Last year, as a second-year medical student, I wrote a December holiday gift guide called “A med student’s Christmas wish list”.
It included “the world’s softest pillow” (a sign that I needed more sleep), home-cooked meals (reminiscent of how homesick I was with my last batch of pre-clinical final exams pending), and more time (I was, and am, wholeheartedly enjoying medical school, but wished I had more time to take advantage of the great academic and non-academic opportunities I had within arm’s reach).
This year, as a third-year medical student doing a school year’s worth of research and done with the enormity of an exam called USMLE Step 1, I’ve had more time to reflect on the past year, and I realized that I gave myself three important “gifts” in 2018. And I’m extremely grateful to have done so.
1) Fulfilling relationships
This may sound cliché and old, but cutting out toxic friendships in 2018 was my greatest achievement. I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve cultivated this far, of the small cozy groups of friends who have become like family when my family is physically far away. These are people I can turn to and not be worried about any judgmental, passive aggressive, or competitive comments. I unexpectedly opened my heart to a love unlike any other this year, and true to form, my people welcomed my boyfriend into our family with open arms.
The people I have chosen to love are warm, funny, supportive, and in my opinion, the loveliest human beings on Earth. If you invest time in people who you think any less of, you should reevaluate your friendships.
2) No-tech time
I’ve written in my past blogs about how in medical school, it feels like work will always expand to fill the time you give it. There’s always something to be studying, an email that remains unanswered, a journal article you’ve meant to get around to reading. Last year, I tried my best to cut all technology out of my life for at least an hour before bed, and I started putting my phone on “Do Not Disturb” more often. I’ve found that even when I’m not purposely cutting myself off from social media and other forms of communication, I’ve been more present and more fully enjoy experiences with friends and colleagues.
If you’re a health care professional, there's a good chance you're often very hard on yourself. Getting into medical school is no walk in the park, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it will continue to get in my career. We (aspiring) medical professionals are hard on ourselves because we have to be – our careers can sometimes very literally be life or death. However, when it comes to not-as-meaningful things, such as being three minutes late to a group project meeting or not being on schedule with my board exam studying, I’ve forgiven myself. I realized that sometimes, the largest obstacle between me and my own happiness and satisfaction with my work is myself, and it feels so amazing not beating myself up over small trip-ups and mistakes.
Because of these “gifts,” I felt re-energized, focused, and simply put, so happy in 2018. I plan to continue “re-gifting” them to myself, and I genuinely hope whoever reads this will plan to give themselves these five things in the New Year, too.
Stanford Medicine Unplugged is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category.
Natasha Abadilla is currently a third-year medical student doing research in health disparities and pediatric surgery outcomes. More of her views on medical student life and social issues can be found on Twitter: @natashhaabadilla.
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