Lessons From Medical School

I write this post on my last day at Auckland hospital. My last day of medical school. 6 years later… The most significant period of my life to date, has ended. It’s a real milestone. How do I feel…?

Meh.

It actually doesn’t feel particularly big or important. Because in 2 weeks, I’m back in hospital doing similar things to what I was doing this year, but getting paid for it, and not having the luxury of leaving work early, ever.

But I guess it is a big deal. 6 years of work I put in. It all feels a bit surreal. I definitely do not feel like a doctor yet. I doubt I will until I have my first ward call or unwell patient that I (hopefully) manage properly.

But then what does today mean? I think I should take this opportunity to look back and think about what I’ve learnt from medical school.

My 1st year – biomed. My pre-med year was a pretty significant year for me. I was straight out of highschool and working harder than I ever had in my school days to achieve a single goal – entrance into medical school. Once achieved, I had felt amazing about myself. I thought, hey I guess I do have the potential to do well in things if I work hard enough. During this year, I had made sure I had zero distractions.

My 2nd and 3rd year: Not working so hard on academia itself. Trying to learn what medicine was all about and where I fit in and what my skills were. Several times cut down by other students and taking several hits to my self-esteem. I learnt that theory was something I had major issues with. My knowledge needed to grow.

My 4th year: People in the workplace, people I know, people I didn’t know, people, people, people. I found I was quite naive. So very naive. Hospital hits you hard. But I didn’t realise until much later that my expectations of myself were not the expectations others had of me, and what level I was supposed to be functioning at. That made things way harder. I expected too much of myself. And crashed down. I also found that you cannot make friends wherever you go. Especially not at university or work. There will be people who you meet who will be nice, but they don’t know you. They’ve come along too late in your life to really understand what you’re all about. Don’t get too comfortable. It’s not a good idea. And with work, they are not your friends regardless of what you do. They are smiling and asking about your weekend because they need to work together with you in the most tolerable way possible. Do not think any more of it. It’ll only disappoint you.

My 5th year: Began to focus back on myself. Less on others. More reflecting, more skill developing, I found certain types of people and certain parts of medicine and the hospital do not agree with me. Accepting that I don’t know everything in medicine, and I never will. Even if I’ve revised it several times, and will not retain everything forever. I just have to keep revising and reminding myself of the knowledge I have and learn more at every opportunity. People tried cutting me down then too. But self focus and reflection is a powerful thing. Your skills are your skills and no one else’s. You’ve got yours that WILL work for you. I promise. My strengths, and my discovery of the love I have for gastroenterology. I also found I have great empathy towards patients apparently.

My 6th and final year: Things started to make more sense. More comfortable around the hospital and interacting with consultants. The confidence that comes with being needed and having a role. Not only being aware of strengths and weaknesses, but being able to use them to get things done as well as knowing what to do to fill the gaps. Plans needing to be made, looking ahead. Still many disappointments and nothing is certain, but accepting that and going with it anyway, is still pretty good.

Further lessons:
1. Never let anyone know that they get to you.
2. You could do your absolute best in everything, but still come up short and have bad things happen. Accept it.
3. Do not try to please everyone. No point. Doesn’t work. Regardless of what you do, people will still not understand you or trust your efforts.
4. Trust you. As you’re all you’ve got.

So looking at this, I guess medical school has been a significant part in teaching me about myself and how I should move forward.

Oh of course I also learnt medicine itself. xD But that’s more of an ongoing learning forever. I have to accept that.

And that’s my reflection over the last 6 years. It’s a brief one of course. More happened in these last few years than I can write about in one blog.

And many more to come when I start working in 2 weeks. There’s also my graduation next week which I will update on.

So for the last time, here is my med school. A student for 6 years and never again. I spent a little while sitting in front of it and reminiscing on this day. I’m on to bigger, better and older things!

Snapchat-1608802880

 

I Fear..

I was having a conversation with someone I know about fears. This person made a comment that I was quite cynical about things (well duh). She then told me her biggest fear was ending up alone. Which I found a bit cliche really.

She asked me what my biggest fear was. I’m not that close with this girl so of course I didn’t tell her the truth. I gave her an equally cliche feminist answer “I fear being stifled” or something to that effect. If she had known me better, she would have known I am not a feminist and I was lying. But no matter. She didn’t realise, and I moved on.

But I want to talk about it on here. Mostly because I know you guys won’t judge me and it doesn’t affect me much if you do.

I’d have to say in my small amount of life experience in 23 years, I had feared the dark when I was very young. Later on I feared losing the people closest to me.

Now I’d say my biggest fear is ending up with someone, or being surrounded by several someones who do not understand me and do not even like me. The dark doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve said people bother me. It’s a lot to do with me though, I’m sure of that because people always tell me “the world is perceived in your image” which loosely translates to you’ll only get what you want to get. If I’m a bit weird, I’ll be surrounded by people whom I find weird. And that’s true. I tell people openly that I don’t like people for too long, (though there are exceptions), that I can’t put up with certain traits people have, and I’m certain everyone I know has disappointed me in some way.

Everyone is aware of these things to a certain extent I suppose, but I think it’s a bit supercharged in me. And here’s where the problem is.

The 20s theme arises again. Lately people have been telling me a lot about how I should be in a relationship or I should look forward to getting married, etc. I wish I could tell them all to collectively get lost. But I’m a decent person and so I nod politely.

I’ve grown up in a system where families decide who you end up with. Sounds primitve does it not? “arranged marriage” is what they used to call it. It’s probably hard for some of you to imagine. It’s not exactly marrying a total stranger like they show in movies though. You know them to a certain extent, but it’s more like here’s a person, this is their job, this is what they look like, their family and where they live. Sound okay? Let’s give it a go.

Nope. Anope. ANOPE.

I cannot accept this. A person’s personality matters so much to me. And the little things about them. This system means you could end up with a total slob who never spring cleans. And you wouldn’t know until a few months of already being married. I would go insane.

My family tells me it’s the “right way” though. And divorce rates are much lower with this system. Um actually that’s because society would still shun you if you left your spouse. Yeah that’s still a real thing.

But it’s more than that. I don’t want someone to “put up” with me. I would hate that. I want a person to genuinely like things about me enough to outweigh my annoying features. How could you do that from reading about me on a profile?? It makes no sense.

I suppose you’re wondering why I don’t just start dating.

Because that’s frowned upon too. Even more primitive. But also, I don’t believe in dating either. Because I think you can never know a person completely regardless of how long you’ve known them before you get married.

Can you see my rock and hard place? I couldn’t deal with the drama that would ensue if I decided to find someone on my own. Both with my family and possible heartbreak of dating someone who isn’t right. But I’m crippled with fear of ending up like every married couple I know hating each other and reminding each other of the mistake they made every day.

My only hope is that someone perfect magically comes along and falls in love with me.

Yeah right. Why don’t I just book my flying pig now too? >__>

I don’t want to have to doubt how much someone cares about me. Or if they’re just in it because they have to be. That’s a horrible feeling. And that’s my biggest fear.

In view of all of this, I am literally so much better on my own.

The 20s

Sometimes I think that being in your 20s is a very frustrating time in life. I mean, I have no frame of reference, but I just think it’s hard to be in your 20s.

When you’re 20 whatever, it’s a rather crucial point in life. You either have a lot of ideas of things you wanna do and places you wanna go but are frustrated because you can’t just get all those things done straight away. It takes time, money and freedom. Which very few people have if they’re still in uni or just starting out in a job they know isn’t where they want to ultimately end up.

Or you don’t have any sense of direction and no real plans because you’re sort of stuck in a position with multiple factors in limbo and are equally frustrated.

I mean. Career, future, friends, family, relationships, etc etc etc. It all starts now-ish.

And nothing makes it worse like when relatives or family friends ask you what your “plans” are.

I hate that question. Not because I don’t have any plans, but more because it’s annoying that they think I’m going to sit there and explain each bullet point of my 10 year plan that I have taped to the wall of my room or something. I don’t have anything like that by the way. But I don’t know why people think I do.

The expectations are high and things are changing rapidly. I remember less and less of my school days. The people especially. Some are gone. I have no idea where. Some are in the same situation as me, some are living large by travelling, etc. Some have turned into wild people (If you know what I mean). But we’re all the same age basically.

Oh God and some people are getting married. Which I suppose doesn’t mean much. Like I’m not going to over hype marriage like it is an achievement. If you found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with (hopefully), that’s great for you!  But that’s another expectation when you’re in your 20s. Start thinking about “settling down” (whatever that means). I think that’s an awful expectation. Like it is hard enough to work with some people in a professional sense let alone like them enough to talk to them outside of professional arena. I mean, if that’s how it is in a professional sense, how on earth are you meant to find someone likeable in general? I assume this is why we have things like Tinder these days. Like I literally have 4 people whose company I enjoy. Of course that might just be me. Because I hear that quite a few people my age are engaged, planning their weddings, deciding honeymoon locations and where they should work next year so that it best works with their wedding plans.

How weird is that? Well maybe it’s not weird. Maybe it’s normal. I wouldn’t know.

And that’s another thing when you’re in your 20s. You’re just starting to work. And everything that goes with that is a big shock. Working with others, the hours, the demands, etc. It’s all overwhelming. But also, you start to learn a whole bunch of things like learning when to say what, who to say it to, how to carry yourself, and you feel like you can do a lot, but you just can’t.

Where am I? I am frustrated. I sort of have ideas of things I would like to do. But no way of executing them any time soon. I’m still in uni. I have a huge student loan piling up. I have my parents to look after. My dad had started working when he was younger than me. He still is. I’d like to get him to retire. I would like to move. But little idea or potential of that with all the other plans. Sometimes I wonder if I’m too idle. Maybe I should take on extra things. Sometimes I envy those people who have done all of it and have their lives sorted in their 20s. Eughhhhhhh.

What am I doing everyday? the things that need to be done. Waking up, going to work, studying, watching videos, talking, and stressing. I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen. But of course it won’t for a while.

How am I supposed to deal with this frustration? I wish I could fast forward this messy part of my life. And skip to the part where things fall into place and everything will hopefully be okay.

Yeah. And I also want Santa Claus to be real.

Wishful thinking is not a good idea apparently. I’m basically doing each day as it comes. But meh. There’s always the underlying frustration of being stuck. It’s probably not eternal. But it is worrying how much might be different when I come out of it.

This isn’t to say I’m miserable. There are a lot of great things happening for me which I am always grateful for. But yeah. This is a weird time period for me. I guess I’m dealing with it by writing on here. 

Kinda helps. 

 

Future

So. Today was my oficial last day of this year at uni. We even had our orientation for the final year of med school. 

Man. Was it weird.

Because I’ll tell you why… Even though you didn’t ask.

For the first time in ages, all 244 of my classmates were in the same lecture theatre together. It was so packed that I couldn’t find a seat. And what was more, I still didn’t recognise all of them. It’s been 5 years and yet there are people in my year group that I do not know. And probably will never know. Because today was the last time we were all going to be in the same room together other than our graduation at the end of next year. Who knows what’ll happen by then. 

And my friends, well, the few med students I consider myself close-ish to, I wouldn’t be seeing as much of anymore. They are either at different hospitals altogether next year, or are on different rotations than me. Which means there’s very little time to meet up with them and discuss life. Today was the last day I would see them in a while. Of course, the ones I’m really close to, I would make an effort to keep in touch and catch up with. But then again, who knows what’ll happen.

What a melancholy thought.

And then, we had several lectures about the year after next year. First year house officers fresh out of medical school. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do??

This is where things got weird for me. By the middle of next year,  everyone has to apply to the hospitals they want to work at in their pgy1 year. Eugh. Too much pressure. Up until recently, I was an obsessive future planning person. I always had goals, lists, etc. But now, I don’t bother anymore. What’s the point of making plans that aren’t really going to work out? 

Well anyway. There are 20 hospitals across New Zealand that you may work at. Only 3 of them are in my home city of Auckland. So you’d think naturally, I’d want to pick one of them, right?

Well actually, no. 

I’ve been to all 3 hospitals in the last two years. And now. I want out.

I can’t really explain it. But events from the last 2 years have really made me think that I need to get out of Auckland. Auckland is home. It’s the only place in NZ that I feel attached to. And that is familiar. But the hospitals in Auckland have really made me want to forget all that other stuff and move on. 

I’m the kind of person that remembers things vividly. So a place where significant things took place, will always remind me of those things. It will invoke certain feelings. I’m not proud of that. I wish my mind wasn’t like that. But it is. 

Back in 4th year, I was in middlemore hospital. I’ve got to say that there isn’t a single part of that hospital that I have not cried or felt lonely in. Of course it may have been because it was a difficult year in general, but even so. I get the feeling it has this innate negative energy. 

This year I spent a lot of time at northshore hospital. I’ve never felt so scrutinised and judged so harshly in my life as I had been by people during my time at northshore. There are still people there I hope I never have to see again. 

And then there’s Auckland city hospital. I’ve not had any horrific experiences there as of yet. Which is why I’ve chosen to complete my final year at Auckland city hospital. But even so, it’s not a fantastic place to be. 

The environment you’re in can have a significant impact on your outlook and your mental well-being. Of course I am training to be a professional and I should learn to deal with such things and not run away from issues, but to be honest, no one should have to feel trapped in a place just because it’s in their job description. 

I also want to be by myself. If I continue to stay in Auckland, I will invariably be around the same people I have been around the past few years. And I just can’t tolerate working with people who once looked down on me or pitied me, etc. 

I know this may sound unbelievably childish, pathetic, etc. But I just think that everyone should have the chance to choose a comfortable environment to work in. Not that I think moving out of Auckland is going to solve all my problems and I’ll be happy etc. Because every place has its negativities. But atleast I know what it is I want to get away from. 

But hey. This is a whole year away. Who knows what’ll happen.

And here’s a picture of Mt. Taranaki. A mountain on the west coast of the North island. 

There’s no reason this picture is here other than to project feelings of calm as the rest of this post is pretty melancholy. And because I took it recently and I think it’s a nice photo. 

I Wish…

Today I was on the train back from work as my car was not available. And the only reason I say that is because I dislike being on the train. I don’t know about your part of the world, but in mine, the train is full of weird strangers that tend to start conversations about their fishing trips and recently deceased dogs. But also, the train is a place for noisy high school kids. Not my favourite mode of transport.

So today, while on the train, a couple of kids (from my high school, funnily) sat in the seat opposite me and started having a very loud conversation. After groaning inwardly that it’s Christmas break and so these kids should NOT be on my train, I tried unsuccessfully to tune them out. It seems Tom was trying to convince Isaac to come on year 12 camp with him in the new school year. “Dude it’s in March. We get to do kayaking this time” Tom said. A bemused Isaac replied “Yeah but it’s AS this year. My sister said it’s really hard. And we get points for uni from this year too”. For a moment I stared at Isaac. I thought to myself, when did I have such trivial worries? In the next instant I wanted to shake him.

To miss out on school camp with friends, because you’re worried about not doing well in Cambridge AS in year 12? At that moment I couldn’t imagine anything more ridiculous. Then I remembered how I was at that age. I had skipped a year at high school and was really intent on planning out my med school dream. But I thought about what I gave up in doing that. I had the sense to go to year 12 camp on persuasion by my friends.So thank goodness for that. But I did opt out of being part of the school play with my friends to “focus” on AS. And I remembered a lot of things from high school. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember my grades in AS. It just didn’t matter. Yes I ended up getting enough points for uni entrance, but beyond that, the actual scores were nothing for me. I mean, I hadn’t ever failed anything, but I was no A+ student either. Not even close. But at this point, no one cares about that. I wanted to tell this kid that.

When in year 12, I thought I’d get enough points to get into uni, do extremely well and get into med, then be a star pupil in med school and find the one specialisation I would excel at and pursue it and end up in my own hospital one day. ¬†Eugh. Even typing that out sounds so childish.

I realised my current position. I have had an incredibly awful year going through feeling like I was a failure. Everyone around me had a plan of what they wanted to do for a specialisation and were taking up research projects in that field etc. I felt hideously unprepared and felt like an oddball for not having a plan. And I’m no A+ med student either. So the high school “plan” is effectively gone.

It occured to me though, that I am 21. Not 31, and not 41. I’m still in med school. I’m still only a 4th year. There are doctors I met, in, or nearly in their 30s who aren’t sure of what specialisation they want to go into. But they’re not losers. I respect all of them as doctors and am sure they’ll do well in whatever they do end up choosing. They don’t seem to be panicking about their futures. So why am I? Let’s face it. Effectively I’m stuck in med school for the next two years. So no “planning” is going to change that at all. And when so much can change so easily – within a year, within a day, is there really any point stressing about a plan that may not even happen? I didn’t think so. Who’s to say the others will have their plans work out? Not that I’m wishing they don’t, but everything is in flux.

A classmate of mine is taking a year off med school to tour Europe. While me and some other classmates agreed we didn’t want to do that at this stage, I kind of envied her. What would it be like to care so little about the future? While I am so focused on completing my degree with no distractions, she’s doing something that’s always been on my bucket list. Would I ever get there? I hoped so. Taking each day as it comes. Facing the little choices everyday seemed more important.

I wished Isaac would go on camp with Tom. I wished that when I’m 41 and I see a med student on the train stressing about his/her specialisation choices and giving up friends or trips, I wouldn’t feel regret.