I really do think about it as a past life sometimes. My life before 9 (what?!) weeks ago. It’s hard to describe to anyone not going through it, but I feel like a totally different person in some ways. I thought I was busy before, and most people in all walks of life would tell you that they are busy. Still, there’s a difference in not having enough time to do the things you want to do and not having enough time to do the things you NEED to do. Before medical school, I would pretty much agree with the statement “You have time for the things you make time for.” But now, I’m not sure. I ache to be able to run everyday. Believe me, I would make more time if I could. Some days, its just not feasible. More and more I find myself having to choose which “side” of myself to be “good to” that day.
For example, this weekend I made time to be a good aunt- and sacrificed a big chunk of my weekend to hug and hold and celebrate little girls (who are not that little anymore 🙁 ). It was worth it, believe me. Last Thursday I shut the books, and ran and lifted weights instead of eating dinner. I just wish that I was able to do all the things I have to do properly, instead of cutting some things in half or out of each day entirely. I can’t explain to you how exhausting it is to come up with time savers and then carry them out each day so that I can maybe get something else small accomplished. I brush my teeth in the shower while I’m rinsing my hair, or I check my email while I’m peeing, or I watch lectures online while sitting on the floor hanging up my clothes. Its tiring to try and save so much time.
I also used to be quite introspective. I don’t have time for silly things like self-reflection, and I feel like I’ve become a crappier writer because of it. I used to journal privately on paper AND blog. Now I’m lucky if I get to post on here each week. The only time I feel I actually get to reflect on my day and FEEL things is on my drive home, because my brain shuts off pretty quickly from the biological stuff. As with all things in medical school, feelings even have to be expressed in warp speed. It’s less tactful, said more hastily, and also said aloud to anyone that is around instead of to a few select people like I would’ve before. I’ll demand “Give me a hug, Macy!” whereas I would have expressed the emotions that led to me needing a hug. I also would have tried to sound more intelligent instead of juvenile. It’s like I’ve reverted back to that state of emotional frustration in childhood where you had feelings about what was going on, you just didn’t know how to say them.
Relationships in medical school move faster too, and its not a bad thing at all. Where it took me three years to grow into friendships with peers where there was mutual reliability and generosity, medical school classmates have so quickly become people that I not only study with, but people I rely on for support and hugs and food and empathy and commiseration and laughter and help. I would do all these same things for them in a heartbeat, and I am grateful to have this incredible network of the brightest, funniest people I have ever been amongst. A sense of belonging abounds and I guarantee you this whole thing would be approximately 19,000x harder if I didn’t enjoy going to see each and every one of them everyday.
Along with my difficulties in having time to really process all my feelings (not to mention the didactic information), the wind still gets knocked out of me sometimes. Little reminders of people and things I’ve had to leave behind, catch me off guard. Like a wound I thought was healed- a cold wind finds a fresh new facet of raw skin and it begins to sting a little again. It’s a little nostalgic and a little heartbreaking. It’s a lot of emotions to deal with and very few opportunities to have dealt with them. It feels like its been a week and yet it feels like it’s been years. It’s been hard to lose something so suddenly and yet it’s been heartbreakingly easy because of how busy I’m staying. Anytime I would usually pick up the phone, I pick up a PowerPoint copy instead. When I’m dissecting the hand on my cadaver, I think of the hands I used to hold. I’ll catch a glimpse of someone that looks similar, hear a blip of an old song and bam I feel the puncture wound in my heart, still gaping. I immediately stuff the hole with information about all the anatomical triangles in the neck and fetal circulation and move on, wondering when I’ll have time to deal with it. Does ignoring it make it better? No. But does it make it manageable? Yes- and manageable is what I have to work with for now.
I don’t know if you guys know much about elephants- but in captivity, they have certain needs to be met for their overall wellbeing. They need emotional enrichment-companions, offspring, a mate. They need physical enrichment– their diet, space to roam and play- and mental enrichment– toys, hidden treats, ropes, etc.
So obviously I am the elephant in this metaphor. My captivity is medical school, which tends to provide enough mental enrichment to satisfy my needs. (Understatement of the millennium). My physical enrichment is decent- all I ask is soft pretzels, copious amounts of caffeine, and a run to get me by. Emotional enrichment is hard to come by in my captivity. The only people that have a clue what’s going on are just as unstable in that department as me. It’s a struggle, and the general consensus among unmarried, single people in medical school is that we haven’t got a clue what we want and have to suppress everything til we figure it out later. My friend Macy and I joke about how ridiculous it is, but we tell each other to suppress all feelings and unresolved issues until Christmas break. We young medical students are in a fragile place. Capable of imploding at any moment.
The fact is- I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not the only one relying on myself to know this material anymore. The thought is sobering, but my patients need me to learn about their parietal cell Hydrogen pump in the stomach too.
So things have to be sacrificed.
I won’t sacrifice my studies because I worked too hard to get here. This was the dream all along. I’m not learning this to maybe get to do what I want- if I can get in- anymore. I’m in! I’m learning now for all of my future patients.
I’m extremely task driven anyway, so I’m still getting by based on making those “check marks” on my everlasting to do list.
And I won’t sacrifice my physical health. I need sleep and nourishment and running or I will not make it.
So some things are gonna be benched for a while, and sometimes I think its a good thing- to stay busy. Time heals all wounds, right? For right now, that means I’m going to do what I can to keep myself afloat with thoughts about anatomy until I accidentally happen upon the remnants that make me ache a little. I will swallow the lump in my throat and keep going. Old habits die hard, and I’m going to miss some things. Sometimes I think I always will. But I don’t have a choice.
I have to make it through, with or without my past life.
I knew all this was coming, when I started medical school. I knew it would be hard. It really is a rewarding and satisfying kind of hard, though, and I wouldn’t trade my medical school experience for anything. A lot of days I’ll come home at midnight and my dad will ask about the day. Exhausted, I sigh and say, “So so hard” and he says, “So you’re loving it, huh?” And really, it exactly expresses how I feel about all the hard work I do each day. Its hard but I love it. I’m so extremely lucky to be here, to be able to learn, have fun and yes, study all day and all night.
But I miss what I used to love, simply because it was once something that I used to love.