Professor Gibson
Thought Bubbles

Everything She Could Be

Hello Dear Readers,

If you’re new to my blog or haven’t been following, I am on a journey of self-discovery, a journey to define myself through my mother’s existence. I’m creating a documentary to chronicle this path of connecting and finding belonging in her story. At the end of this post, I’ll share the initial trailer.

This journey of self-discovery is a long and painful path, filled with introspection, accountability, and hard realizations. Yet, I find inspiration and uplifting thoughts in unexpected places – a stranger’s kindness, or Sunday morning words at church. If you look, there are confirmation of your path everywhere. Today, I want to discuss one such inspiration.

I recently finished watching the show “New Amsterdam.” My favorite character is the wise and deeply flawed psychiatrist, Dr. Iggy Frome. I love characters that have dimensions and depth – displaying both good and bad, the dichotomy of the two. Iggy often serves as the wise sage, redirecting others when they are stuck or lost on their own journey. In a moment with a character struggling with the loss of a father, Iggy tells the patient:

“Everything your father was, everything he could be, that’s in you…It’s inside of you. His life is in yours. How are you going to live it?”

-Iggy Frome, New Amsterdam

Replace “father” with “mother,” and it felt like Dr. Frome was speaking directly to me. I think about the things my mother left unfinished – the projects, dreams, and missed moments. But her death didn’t completely remove her from this world, because a piece of her – a piece of her life and dreams – is and always has been inside me.

I have the opportunity to move forward in ways she only dreamed of. Not to fulfill or relive her life, but to live my own, knowing that my drive to succeed, my passion for innovation, and my ability to manage critical situations are pieces of her – pieces she gave to me so I can continue the journey in my own way and on my own terms.

The greatest gift my mother ever gave me came a week before her death. My mother-in-law passed away the week before, so death was the topic of almost every conversation. Discussing a work situation, I don’t even remember the details of the situation, but the words she spoke at the end stuck in my head. She concluded with, “But trust yourself. You’ve always been better at these things than I ever was.”

I was shocked. My mother, a long-time department chair at two institutions, was an embodiment of a strong woman in academia. She overcame sexism and managed people in a way that garnered her respect and admiration. How could I compete with that, much less be better than that? I didn’t believe her.

But in the years after her death, those words held power. They gave me permission to trust myself. In moments of doubt, when I longed to call her, those words echoed in my mind. A woman I admired professionally not only trusted my abilities but believed I could surpass her achievements. Everything she could be is in me, and now I live with that piece of her in my life, on my own terms.

As Iggy Frome would say, “[her] life is in [mine].” So, the only question left is, “How [am I] going to live it?”