To myself, an MS1, one year ago,
You were worried the year would be difficult, you didn’t know how to live months on end without seeing or hugging family and didn’t know how you would meet and talk to 230 people in your class (and no, you still haven’t, but at least you might know 70%).
Adjusting takes time for you, and that’s okay. Some of your classmates jump right in at a sprint, and you’re at a jog, trying to manage coursework and social life and living by yourself. But remember, your “finish” line is not the same as theirs and neither was the start. Each of your classmates has their own skills and experiences they bring with them into medical school, and each has their own goals. You are not racing them, though at times it might feel that way.
You are all creating your own paths, discovering or maintaining what is important to you and to the career you envision. Do what is needed, do what is wanted and if you can, pick where you want your valuable time to go. Everyone will have their own priorities. You value your veggies (healthy meals). You value reflective time, pen in hand. You value each walk you take under the sun, you value laughter with your friends, you value studying with them and you cannot measure these values against the other ones that are sometimes labeled as tasks — although you only ever want to do things that spur on passion and learning. Yes, you must do research, but do the research with curiosity and joy. Yes, you are seemingly always volunteering your time, but you are volunteering with purpose; each project you are involved in is meaningful to you and you hope to others. At your school, there are at least 100 student organizations. So many options — so many you would have liked to be a part of — which are doing great things for the students and the community. But you cannot do everything. You cannot do everything.
Let your class make an impact together. You make your impact, your contribution — choose a few passions, ones that align with your values and goals, that may fit or mesh with your studies and self-care. Remember what fills your cup. What brings you excitement. Your extracurriculars can function this way too. Make time for this rest — it is essential.
Remember your health. Thank your mind and body. They deserve your attention as well. You have value. Your activities are secondary to this.
Remember all those who have passed through this path you’re on — they have done it, and you will too.
There will always be more information, and this information may evolve and change. It is okay to focus on bigger pictures and problem solving. It is okay to rest, to take breaks. You will be okay.
You will not be alone on this journey. You will meet many different people along the way, and you will meet fellow companions and friends who will make your days brighter.
This first year there will be a lot of adjustment. Your life will change. You will learn more about yourself. You will change.
And each year there will be new challenges.
Strive to enjoy each day that comes and goes — it is bittersweet that these times will not last.
Do not get caught up in classmates’ complaints and anxieties. They do not serve a purpose. Your exams will pass, and any stress in medical school will become only a memory.
Make an effort to enjoy the learning!
Cultivate a wide perspective — of what matters for your career and your life, of what you’re working towards. It is helpful to talk to upperclassmen and doctors (especially alumni from your school) and to see patients at your school’s free clinic to remind you of this. In medicine, you will be the one patients trust with their health and their lives and the person they share their stories with.
You are more than capable of facing the challenges ahead.
Your future self, now as an MS2