Sorry I’ve been away for a while, things have picked up more than I expected.
First year is over, technically, all of my lecture material is over. But, I still need to take an exam next month to finish the entire year. I’ve had the last two weeks off, and I’ve used it wisely. I said goodbye to a friend who matched in California, he was actually the person who housed me during interviews (he didn’t know me at the time). We spoke on the phone several times before that, and his personality, and thoughts about our school had a big impact on my decision to come here. Anyways, so when he invited me to Cambridge for some beers with his friends I jumped at the chance to wish him off. There, I met two of his friends, one of them a rising 4th year who I’ve seen around a lot at the hospital/campus but never interacted with; all of them very nice people. I was expecting him to talk about his residency, instead we talked about books they suggested I read: Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, and also Pride & Prejudice. Then we talked about Bram Strokers Dracula, you know, before vampires were sex symbols.
Then they asked me a question I hate to be asked now, “What are your hobbies”. For once, I replied honestly to this question, “I..actually don’t remember anymore”, I responded. Then they asked me something I haven’t been asked in a long time,
“How are you doing?”
It’s funny, the difference between prefacing your conversation with the phrase, “How are you doing?”, and interjecting it later into the conversation. At the beginning of the conversation, it’s the “ice breaker” we all learned how say to be polite. Used later, it’s a genuine question.
As medical students, we soon learn not to expect to be lent an empathic ear. Many of our problems seem to pale in comparison to others. In good taste, we don’t try to garner it from our patients. We can’t explain how we feel exactly to our parents, they’d seen as not being appreciative of the opportunity given to us. When we try to vent with non medical friends, we’re reassured we’re going to be doctors anyways so it’s okay. Many of our peers within our class are too afraid to vent, some will pounce on your ‘weakness’, and castrate you for not being as dedicated as them. Well intentioned [and fundamentally correct] folks will tell you, “Just stay balanced”, then you realize you’re even failing the concept of balance. If I whine to a premed, they’ll rightly counter, “Well, at least your in medical school”. Interestingly, the only people who give a shoulder of support end up being more advanced doctors in training or physicians; they’ve been through it: no matter how you feel you need to perform well.
So, after many months of holding back how I felt about things I was able to share my feelings over some beers with upper classmates. It was a re-affirming, if not purely a cathartic experience. I told them how I felt, and what I’ve seen, and overheard. The distasteful (albeit, inadvertent) things said by classmates that haunted me, my random feelings of inadequacy (see first clause) and ‘war’ stories, and pent up stress mostly due to not being able to explain myself in earnest — things I’ve had to keep off of here because my blog is now followed by a couple of classmates, some don’t know who I am (the intrigue!)
If you’re in medical school this time of year, and you’re reading this as a first year, I’ll give you advice that those advanced students gave me:
1. Make time for yourself, or else you’ll crack.
2. Hang out with upper classmates when you can, they’re usually more chill about things as they have things in prospective.
3. The first two years of medical school are formative, but grades aren’t that big of a deal (Step 1 however…)
5. Find your hobby. (writing ✔️)
6. Know when to stay away from neurotic people.
7. Read something unrelated to medicine everyday, i.e. no more JAMA over milk and cookies.
8. Know when to stop studying, sometimes it’s just not worth it.
I’m sorry if you were hoping for a big moment of awe and reflection, or perhaps an entry on how easy I thought medical school is. My big reflection, if anything, is that I need to do a better job at taking care of myself. While I’m getting by in medical school, I’m not utterly destroying my courses so it’d be arrogant for me to toss out advice. But, what I can say is be sure to find a place where you can speak, where you can admit your flaws and not be judged.
It can be hard and tiring, pretending like you have it all together =)
Stay tuned, the next post will be less about me and more about what I’m doing as a medical student with my summer.
Understandably, you may not be able to reach out to others, so if you’ve got some pent up emotions over medical school and no where to share them then just message me, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Your stories will never be used in my writings, if you want to share then fine and we can work that out, we can do so anonymously to the public (obviously, confidential to me).
Forgive the wine-ladened typos/errors!