So, a lot of med student blogs that I have been reading, written by the pre-clerkship lot (year 1 and 2) seem to have been focusing on burnout and feeling overwhelmed and mentally tired. Now, I can’t say that some of those things don’t ring true for me as well. The week before the exam we had last Friday, and the apathy I felt towards that exam were certainly some form of my feeling that I’d just about had enough. I really couldn’t make myself care about that exam. I’d come home at noon and not start studying until 4 if I was lucky, something drastically different from my 12 hour a day cram week of the first exam where I woke up early and stuck straight to my study plan.
Passed that exam by the way 🙂
But yeah, I don’t think I’m feeling burnt out. I’m not feeling depressed, or more tired than usual, or wondering why the heck I spent so much time and effort getting into medical school. I’m not regretting my life choices or wishing I’d made other ones, or just feeling helpless or hopeless. I do feel tired, and out of shape, and like I don’t want to go back to the gym, and that it’d be nice if I didn’t have to get up at 7 am 5 days a week.
I feel content.
Perhaps, I think I might even feel happy. But happiness is an emotion that can be fleeting, while contentment is it’s older relative, a mood, that is stable and sticks around in your bones and settles there. You can complain about an exam, or feel tired and fat, but still be content in that place deep inside of you.
That’s how I feel.
We had this Christmas party on the 5th after the exam…well, to be fair, we actually had two – a secret santa party at one of the campus bars right after the exam and one at a cafe later that night. And I went to both, something that 18 year old me probably would have viewed as a big milestone, but that was ordinary to 24 year old me, and I had a great time. For my secret santa gift I received a beautiful leather bound journal for writing and some screech chocolates (that my dad will love) and a lovely note that came with it explaining both gifts. The note said that the chocolates were a newfie taste for a mainlander, which was very thoughtful. However it was the reason behind the journal that brightened my whole day. It said that the journal was for me because I’d written our interview video script and that they (my secret santa) wanted me to know how much they thought of my talent and how much they had appreciated the work I’d done, and to make sure that I never let myself squander that talent.
I’m not particularly good at being social, or finding a place in a social setting. I don’t make friends easily, and haven’t had a best friend since mine moved to New Jersey when I was in grade 3. And yet, I’ve found a place here, in the MUN Med Class of 2018. The school I didn’t even consider a possibility, because they took 5 students in the category I qualified for, and why would they ever take me?
Somehow, I’ve carved out a little place for myself in the social tapestry here, with a med best friend who eats Chinese with me after exams and has convinced me that dresses actually are great (I have gone from owning 2 to about 10, and it is her fault and I’m sticking to that 😉 ) to having people in my class to play a class world of minecraft with, to just having people who appreciate me for me. I think, maybe, though I’ve no scientific evidence to back it up, that’s what being content might be. And though I have no hard evidence to back up my assertion, I do have this anecdote (psych majors represent).
The second party I went to that night was more of a dressy fair, so I got all dolled up in a red dress, with some red lipstick and heels. I’ve recently died my hair blonde (the one colour my mother told me never to do – she was also against red lipstick) and although I mentioned I’ve been feeling really out of shape (because I am actually out of shape) I figured it’d be fun to dress up and have a good time.
And I did. I loved it. I socialized, chatted with friends, classmates, their significant others. Took silly photos at the photo booth and more formal ones with friends. And there was one picture I sent to my parents, who wanted to see what my dress looked like (that was particularly flattering, I might add as a disclaimer, because there were ones that were less so). But my mom, and dad, and especially my aunt all said one thing looking at the picture – “They’d never seen me look happier.”
And that, I think, is my evidence. Because I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in that picture – I’m just smiling, posing with friends, and yet, perhaps 6 hours after an exam and still a bit groggy from the nap I took, I look more radiantly happy than I ever have in any professional shot or candid one, slotted in between friends, arm to arm, smiling. A metaphor for my life right now if ever there was one.
How’s that for a picture being worth more than a thousand words? 🙂
So yeah, I suppose the point of my ramblings is this – to all the pre-meds and pre-clerkship med students feeling burnt out and depressed, I say this. I obviously can’t speak to your lives, and everything that is happening in them, but I can say this; find a place for yourself in wherever you are. Wiggle in gently, until no one can tell you weren’t always there, and lean on that support. I’ve got a whole history of being a loner, the person who stood by the wall at the dance and never joined in because of fear, and I can tell you – this is so much better, and better for you 🙂
I can say this: I really love being content.