Taking advantage of this week’s Friday Favorites to get a little bit more personal.
My boyfriend recently asked me what my favorite part of 2017 was and I had to think for a second. I defaulted to answering that choosing my specialty was the best part but it left me unsatisfied. I think Aji over at Stilettos + Stethoscopes said it best – it was equal parts trial and tribulation. A lot of successes but a lot of struggles as well.
My roles as student, daughter, friend, and girlfriend were all challenged repeatedly throughout the year. It would be nice to write about how I handled all of it with grace but the reality is that I fumbled through it and constantly second guessed myself. Do I know enough for the OR cases that are going the next day? Should I delete my blog/Instagram account in fear that residents or attendings will see it? When was the last time I called my brother to see how he’s doing? What kind of doctor am I going to be in the future?
With 2018 slowly approaching, and with it the craziness of audition rotations and residency applications, I’ll be honest and say I’m incredibly nervous. But after some time reflecting on this past year I realized that everything ended up working out: my clinical evaluations were great, I was able to find an incredible mentor in research, my tribe could not have been more supportive, and my blog is slowly getting there. Of course, this was not without a lot of late night breakdowns and moments of self doubt, but I’m grateful to be able to say that 2017 ended up being fine.
And so I’m sharing some reminders and lessons that 2017 has taught me, in hopes of making 2018 not just fine but amazing.
- Speak up and tell people what you want. Looking for research? Ask around if attendings or residents need help (they usually do). Want to shadow? Call offices and ask. Trying to practice your knot tying? Ask a resident or fourth year to teach you. I’ve found that people are usually more than willing to help out, but you have to make it known that you want it.
- Re-evaluate your goals every few months. I started third year thinking I wanted to do residency in California. Two months apart from my friends and family, I knew I needed to match in the NorthEast. Check in with yourself every once in a while and see if your vision for your future has changed.
- Figure out what will make a bad day, better. It’s necessary to decompress and take your mind off what happened, so having a few ideas ready is always best. For me, it’s spending a few more minutes during my nighttime skincare routine or getting ready to go out and try a new restaurant.
- Be selective with your tribe.
- Someone who believes in you, especially when you don’t.
- Someone who reminds you of how badly you wanted this and how far you’ve come.
- Someone who models your future career/life.
- Someone who is willing to advocate on your behalf.
- Someone who is able to understand what you’re going through.
- Find a way to keep everything organized. I used to bullet journal but stopped because I found it too cumbersome. Nowadays I keep two lists: a digital one for random things that pop in my head, like buying detergent, and a physical one in a hardcover book for more important and multi-step items, such as editing my CV. I also recently purchased a simple planner with the months laid out, in order to better visualize everything coming up.
- Call your parents. Seriously. Even if you’re feeling crunched for time because you have to study or prepare a presentation, call them. If they’re like mine, they miss you and want to make sure you’re okay (and that you have enough food to eat).
- Know your worth and what you’ve accomplished. As you can tell from above, self doubt is a big part of my thinking and it can be ruthless. Instead of motivating me, it only makes me feel guilty and snowballs my thoughts into a mess of why-am-I-even-in-medical-school. Remind yourself of all of your achievements and positives. Some people like to use motivation quotes or post-its with daily affirmations, which are all great ideas! I’ve had the most success with an album in my phone containing screenshots of positive comments from individuals I look up to.
- Go the extra step. Arrive early in the hospital and stay late. Offer help to everyone around you. Read up on interesting cases and offer to write up case reports. Cook dinner for your significant other when you have time. Surprise your parents with a visit! But at the same time…
- Be kind to yourself. I think the ideal of “having it all” is an incredibly lofty goal is that is almost impossible to accomplish. It sets unrealistic standards, not to mention my definition of “all” is likely different from yours. /end rant. Understand that you’re trying to your best and that you’ll get to where you want to be, as long as you keep working hard and trying. Break down goals into smaller pieces that are achievable, and slowly work from there.
That last one is my biggest lesson and resolution for 2018. No matter what it may bring, I hope that I will always be kind to myself. Sending you guys love and best wishes for the new year! Thanks for reading 🙂
Finally, since this is a Favorites post, here are some of my favorite memories in 2017:
- Advice from an attending surgeon reminding a fellow female classmate and me to always be assertive and stand up for ourselves, especially as women who want to pursue surgery.
- The opportunity to meet with individuals I’ve connected over Instagram:
coffeeandanatomy, swatchesandstethoscopes (twice!), stilettosplusstethoscopes, dr.cusimano. I adore you all!
- Spending a week with my parents, boyfriend, and brother in the Dominican Republic.
- Completing Step 2 CK and CS, and officially being finished with exams in medical school.
- Celebrating the weddings of my college best friends.
- The chance to visit California twice!
- Having medical school friends get together (potentially the last time ever!) for a stereotypical cabin weekend filled with s’mores and board games.
- Moving back in with my boyfriend after a year of long-distance.
- And of course, deciding to become a surgeon.