A Case Of (Geographic) Mistaken Identity

My son was visiting from college this week past; reminiscing with him about years past always brings back memories of West Virginia and why his birth certificate lists the Mountain State as his point of entry.

You see, in the autumn of 1991, I was preparing to finish my psychiatric residency at the University of Virginia. Accordingly, I had started to interview for post-residency positions. I went to several interviews – DC, Richmond, and Frederick all come to mind – but nothing really ‘grabbed’ me.

One day, I passed my faculty advisor in the hall of the psychiatric hospital, and after exchanging pleasantries, he asked how the search for employment was proceeding.

“Not too good,” I replied. “I’ve been on several interview trips, but I’m really lukewarm about what I’ve seen so far.”

He then mentioned that he had a good friend from his own days in residency who was actively recruiting for a psychiatrist “to join his practice in Charleston.”

Having spent vacation time at Kiawah Island as a resident, I jumped at this news.

“That’s great! I’d love to talk to your friend about his opening! And I love South Carolina!” I had sudden visions of palmettos, the beach, beautiful old homes, and balmy weather.

“Well, actually I meant West Virginia.”

[sidebar: our department chairman at that time was from West Virginia University, and when he had accepted the position as chair in Charlottesville, he had brought with him a number of his junior faculty. The attending to whom I was speaking was one of these transplants, and no sooner had I uttered “And I love South Carolina!” than I realized my faux pas]

Embarrassed, I didn’t want to then say, “West Virginia?!? Are you out of your mind?!? I wouldn’t be caught dead in that rural Appalachian backwater.” Though that’s how I felt.

Two weeks later, still embarrassed, I was driving to West Virginia for the job interview. Enticed by a good salary, the ticking clock, and a lack of viable alternatives, I accepted.

And my son was born there 18 months later.

Lesson to self: be careful of (geographic) mistaken identity. And if you do make the mistake, correct it as quickly as possible, and run.

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