When I came across this coffee cup balanced perfectly and precariously on a hallway railing in Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, the first thing I thought about was trade-offs. Someone had been sipping their coffee (was it drip? a cappuccino? sweetened in some way?), but then patient care must have called. I imagined them carefully setting the paper cup down on the railing, uncurling their fingers slowly, gingerly, to see if the balance would hold – then turning swiftly to gel into the room across the hall. Were they still inside that room, or had they come and gone?
I saw the coffee cup as fuel, as delight, as self-care, always in dynamic equilibrium with duty. Sometimes, in this profession, you can have your coffee and drink it too – often not leisurely or all at once, but it's a trade-off we have chosen. I hoped the coffee drinker would be back soon to enjoy it. Perhaps lukewarm by then, but still sweet.
Fiona Miller is a fourth year student in the School of Medicine.