lessons learned

“Choose People Who Choose You”

“Choose people who choose you.”

I saw this as an Instagram post a few days ago and it’s stuck with me since. Perhaps because it’s been a recurring message for me throughout the years – from undergrad to my gap years to med school – wheew, totally relate. Anyway, today I felt compelled to write a blog post on this statement. This is a different kind of post but it does relate to med school. I can proudly say that Ohio State chose me and I chose it back. As far back as my interview day, when I came in rocking my baby dreadlocks, a statement saying, “yea, this is me, this is what y’all gon get.” And not feeling one ounce of prejudice. That’s love y’all. But I digress, this isn’t where I’m going with this. We all know med school is hard (and if you didn’t, SURPRISE! It is). Besides the mountain of information you’re learning, the limited time to grasp the information, the long nights, the stress and so on, there is one other thing that makes it hard:

The loneliness. 

Geez! Med school can be lonely! It is a deeply personal journey and will test you to the limits.

WHY are you even doing this?”

CAN you even do this?”

“Does anyone even CARE how you’re feeling?”

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So one common advice students will hear as they start their first year is: “Find your people.” The people who will support you during your journey, who will be like family, who will be there to listen, through the grind, through the tears, through the successes, through the let downs. Your people.

And if you can’t find them, you’re not alone. Reach out for help, for support through the counseling office.

Yea. We all got this spiel or some form of it.

But what happens when you just can’t seem to fit in?

Can I get personal for a sec? I suck at fitting in. I don’t consider myself as part of the “cool crowd” and quite frankly I gave up a long time ago on trying to fit the mold. Years ago (before med school), someone told me I had been described as “doing my own thing.” I was surprised, but I think it sums me up well. Now, how does this relate to med school? Well the past few years, my poor love has been subjected to me complaining about not being able to find more classmates who “get me.” Is it because I’m slightly older, a non-traditional student who had no interest in some of the post-exam parties? Is it because I’m black in a majority white institution? Is it because I’m rarely around on the weekends, often missing out on some precious bonding activities? Or perhaps because the financial stress is real, often causing me to say no to some outings? Do I come off as stand off-ish? Maybe if I wasn’t in a long distance relationship, maybe if I didn’t have other stressors outside of med school…maybe…maybe…

Yep, my love heard it all. The complaints of not being invited to some things, feeling forgotten by some friends in and outside of med school, feeling bummed about saying no to certain invites, the list goes on. And in those moments he would remind me of the same thing over and over again: cherish the ones who are there for you, the ones who keep showing up, the ones who keep reaching out. Focus your eyes on that. Cultivate those relationships.

Sounds a lot like “choose people who choose you” doesn’t it?

So here’s a few reminders and encouragements from one of my favorite Instagram accounts – @thecocoahue:

  1. It is impossible to be forgotten by God.
  2. When you’re set apart, sometimes you have to sit out. It is not a punishment, it’s a process.
  3. You belong because you are his beloved.
  4. Find your place in Christ. It’s where you will always fit in.
  5. You will never walk alone when you choose Jesus.

Cheers y’all and stay blessed!

My 5 Takeaways From M1 Year

I’ve had several people ask me what I enjoyed most about my first year of medical school and the lessons I learned. Reflecting on this past year, it’s amazing how FAST it all went. At the same time, when I think about my white coat ceremony on August 1st, that memory seems like ages ago. My white coat is certainly not as clean, and all the excitement that came with it has slowly faded (it’s lazily drapped in my car as we speak!). I remember how excited I was for Musculoskeletal (MSK) block and anatomy, dreading my 26th birthday and feeling like time was slipping past me, and even my first suture clinic! So much has happened this year: moments of celebration, and of course, some lows as well. So here are 5 takeaways!

  1. Shadowing is BAE: This has honestly been one of my favorite parts of this year thus far. I shadowed in ophthalmology, radiation oncology, OBGYN – labor and delivery twice, emergency medicine, general surgery, and urology (twice!). I even got to scrub in! And of course, there’s also my family medicine clinic (longitudinal practice) that I went to every 2 weeks as part of our curriculum. Besides my longitudinal practice, all those shadowing experiences were things I sought out on my own. It’s certainly been an outstanding amount of clinical exposure and it’s helped me in clarifying my interests and what specialty I’ld like to go into. Perhaps I’ll write a separate post about that, but I will say that I started med school saying “No way I’m doing a surgical specialty. I LOVE my life too much, plus that’s 5 years of residency! I’m already a nontraditional student!” and now I’m actually strongly considering a surgical specialty. I realized I’ld rather love what I do than be in a specialty I have no passion for, but went into because of lifestyle. Funny how that works doesn’t it?
  2. I learned you have to adapt QUICKLY: I learned this lesson during the first block (foundations one) and it was very present in each and every block thereafter. If a method isn’t working, and you’ve waited long enough to see that, change it ASAP. This included study methods, study groups, resources/ books, time management (i.e. finding time to talk to my significant other) and so on.
  3. It’s okay to say NO: man oh man, as the year went on, I started saying no, more often. No, to hanging out, and no, to committing to things I would have said yes to in the past. Why? Because I realized there was a value on my time. Other students didn’t have the same commitments I did. And it occurred to me that even though I said no, there would be someone else who would say yes. I knew my limits and I have historically been one of those people that stretch themselves THIN. I was trying to avoid that this year. Although, from my neuro block, I definitely did do the most there, but you know, everything is a lesson.
  4. Work hard, but also PLAY hard: Remember how I said cardiopulm broke my heart? Well during that block, I felt miserable and I think it was partially because I was all work and little to no play. It affected my mental state and eventually my physical (eating badly, gained a few pounds). Your mind needs a BREAK! And I learned there needs to be some sort of balance. Neuro, as crazy as it was, had a ton of happy moments. It was a lot of work, but coming out of cardiopulm, I was like, there has to be some PLAY in my life. And I honestly think that’s what helped me get through that block. Even with all the craziness and how busy it was, I ended up doing better on my block exam for neuro than I did for cardiopulm!
  5. Know your LIMITS: This is similar to my “saying no” bullet above but it mostly relates to wedding planning. Did I mention how happy I am that we moved the date? I’m not superwoman y’all, and I perfectly okay with that.

So those are 5 takeaways from this past year. And here’s the overall recap:

  • I turned 26 and celebrated it with friends in Washington D.C.
  • I got engaged in December – WHOOHOO!
  • I spent Christmas in Jamaica (first time!) and got to meet my fiance’s extended family
  • I traveled to San Diego, California for Spring Break
  • I traveled to Atlanta for SNMA national conference – had a BLAST!
  • I had a mini breakdown and cried over Neuro (I told y’all it had me shook right?)
  • I was awarded a research grant to conduct my independent summer project
  • I realized urology MAY be my dream specialty
  • I gained new mentors

And I confirmed there’s nothing else I’ld rather do than medicine. This year was AMAZING! Cheers to a year of growth!

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Pictured: Mine and my fiance’s stethoscope. Married to medicine! Photographed by Tonjanika Smith photography. Do not use without permission. Thanks!