Today was my first bad day at medical school.
Day 10 is when it hit me. I could feel this uneasy feeling swirling around inside of me, drifting up in waves but settling back down again. But today, I felt deflated. My energy was gone, my spirit had extinguished, and the only thing that allowed me to last until 7pm at the school was gummy sharks, wheat thins, and lead weight of anxiety about our quickly approaching first exam.
After reflecting about my actions and patterns this week, it’s no wonder I’m feeling the burnout. I have been going to bed around 11pm (if not later), waking up at 5am, and then studying for 8+ hours of the day (outside of class time). I haven’t made the time to go to the gym, go to the yoga class I enrolled in, or spend 20 minutes talking on the phone with a friend. I have focused 100% of my time and energy on studying. This is not realistic, sustainable, or efficient.
I need to dig back down to the basic study habits that I have engrained for 5 years, and they have gotten me this far:
-Getting at least 7 hours of sleep.
-Finding the time to work out every day.
-Doing things that make me happy and relieve stress.
My sister phrased it perfectly: you are not living real life. You may be able to do this for a few weeks or maybe a few months, but you can’t live your life in a hole studying for 4 years of medical school. You need to have a life. You need to have balance when you study for boards, when you are a resident, and when you are a doctor.
“Before you were even born, a circle was drawn in the sand exactly where you are standing.”
I am so inspired.
Last year, I shadowed an anesthesiologist who made a lasting impression on me, and truly sparked a fire in me to pursue surgery after exposing me to an operating room for the first time. Today, she took me and two of my classmates out to lunch. All three of us shadowed her during undergrad, and all three of us were accepted to medical school. She spoke of her struggle to find a specialty that suited her best and reminded us that it’s a process. It doesn’t have to happen right away, and you can change your mind along the way. The important thing is to keep assessing your situation and asking yourself, “Am I happy?” If you’re not, then find a way to fix it. At the end of our time together, she gave us one last parting token of advice:
“Find at least one thing that you like in every patient.”
Then after class was over, I went to the first journal reading for the new Global Surgery and Anesthesia club. In just two hours I was impacted so profoundly. Only four medical students showed up to the meeting (not including the club president), and yet a renowned global surgeon and 3 immensely busy surgery residents devoted their golden time to speak with us. As I sat in this surgeons house, I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful, eclectic structures and artwork lining his rooms. His eyes glossed over as he recounted buying a canvas from a man who painted only with his hands, or when he beamed with delight while admiring a massive, vibrant painting that one of his students abroad painted him.
The realm of global health and surgery is so expansively foreign to me. The air was filled with names of researchers, doctors, organizations, and jargon that I let swirl around me, immersing myself in this novel field that somehow felt like home. I felt a feeling of… permanence. A sense of belonging, as if I have been building upon this theme in a past life. They spoke of the revolution that is slowly emerging – the sudden recognition of the need for global surgery initiative – and I couldn’t help but feel like this is my window of opportunity that is opening before me.
And yet, I can’t help but marvel in wonder at the prestige and influence of these people creating revolutionary changes – and I wonder – how did they learn all of that? There is no way someone like me, coming from no medical background and poor understanding of health care, could ever grasp the system mechanics and politics and endless processes that all cohesively must occur in order to produce change.
Jon Shinshu Buddhism has the symbol of a Wisteria flower – my new favorite. It is a hanging bushel of threaded blossoms drooping down ‘in humility and compassion’, as the Buddhists see it. Not only did I discover my new favorite flower, but also My new goal destination: Ashikaga Flower Park in Ashikaga, Japan:
I will go here someday.
A few of my favorite words from the Sunday Buddhist service:
It’s Friday, everyone! I officially made it through my second week of medical school (one week of actual course work). Here’s what I have learned so far:
- Make friends. It makes the entire experience so much better. When you start integrating yourself into a group of people that are on this journey with you, you become a team. You are able to rely on them for support and reassurance, and they offer perspectives and strategies that can be really helpful to you.
- You know that phrase , “Medical school is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant?” During your first week, you can get pretty hydrated pretty quick. During undergrad, you have windows of time to review the material before the next class and you can study small amounts each day to stay afloat with all of the given information. In medical school, reviewing and grasping the material isn’t so cut and dry. For example, as the professor quickly describes the biochemistry of an epithelium cell, he may mention the CDFR receptor and it’s role in.. -– wait what is the critical other ion channel it influences? Do I need to remember that? Hey, did you hear what he – Onto the next slide. And so on and so forth. The key is, there’s a lot of information, so you need to quickly distinguish what is relevant and what you choose to study. There’s simply no way to learn it all (By the 2nd day of courses, just 1 of my 6 courses covered half a textbook.)
- You can only do the best that you can do. When material seems like it’s not sticking, I remind myself that I am doing my part – I am putting in the hours of studying. And that really is the best that I can do. So even though I might not understand and remember the material the first time, repetition is key. Even if I feel like I am not learning the material as quickly or thoroughly as I might like to, I’m learning to be patient.
- You will hear older students say that it’s fine to wear jeans and casual clothes to dress. For me, I love dressing up for class! I pick out cute, pressed slacks and a sleek button up, or a silky business dress, and I feel like a million bucks! I know it sounds lame, but these four years are going to fly by. So why not squeeze the most out of them and enjoy dressing up a bit and flaunting your medical school badge that you earned?!
- I will be dedicating an entire blog post to this shortly, but every day I am so grateful to have made it to where I am! A few nights ago I was studying at school when one of my peers looked up and said, “We’re here. We made it. We are sitting in seats that 6,000 other applicants would die for.” For five years I yearned and prayed for this seat in my medical school class, and I’m here! So medical school can throw whatever they can at me! I knew it would be tough, but I truly didn’t expect to be this overwhelmingly happy! This is my dream – I love my school, I love my classmates, I love learning about the body.I love being a medical student.
To celebrate the completion of our first orientation week, some classmates and I got together for a ‘family’ BBQ! The food was delicious (I practically had to be rolled to my car!) and my abs hurt from laughing so hard! Between Laura saying she was “less hospitable than a desert”, and joking about how Reeks’ had a full-scale freakout about her dog getting botulism, I realized that for the first time in my life I instantly clicked with these people. We are hoping to have an MSI/MSII party this Saturday to celebrate the completion of our first real week – with course work!
Today was my first day of medical school. My excitement was jumbled with nerves, but once I stepped into the room with my 121 new classmates, I felt at home. As the dean of admissions was giving his presentation, handing us off to student affairs, my chest swelled with pride and I held a few tears back when he said, “Welcome to your new family.”
I am so excited to be on this journey, and I can’t wait to experience everything medical school has to offer (both the good and the bad). Next on my list: survive orientation week, finish buying my school supplies, cook and prepare my meals for next week, get into a consistent gym schedule, and figure out the bus routes!
“If you do not stop trying, you can never fail.”
Last night I saw a blazing stallion
Running through the fields of Babylon
His dark mane on fire
Singing of a spiritual empire
I have learned not to settle. I have learned to cut things immediately when needed, instead of my former habit of dragging it out, thinking it might go somewhere. Now, when I see red flags, I take action. I know what I want.