This week marks the start of intern year, the first of my four year residency program. I’ve waited for this day my entire life and I am both excited and thrilled to begin a life of taking care of patients in the most intimate of ways. I also start this process, however, laden with fear and trepidation. Sure, my dream of being a physician is being realized. But so is four years of 80 hour work weeks, sleep deprivation, and little to no time for anything but medicine. As a medical student, I’ve experienced this life. On my surgery and OB/GYN rotations, I walked through life like a zombie. My schedule was simple: work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep. My fatigue and lack of exercise made me moody and irritable. My lack of food made me skinny. My lack of time with family and friends made me lonely. My lack of “me” time made me depressed. What brought me comfort during these times was the fact that in a few short weeks, my rotation would end and life would return to normal. Fast forward to today: I am about to start a four year long rotation. Shit.
We spend our adolescent and young adult lives trying to figure ourselves out. What makes us happy? Fulfilled? Balanced? Content with who we are? And when I hit 30, I felt like I finally did it. I had my best friends and a supportive family. I had my love of yoga and running. I had a burgeoning interest in cooking and wine tasting. I had my love and memories of international travel.
It seems like a cruel joke that now that I’ve figured out how to live my life to the fullest, I have to give it all up. It is difficult to think of my very full and complex life being reduced to one dimension.
I guess the new challenge, now, is to figure it out all over again: Happiness, the condensed version. Appropriate for an 80 hour work week.
* Check out the very appropriate article in New York Times this week by Dr. Pauline Chen: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/health/18chen.html?em