When Life Gets in the Way

“Learn to balance life with medical school”.  I feel as if this is something that has been burned into our brains ever since orientation week. What does that really mean, though? We all chuckled at the thought of our Sundays actually being a day without studying.  We knew, even at the beginning, that our time is valuable and that there was probably no chance we would be comfortable with wasting 8 hours not focused on classwork. As the semester continued, however, I know I learned to make time for myself. It became easier to schedule “me time”; whether that was dinner with friends or a hike far away.  Balancing the stress of school has become easy to do with self-indulgent pleasures.

But, what about the not-so-pleasurable things of life? It’s amazing how the hurdles of everyday existence -- anything from sickness, to an ongoing heartache or even death of a loved one-- can be easily avoided with the distraction of medical school. At what point is our career path a crutch in avoiding the hard aspects of life? I have found, that for me, it is just as easy to say “I cannot focus on this problem right now because I need to focus on medical school” as it is to also say “I need to take a break from medical school and focus on myself”. Maybe there is something more than just balance. Trauma and Critical Care Surgeon, Dr. Jamie J. Coleman, says “My best advice is to stop thinking of work and life as ‘balance’ – that implies they are opposing forces and will only set you up to fail. Surgery does not stop my life and my life does not stop surgery. I am a better surgeon because I am a wife and mother. And, I am a better wife and mother because I am a surgeon”.  Even though this quote seems targeted to specifically mothers, I think it is a beautiful representation of how medicine can be blended into life. So, I am trying to burn a new saying into my head: “learn to complement medical school with life”. And, day by day, it gets easier.

-S, 2022