normal shift. I knew what to do. Who to consult. What orders to write. I was walking down the narrow hallway that separates the two bays of exam rooms when a toddler peaked her head out and saw another toddler. This toddler said in her high-pitched very friendly voice, “Hey baby.” I think she was looking for a playmate. I stopped what I was doing. I paused and I thought “They ARE both babies and that is so incredibly cute.” I was in the right place.
The medical training process can be brutal. Even in pediatrics after the 80-hour-work-week restrictions and in a more “benign” supportive program, it was hard. I think all of us tend to forget as we get older and are professionally and financially and psychologically in safer places. I wrote this post about the culture of bullying in medicine and physician burnout, which I thought was decent https://drplasticpicker.com/stop-physician-burn-out-there-is-no-house-of-god/. The other byproduct of being a doctor is that I’ve fallen asleep in odd places.
Above is a screenshot of an instagram account by an environmental advocate in Nepal. Harish Joshi was interviewed on our blog several months ago https://drplasticpicker.com/introducing-harish-joshi-thursday-trash-reflections-from-nepal/. He is busy with his environmental advocacy and I find his account inspiring, as I find many teen environmental activist. This image he created reminded me that those everyday voluntary actions on behalf of a greater good, whether it be the environment or another cause, are incredibly powerful. I have written before about the power of agency and free will, and that although I believe society needs to systemically change and enact laws that benefit the environment – right now we also can help determine our future https://drplasticpicker.com/you-have-agency-you-have-free-will-you-are-your-own-determinant/. And this Hopeful Wednesday post is a voluntary act of gratitude and hope. I have a great sense of wellbeing this morning, that as a small person in a chaotic world – I am helping to calm the winds and reduce the heat and suck up more carbon than I am producing. By refusing a plastic bag at the store, this is a powerful first step to combating global warming.
Most bloggers have a blogroll. I am nine months into blogging and this will be my 210th blogpost and have now picked up #207 bags of ocean bound plastic. There was a blog I read briefly called No Harvard Debt which had only 113 blog posts, but made it onto multiple sites like Wall Street Journey and CNNMoney https://nomoreharvarddebt.com/media/. I remember thinking that the Harvard MBA grad really capitalized on a very catchy name, but in the end he seemed to be sincere in his journey. The site is quiet now and his transformational story is inspiring. He paid off his debt and found meaning in life outside of money. I began reading blogs when I was going through our personal finance journey, and I read mostly personal finance and FIRE bloggers. Even after we reached our FI number, Mr. Plastic Picker and I still work. And instead of starting a personal finance blog (although I have some of those type of posts included), I started this personal ocean plastic picking blog and environmental journey.
The blog is a based on a character and an avatar really. The character is real, the author behind the blog – but some of the parts of that person is amplified in a blog. A real person is more nuanced. And with that I am this real life character, almost a caricature. But the amazing thing is that caricature of Dr. Plastic Picker can get real environmental work done. I know that instagram friends are picking up litter, and readers have made little and big changes for the environment.
During my undergraduate years, I studied the History of Science. I had always loved history and enjoyed writing, and it was also a course of study that allowed me to easily complete my premedical requirements. I sometimes think back and wonder if I should have studied ecology or East Asian studies. I had wanted to take more Asian languages during those years, but found it difficult to fit them into my course load. But now looking back, I’m glad I studied History of Science. I was able to take very interesting classes. I dug out my term paper from my sophomore year tutorial, which I wrote at 19 years of age. My instructor was a young woman and pregnant at the time. She was one of the best teachers I had in college, and reminded me to always watch my grammer.
Dr. Plastic Picker is similar to other pediatricians. We tend to be a more liberal minded democratic leaning demographic. We tend to vote for children-centric issues, which means more funding for education and more funding for social services. I do believe in the social determinants of health, and that large structural inequities need to be addressed. And of course Dr. Plastic Picker thinks Big Oil and Big Plastic need to be reined in to prevent the plastic pollution assault on our oceans.
But I also believe in free will and responsibility. I was raised in a very different definitely more conservative Republican leaning family and community. I remember going off to Boston for college, and a close family friend had predicted that moving to Cambridge would change my political leanings which it did. I became more liberal. But in Cambridge, being a Democrat in local politics was actually the most conservative option and there were actually communist on the ballot which I found very disturbing.
I binged 10 hours of Star Trek: Picard yesterday. I haven’t binge-watched any TV since being on bedrest over a decade ago https://drplasticpicker.com/covid-19-social-distancing-is-like-bedrest-kevinmd-version/. I was making myself sick from worry because I thought I may have COVID-19. I won’t go over the specific symptoms, but I talked to an adult phyisican I trust yesterday over phone, and I am less likely to have COVID-19 than anything. It was been a trying time for the country and for parents, and for me.
I have felt grateful for many things. I am grateful to have been raised by two loving parents, who raised me with an abundance of kindness and genorosity. I am grateful to have been a voracious reader as a child and now can call myself a real blogger! My own grandmother was rich in heart and family but poor in monetary wealth and unable to read in her native language. I am grateful to have had dedicated teachers especially in our high school’s IB Program https://drplasticpicker.com/drplasticpicker-remembers-i-was-weaned-on-activism/.