Residency: Adapting to change

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It’s been about 3 weeks since I started residency, but I think the past few weeks have taught me more about myself than an entire summer of backpacking in Southeast Asia. They (who knows who they actually are) constantly quote “find yourself,” but in medicine, you have to constantly rediscover yourself. Because, as very type A personalities, every time we move, we have to figure out how we fit into this new system, and find new ways to succeed and exceed. So far, this has been a lot harder than you’d think.

For the last 3 weeks, and for the next 3 months ahead of me, I’ll be on my family medicine rotation. While there are many aspects of it that I love, such as being able to follow your own patients – I’ve already seen a few more than once! – counseling patients on preventative care, seeing your behavioural or pharmacological interventions manifesting in a positive way, and performing minor procedures in office, there are also aspects that I haven’t adapted as well to.

The first and foremost being: TIME. In university, then in medical school, time was such a precious commodity. In pre-clerkship, between going to classes, shadowing at the hospital, running interest groups, volunteering and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I felt like I barely had time to breath. Then in clerkship, real life duties hit you like a brick wall, and especially on rotations like general surgery or internal medicine, dinners and outings with friends became a “I’ll see you in 4 weeks” thing. What may sound totally crazy then, is the amount of free time I have right now. Yep, you heard me – a crazy amount of free time.

Now that I don’t have research deadlines, student group demands, social obligations, an insane call schedule or CaRMS applications looming over my head, in all honesty, I feel a little lost. That part of my identity, the one that needs 27 hours in a 24 hour day is still craving that intense pressure. Maybe I speak for myself, but maybe in medicine we’re gluttons for punishment, we’re junkies that need to feel important, to feel needed, to achieve things, whatever those things may be. They say medicine is a lonely career, but do we inflict that on ourselves? These days, when I spend 30 min making my dinner, then 30 min eating it, I wonder if our lives could be so much easier, if we just let it be. Yet even as I’m writing this I have 10 tabs open on possible research topics, baking recipes, volunteer opportunities, my QI modules and Groupon (because I have this sudden strong desire to go on a helicopter ride around Toronto).

There are so many changes that happen when you transition from medical school to residency. Some people move, you leave your cozy nest of friends, you start in a new “doctor” role that once seemed so elusive, and you have to figure out how to fill your free time all over again. It’s not always easy to adapt to change, even when it’s positive. As my roommate can tell you, I cycle through feelings of doubt, of apathy, of hypomanic joy, of loneliness, of blissful happiness. Whether you’re moving a minute, an hour, or a day away, change is change. As someone who moved from Vancouver to Berkeley to Hamilton and now to London, I’ve realized I’m really not the best at adapting to change. Then again, when you’re an adult, you realize no one really is.

I think my friends who are on other rotations (read OBGYN, internal medicine, surgery) may disagree, one of the hardest parts of residency for me has been adapting to all these life changes. The me I’ve become familiar with for almost a decade of my life is screaming at me to stop watching Netflix and do something productive, but I’m learning that not every single moment of every single day has to be filled with something. As my days get busier (which they undoubtedly will), I’ll probably look back on this post and wish I was back here, in this moment. Then again, this is life. We’re creatures that are somehow unsatisfied, even when the universe has done what it can to make us happy. It is of course important to remember to be grateful. And despite this long tirade, I am so grateful for life, for love, and for all of the things to come ahead.

Finally, as promised, I’ll be hosting an insta-live session this week! Please comment on this post or my insta page with questions you’d like me to cover!

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Author: adagu93

Graduated from University of California - Berkeley in May 2015, but I still bleed blue and gold. First year medical student, learning how to balance school, learning, research, extracurricular activities, friends and life's many distractions. So excited to see what adventures lay ahead! Love traveling (I've been to over 50 countries!), trying new things like sky diving and shark cage diving, skiing, going to raves, reading, wine tasting and of course, relaxing with friends.

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