As I reflect on my life up to this point, I can retrospectively box it into distinct phases. In each box, my day-to-day routine, thoughts, and interactions with others were all vastly different. Currently, as a medical student deep into my second year of preclinical education, I can’t help but dwell in the seeming permanence of my current life-box. As the days turn into weeks doing the same routine composed mostly of studying, I find myself asking big questions: Is the end near? Am I truly living life? Is this what I want for myself? And even worse: Is it worth it?
There are days where I run an extra mile on the treadmill just so my Apple watch doesn’t think I am lazy for only hitting two hours of standing. What Apple doesn’t know is that I am a medical student trying my hardest to get through lectures and countless hours of studying each day and still maintain a glimmer of normal life. Even after the treadmill, after taking some time to just be, and after making dinner, there I remain — just studying. Life sometimes feels like I’m in a Rolex commercial: I am alive and coexisting with “normal” people. But I am living life at the same point in time and at the same place while these people come and go almost in a time-lapse. Throughout it all, there I am sitting with my computer and First Aid book — just studying. The endless weeks, months, years of filling our brains with the equally endless information can be so paradoxically draining. Something about all the hours sitting, gulping down $5 lattes at coffee shops, leaves my soul feeling empty.
While this year can be chalked up to just an endless blur of studying and hearing the word “step” at least three times a day, the end of June will be here soon enough and at last, we would have cleared our first major ‘step’ into the land of clinicals. We will still be studying because we will obviously still be medical students, but at least this learning will be more active with fellows, residents, and real-life non-standardized patients. Our Apple watches will finally stop alerting us to stand mid-lecture; instead, they might tell us to start counting our steps as we navigate through the hospitals and clinics that we will one day be working at.
While it is easy to feel stuck and unhappy in this current life-box, I recognize that we must take a few deep breaths and understand that this too shall pass. And that this did pass for all the physicians before us and will pass for all the physicians after us. And we will all get past this together. Thinking ahead can be extremely soothing and make us feel like we are on track, slowly inching our way mile-by-mile to the marathon finish line — especially because us medical students live in a delayed-gratification world. Nonetheless, looking toward future events can be a slippery slope as there will always undoubtedly be something better just on the horizon. In this way, forward-thinking can promote a lack of living in the present. So we must remember to celebrate our small victories in the here and now. After all, we have survived arguably the steepest learning curve of medical school and finally have enough background information to understand the mechanism of action of drugs and the histological presentations of the diseases in all the medical dramas on TV. We must hold onto these small victories like superglue in order to keep life in a positive balance.
I think you would be hard-pressed to find any medical student who would outwardly describe the journey we have embarked upon as easy. In regards to all this being worth it, I’d say it is too early to tell. It is tough for me to fully grasp the multi-faceted nature of this question at my current stage. But observing the example put forth by Creighton physicians, I think that our future has the capability to justify all the hard work that came before it.
Even on the worst days, the days where I am overwhelmed with feeling overwhelmed, stretched too thin, and feel incapable of continuing on, I close my eyes and imagine my life as a physician. I think not only of the lives I will be helping through direct patient care but also of all the joy I will bring to the present and future loved ones of my patients. There is technically no limit to the theoretical web of positive change each one of us will make during our careers. Even though this life-box has been exhausting and seemingly never-ending, the power in positive thinking has proved itself. I know that the goodness to come doesn’t necessarily erase the present and continuous struggle. Instead, the plight of M2 year has been quelled by purposefully celebrating the present moment while also anticipating the future.