By Angelic P. McDonald, MSRS, CRA, RT, FAHRA
Congratulations to the Astros on their World Series win! I’m a Texas Gal, so of course I must root for my hometown team. There is just something about the energy, camaraderie, and power that comes from so many different voices coming together as one. That kind of power and unification reminds me of my military brothers and sisters. Since tomorrow is Veterans Day, it’s fitting to expand our short story series, “The Legacy of Mentorship” to our military hometown heroes.
I want to share a funny story about a military brother who showed me how to laugh while moving forward and not take myself so seriously when the pressure hits. My military brother, USAF SMSgt Richard Potock (or “Taco” as we called him) and I were both assigned to the radiology program at Wichita Falls, Texas, which was a nine month program of intense radiology didactics. Those who know me well, know I am a bit of a geek and also a little competitive. On the first day of class, I sat in the front row, back straight, notebook open, pen in hand, eagerly waiting for the first lesson of my new life. This skinny, freckled faced guy had the audacity to walk up in front of the class and declare in a booming voice that he was going to be number one in the class and the rest of us could fight over the number two spot. I was shocked at the audacity of this man and found him disrespectful, arrogant, and rude. How dare he make such a declaration!
Over the next few grueling months of study, stress, and practicums mixed with drills, chemical warfare training, PT, and room inspections, I often felt myself about to break under the stress. Meanwhile, Taco would always seem so light hearted. He went through the same steps I did, the same stress, the same drills, but he didn’t make it his whole life. He always did well, but not in an obsessive sort of way. While I poured hours and hours into trying to be the “best,” he did his work, studied, but then enjoyed himself. Sometimes he would pull pranks on me just to force me to look up from the books. The worst was when he hid a gonadal shield under my positioning sponges during the skull module practicum. It took me a bit to figure out it wasn’t me. (Don’t worry, AHRA family; I gave back as good as I got, so he got his pranks back!) In short, he became one of my BEST friends. Years later, miles apart, that has not changed.
You see, mentors come in all kinds of shapes. Taco was definitely a different kind of mentor. Behind that “I don’t care” front of his, he was truly a brilliant man. What he showed me was that it is possible to not take yourself so seriously all the time. He liked to push himself to the edge but not to get ahead; instead he simply liked to enjoy the view from where he stood. He mastered how to succeed in life but not be consumed by it. He went on to have a very successful career in the USAF and ended up retiring years later.
Right now as you read this article many of you are wondering how you even found time to do so. Life has gotten so busy. You feel so far behind on your projects that you would have to be at work for hours to even make a dent. Employee opinion surveys are coming up, and you are being pressured to make sure they are better than last year’s. That colleague that frustrates you a bit is emailing again, your blood pressure is up, and you are wondering if you are even cut out for this role.
The answer, my AHRA friend, is YES you are! Take a lesson from Taco, that lanky, freckle faced Airman who had the audacity to stand before his peers and say, “I am going to be number one.” You got to where you are because you dared to stand on the edge. You were willing to work hard, and you were audacious enough to dream big. So, as you stand on that edge, instead of focusing on the fall, simply enjoy the view. You’ve earned it. Laugh often, laugh loud. Play a prank on someone. Life is simply too short to not enjoy it.
To our Military AHRA members, thank you for your service and Happy Veterans Day! I am proud to see so many of us finding our place within the AHRA family. Don’t keep this secret to yourself. Pass on the message to those still enlisted so we can connect one family with another before their transition to civilian life. It helps to keep that connection strong.
To Retired USAF SMSgt Richard Potocki (who graduated from that radiology program in the number two spot by the way; we won’t brag about who kicked him out of first), thank you for teaching me to laugh through the stress and enjoy the view. You are my brother, my friend, and yes, a mentor.
Angelic P. McDonald, MSRS, CRA, RT, FAHRA is the 2017-2018 president of the AHRA Board of Directors. She works at Baylor Scott & White-Round Rock in Round Rock, TX and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.