One of my favorite games of all time is “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.” It is not an accurate translation from the Japanese origin – “Gyakuten Saiban,” (逆転裁判) which means “Turnaround Trials.” “Gyakuten” means reversal, comeback, turnaround, or change.
The heartwarming story’s hero is a defense attorney who is so goodhearted to the point of appearing bumbling and irresponsible, but he (you, the player) always manages to win the trial and prove his client innocent even when things are looking the most grim. He always manages to turn it around from the brink of losing.
I love this philosophy because it encourages one to never lose hope, for you never know when you’ll encounter a way to turn it around. I believe there is always a way to turn a negative into a positive, or at least learn an important lesson from any experience.
My adventure to Europe had a rocky start. I was supposed to take an 8 pm flight from LA to Barcelona. When people say LA traffic is bad, they really mean it. For a multitude of reasons, I ended up missing my flight. The biggest reason was because I was so focused on the bus I had missed because I misinterpreted a sign, that I spent the next 30 minutes looking for it because I had prepaid for it and dammit, I was going to find it.
It only ran once an hour. Any other person with a functioning brain would have just taken an Uber at that point, but as I was sleep deprived, shocked, and SO wanted to believe Googlemaps when it said the bus would only take 45 minutes.
It took twice that long, and I ended up not making the cutoff time to check in. The only other time I have ever missed a flight was 10 years ago, when a taxi service I had paid for upfront in Paris did not show up, and again I was so fixated on finding the people who ran the service, in disbelief that they could have abandoned me, there must have been some misunderstanding!, finding and pounding on their locked storefront’s door, that that precious time I wasted ended up being the difference between making the flight and not.
It was not a proud moment for me as I collapsed against the check-in counter, beating myself up over making the same mistake twice. Although they were slightly different circumstances, it was still the same reason. I had a plan, and it was hard for me to deviate from it. It takes a type A personality to go into and survive medical training, and it had served me well all those years, but there are clearly downsides as well.
Re-booking the flight cost me nearly $600. As I was not yet making any income since residency graduation, it did hurt. It was also exacerbated by a phone conversation with my father who reminded me of my last similar mistake and shamed me for “always running late. You never learn!”
However, I reminded myself that in the grand scheme of life, it was just money. I still had my health fully intact, I had not hurt anyone, and the companion I was meeting in Spain was completely understanding and supportive and even reminded me that I’m human, and that we all make mistakes from time to time. It doesn’t mean I haven’t grown as a person or learned from previous mistakes; it would be unreasonable to expect someone to be perfect all the time or to never repeat errors.
Also, I got to rearrange flights so that I had a 24 hour stopover in New York, where my aunt from China was visiting for only a month. I had originally considered returning to NY for a week to see her before flying out to Europe, but since the atmosphere with my parents had been tense, I decided it was better to go directly to Europe. However, now in the wake of this would-be devastating event, I now had the opportunity to spend time with her, and that is priceless.
The other cool silver lining is that my re-booked flight flew out from Hollywood Burbank airport rather than LAX, which was a similar distance and MUCH smaller and therefore more streamlined of a check-in process. I got to my gate from the entrance within 5 minutes! I felt like a celebrity almost, finding a secret, private way out of LA that did not involve dealing with the masses as I would have at LAX airport.
By the next day, all negative feelings regarding my mistake had melted away, and all I could feel was gratitude for the positives I got to experience instead. I was also filled with a sense of inner peace and wonder that I could treat myself with self-compassion and move on from a negative event so quickly and find something to be grateful about, something that I don’t think I could have done just a few years ago. I think this “Gyakuten” ability has been an invaluable skill I had to develop in order to survive residency, and I am so glad for it.
Hard times, no matter how traumatic, always do leave you stronger in some way, and they really do put other problems into perspective. After seeing all the pain and suffering of others and experiencing being pushed to my own personal limits and beyond, I am all the more grateful to be able-bodied, clear-minded, financially stable, and to have loved ones who are all relatively healthy. I hope everyone is able to carry a little bit of this never-give-up “Gyakuten” fighting spirit in them as well, and know that it’s never too late to “turn things around.”