I have been wanting to write this post sooner, but the last couple of weeks have flown by in a chaotic but wonderful blur. I graduated medicine. I said goodbye to Ireland and moved back to Canada.
So, I guess I’m a doctor now
When I first started out 6 years ago, this day felt like imaginary day in the distant future that would never come. Time moved so slowly. Until the last year, that is, where time moved faster than I ever thought possible.
The last “lasts”were strange and surreal. Our last day in the hospital. Our last written exam. Our last practical exam. And walking out of the examination building, with the invigilators, doctors, patients and actor-patients congratulating us – washed over by a feeling of light-weight numb surrealism. The world was new AGAIN! I had no idea what to do with all my time. What do you do when you don’t have to read a textbook for the majority of the day? What is life?! These were the kind of existential questions that were floating around in my mind in the days after OUR LAST EXAM.
So I guess this makes me a doctor now, though I still feel far from it. It’s a weird mixture of feeling so ready to start working (after spending the majority of my life as a student), but at the same time feeling strange with my new title.
Medical school is hard
Medical school was hard. It was probably the hardest thing I have done and I guess that’s what made graduating feel so important to me. Nothing about the last 6 years was passive. Everything took effort. Every chapter, every class, every test, every assignment, every day in the hospital. It takes mental grit and dedication. Maybe medicine is one thing in my life that I have consistently worked towards, and maybe thats why it is so special to me.
But it’s worth it.
It’s worth it because we are given the ability to help a person. To heal pain. And this is a gift. Not only for the patient, but also for us. It is a gift that I have been given, and it is a gift that is fought for and earned.
I have learned that there is more to being a doctor than being a diagnosis machine. And you are reminded of this every time you look into your patients eyes.
Studying medicine has given me a sense of confidence that comes from feeling valuable to another human being.
Ok so maybe while you are a medical student amidst a room full of doctors and nurses, you’re probably the least valuable person in the room (lol), BUT, we’re learning so that one day when someone comes to us, sick, broken, and unwell, we can say “I can do something for you.” I think this is what we are all working for. This is why we do what we do. For that moment.
And it’s an honour
I have had the honour of talking to all kinds of people, young and old. I have had the honour of sitting with a handful of folks who had seen 100 years of life. I have had the honour of having conversations with truly brave people who, when faced with serious circumstances, say “This is just life. I don’t let it get me down.”
And I have had the honour of laughing with people.
To help another person, to listen to them, is such a privilege, and one that I am reminded of every time I sit with a patient and listen to them share stories of their life. They are stories that are laced with hope in the face of hopelessness, strength in the face of adversity, cycles of pain and rehabilitation, the search for rest amidst the restlessness of illness.
Lessons from Doctors
In our last lecture a couple of years ago, our microbiology professor said something to the class that always stuck with me. I wrote it down in my diary at the time. He said “As you go on to becoming a doctor, as the years go by you will be pushed to become more serious and cynical about everything, and people will tell you that you are being naive for wanting things to be different and better. But it is not naive to keep wanting things to be better, it’s only naive to think it’s going to be easy. But you have to keep hoping. You have to keep trying to be better.”
I once asked an anesthetist what made him choose his speciality. He said
“Well, I used to be a surgeon. I was in the operating room being yelled at by the consultant surgeon for something, and I looked over to see the anaesthetist sitting on his chair, just watching the monitor. He looked so peaceful. I thought to myself “F*** this. I wanna be that guy.” and so I switched.”
And one last gem picked up in med school was “Learning medicine is easy because all the information is there for you, you just have to put in the time to learn it. But learning how to talk to your patients and colleagues, that’s the difficult part.”
The next chapter
We have a tendency to paraphrase life. Something once huge becomes just a paragraph in your story. I think about the 6 years I have lived there, the friendships that held me, the love I loved and lost,the late nights studying, the challenges faced, the anguish of exams, the walks in the rain to the grocery store, Skype calls back home, listening to my husbands fuzzy and warm voice on the phone, ordering take out, classes, tutorials, the hospital – all of that becomes “Yeah, I lived in Ireland for a while for school.”
After the roar of the pain has quietened, it settles like a dust that reminds you that the past is the past is the past. A scar that decorates the soul. A reminder of what has been.
And I am so ready for the next chapter. I love being back in Canada with my husband. I love it. I am so very excited for what is in store.
And so I leave this little emerald island that has been a home for me for the last 6 years. This place has been a catalyst of growth and transformation for me and I have changed. I am not the girl I was when I first came here, and I am okay with that.
Noteworthy: I fulfilled my Irish dream of holding a baby lamb. WITH a bonus baby FOX and baby deer too!
I loved the days when the sun would shine and Galway, the small city by the sea would come to life, and everyone would sit by the water. But I will always remember with fondness the sideways rain and the grey skies of Ireland. I had to learn to love the rainy days too, because they are also beautiful in their own way.
So, what next?
That’s a good question and something I am trying to figure out the answer to myself.
Right now I am living and loving the house-wife life in Canada. I love packing lunches for my husband, and taking care of him and our home. Starting July, I will begin studying for my exams to apply for residency in the US. I could say more, but it would just be speculation for now. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” right?
I’ll keep you posted. Watch this space.
All of this was only possible because of my parents. My mother, who always gave me the emotional strength I needed, and my father who patiently taught me how to read X-rays. I love you.
And you and you and you and you.