Duane Carter is a pediatrician, a writer and a dad to 13 children. This week, on Dreaming Made Simple, Duane shares about his “aha moment,” about how his dreams have evolved and the importance of self-care.
Dreaming Made Simple: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?
Duane Carter: My initial professional dream was to be a doctor. I can take you to the very place where it originated. I was in Mr. Fortenberry’s seventh grade biology class watching a documentary on how medical science developed the heart transplant. I knew that day, “THAT is what I’m going to do.”
I began to focus right then and there on being a doctor, specifically a surgeon. I began to read and study about it. I knew I had to keep good grades, so I did. I never took my eye off that goal, and I really never considered anything else, so in a way, it was easy to stay focused. When I got into medical school, though, I realized the lifestyle of a surgeon was NOT what I wanted at all. After taking my pediatrics rotation in my third year of medical school, I knew that pediatrics was what I wanted to do.
After a few years of being a pediatrician, I began to think about writing, and now I have a dream of publishing a book, specifically a novel or a memoir.
DMS: How did your writing dream come about?
Duane Carter: I started writing poetry in high school. It was odd in that it came somewhat easily for me. I really began to cherish it, though, when I was introduced to the poetic masters like Woodsworth, Frost, Eliot, Blake and Shelley in my English classes in high school (Thanks, Ms. Ford!!) I just would get a thought in my head, and I would sit down to write it, and it would turn into a poem. So, I started at 15 or so, and I never quit.
I went through several years, in the midst of medical school and residency, where I wrote very little. Then I began to have some great personal struggles that somewhat led me back to writing, and I’ve never stopped since.
One day I was looking at a photograph I had taken while hiking and it “spoke” to me. I began to write what I heard, and so a new form of poetry for me happened. I began to take photographs of places and situations where I saw beauty and design and grace, and then I would write about the place. It was great fun.
It’s funny to see that a lot of the things that are dreams being fulfilled in my life were surprises, things that “just” happened to me, things that popped up in my life, and I saw that I really wanted to pursue them, and I chose to do so. I always encourage my kids to watch for these things. When something grabs your heart, even if it’s in the middle of what seems to be the normal and mundane, go for it.
DMS: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Duane Carter: I could list things like academic awards and such, but honestly, I think the thing I’m most proud of is being a parent to 13 children (12 of whom are adopted). And the funny thing is that those adoptions were more my wife’s doing than mine. However, being a father to children from all over the world has been my most life-changing accomplishment.
DMS: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?
Duane Carter: I answered that one a little above. For one, don’t get so caught up in your dream that you forget to live life. Travel. Have fun. Spend time with friends and family. Make really, really, really great relationships. Sure, focus and hard work are important, but living life is much more important. I understand there are times for sacrifices. Sacrifice is essential, I think, to making dreams a reality. But for Pete’s sake, don’t give up the really important things of life (like love and relationships).
DMS: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?
Duane Carter: Honestly, I’ve simply worked hard. However, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of my wife sticking with me through the hard and difficult times of pursuing my professional dream. That’s why I said what I did above regarding relationships. I read. A LOT. I read, I listen, I put things into my mind that are focused on what I want to do. For example, right now I don’t spend as much time reading about medicine as I spend reading really good books and writing poetry. I surround myself with people who are high achievers. And last but not least, I’ve learned to enjoy life more. It’s OK to have days of just resting and relaxing. It’s OK to go on vacations and not work. It’s OK to love one’s self. I’ve also learned to take care of myself much better with good sleep, good food, and exercise. I think I’m better off physically, emotionally, and spiritually than I’ve been my entire life.