Welcoming 2017

Looking back over the past year, I thought I’d start out with my resolutions for 2016. How well, or how poorly, did I do? Where do we go from here?

Here’s an excerpt from last year’s New Year’s post:

Last week, I found this idea: a “7 x 2016”, a prompt for making wishes become goals instead of ‘traditional’ resolutions. I really liked that idea, so here goes mine, with a couple additions:

Learn how to.….. speak in medical Spanish. Back in high school and even college, I was pretty good in speaking Spanish with native speakers. However, it’s true that what you don’t use, you lose. I’ve bought a guide and have already conquered the first chapter. Here’s hoping for better communication with some of my future patients. This one has been a success, in some ways. One of the perks of being a medical student is that sometimes we are offered discounts on this… like Rosetta Stone. Our class got a deal on the Spanish set, and I jumped at the chance to use a program to increase my skills. I’m still not done with the program or with the Medical Spanish text I bought, but every little step is a victory so I’m calling it a win.

Start……. My Year of Kindness. One thing I’ve been noticing lately is a genuine lack of kindness in our community. I’ve got a few ideas on what to target for each month, and I’m really hoping this new venture is a success. More on that soon. This was also a success, and one that I am very proud of. In January of last year I pioneered a project christened My New Kentucky Home that served the refugee and new immigrant populations of my city, and it was a smashing success. What a way to kick off a year of Kindness!

Stop…… Doubting myself. I do it all the time. It’s a hard habit to break, but I realize what a detriment it is to my psyche and my performance as a student, wife, and mom. There is no room for it anymore in this new year. I have gotten better at this. It is a very slow process, but I’m gaining more optimism by the day. It’s so easy to give up on some things because they seem so daunting. Slowing changing that inner voice has helped my life in a big way.

Travel to.….. This one is my favorite, I think. While I feel like I am overdue for a visit to somewhere outside the USA. It’s been almost 5 years since we went to the Caribbean. However, I think that adventure might still be awhile off. This year, we’re planning on a post-third year pre-Step 2 studying family vacation to Washington, DC and Virginia Beach–three new states for me and the Ladybug’s first trip to a beach. Much slower-paced than we’re used to, but that’s ok! Making memories with my family is a priority this year. We made a ton of memories on that trip to DC and Virginia Beach! The little one had a blast too, so I think another beach vacation is in the cards for 2017.

Find…. Two half-marathons to run this year. With rotations, it’s not like I can just pick which ones to do this far ahead of time, so I’m wondering if I should skip the local half-marathon in April (during my OB/GYN rotation… just watch my week of nights in L&D be the same time as the race) and plan for one in summer and another in the fall. Any suggestions for fun ones to run? As it turned out, the local half marathon WAS during my two weeks of Labor and Delivery, when I was working intense hours at an intense pace. So, this goal was a flop. I failed. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t gain something along the way. I was much likely to be found at the gym this year, even if I didn’t get to run in those races that I hoped for. I no longer hate the gym. I no longer feel that it is a chore to go, but instead I actually look forward to going. Baby steps! My most consistent part of the year was probably during Step 2 studying, since I would get in a run before sitting down to study as part of my daily routine.

Try…… New restaurants in our area. Since there is a great probability that we just may not be living here after The Match, I’ve insisted that instead of always going to the same places (which I love, honestly), that we try some new places that are unique to the Louisville area. We’ve asked friends of ours to go with us to a new restaurant once a month. I’m really excited for this new Double-Date Night! This was also a major fail. Between my schedule, the Handsome’s long hours at work, and conflicting schedules with friends, this one did not get off the ground. However, we still have high hopes for 2017 and adding more friends to the mix.

Be more……. Girly. Since being in med school, I quit dressing nice for class/school in general unless it was absolutely necessary. Then once I became a mom, I put myself last on the list of people to care for. I love dresses but don’t think they look right on me. Since losing so much weight, the brand-new clothes I bought for rotations in July already don’t fit me, which is a blessing and a curse. I hope to actually acquire some style this year, and maybe even keep my nails painted and try new lipstick or something. So this one is a win for me too. This has been the first year in a long time where I actually took care of myself. Taking pride in my appearance wasn’t on the radar before because I was simply trying to survive, and spending time on myself didn’t feel like it had good return on investment. However, now I am feeling better about myself (it’s all part of changing that inner dialog!).

And then two I added to make my own “9 x 2016”:

Less….. Screen time/wasted time on my phone. I wonder how much efficient I would be if I transferred all of my phone time to work time. Not that it’s bad to focus on something outside of medicine for awhile, but I find that I scroll through all the social media apps when I’m bored and spend much more time on them then I intend. There was good and bad to this one. I was much better about staying off of Social Media during my dedicated study time for Step 2 CK, but outside of that, I STILL pay far too much attention to my phone.

More…… Memories/Playtime with my kiddo and hubby. The Ladybug loves for momma to come home and do nothing but play until it’s her bedtime… which sometimes eats up a large amount of my study time, and sometimes makes me worry that I’m not a good medical student. However, I don’t think this is time wasted (such as when I’m on my phone). I always, always, always make sure that I tell her that I am happy to see her and that I love her as soon as I pick her up each day. I want to soak up all of this sweet toddler time as I can. This one was definitely a win. 4th year has aided in my ability to make more special moments with my family, since I’ve had much more ‘free time’ this year than in the previous three years. Every opportunity I get to pick up the little one early from daycare to take a surprise visit to the park, I take. It has been amazing and so sweet.

So what does that leave for 2017? 2016 was my best year yet for sticking to my goals throughout the year. Previously, my ‘resolutions’ were usually broken by the first few weeks of the new year. This year’s successes are making me much more optimistic for 2017 and beyond. 2017 has the potential to be the best year yet with so many new adventures on the horizon: my brother is getting married in the spring, I graduate in May, we will be purchasing our first home before the start of residency, and I will finally get my MD and start training to become a pediatrician. Many new things were introduced into my life this year, which were unexpected and totally outside of my 9×2016 list. I have started meditating using the Calm app (which I love!), increasing my yoga practice, and becoming minimalist. These were things I never saw coming but I am so glad I found them/they found me and my family, and I fully intend to keep them throughout 2017.

My 9×2017:

Learn:… Spanish. This is just a continuance, and still something that is very important to me. It has already helped me form greater bonds with my patients and their families just by saying the phrases that I do know, and acknowledging that I still have more to learn but I am TRYING.

Start: Racing. I made good strides of going to the gym more frequently and PR’ing my times, but I want to bite the bullet and actually race this year. I’ve already signed up for a local series of races where I can build up my distance.

Stop: Feeling guilty for not knowing everything. So much of medical school is realizing just how much I STILL DO NOT KNOW even when I am killing myself with studying. It is OK that I do not know everything. There is an opportunity to learn each day, and I plan on fully taking advantage of that and asking more questions… all of which will make me a better physician.

Travel to: We have several plans for travel this year, with the first adventure being next week. I could go on and on about this one, but for now I will just say there will be hiking and sunshine and a few new states/possibly countries.

Find: The right program, the right home, the right mentors. Some of these are time-dependent, but there will be a lot of work to do come Match Day (3/17).

Try: New restaurants (a continuance of our goal for last year) along with new foods! As part of interview season this year, we get a lot of dinners out with residents in all of these new cities and I’ve made it a secondary goal to try meals I would ordinarily never try. From butternut squash ravioli to my first taste of Indian food (which I LOVED!), it’s been a good idea to branch out and try new cuisines/flavors.

Be more: Of an advocate. One of the things I love most is projects, especially those that help people. I do not have much experience on the political side of things, but as I start residency it is increasingly important to me that I learn how to fight for my patients, their families, and their needs. Learning this skill is one of the things I am most looking forward to in residency, in my new role. How exactly do I plan to do that? First of all, I’ve been interviewing at programs that excel in advocacy. There are other opportunities for training through local and away electives. I’ve also been looking for great mentors. No matter where I end up Matching, I will have a solid foundation to help me with that endeavor.

Less: Screen time. This one is a hard one to break (I mean, I’m blogging right now, so….), but I realize that especially with screen time, less is more.

More: Meditation, exercise, relaxation, reflection, minimalism. All of these things, to me, go together hand-in-hand. What I haven’t been doing much of lately is reflecting and writing about how these things have helped change our lives for the better.

I am looking forward to a 2017 full of adventures and memories. What are your goals for the new year? What big adventures are on your heart and mind? Share with me! Let’s encourage each other to make 2017 the best year yet!

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Changing Definition of Excellence

Today makes our third (I think) snow day of the semester (and one canceled volunteer event on a Saturday). Although it’s beautiful out my window, I’m getting a bit sick of snow days. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow… around Christmas and New Year’s, not so much when it interferes with work/school and makes things more complicated. Sure, I enjoy being able to stay home today since I’m paranoid about falling while carrying this kiddo, but there are no such things as free days in med school.

There is also a forecast for an appreciable amount of ice the night before I’m due to take my CSE-1 Exam, where we perform a head-to-toe physical exam with one of the SPs. I really, really do not want to have to reschedule this exam, so I’m hoping this is the only snow day we get this week.

So, this brings me to my original idea for this post. Friday at lunch, we had a short seminar about career planning and things we need to be doing (or at least, thinking about) during first year, especially since we are now well past the halfway point of MS1. I did an extensive amount of research over the summer before school started and assembled a binder full of information about how to make myself a great candidate for any residency program of my choosing, so I felt pretty prepared for the seminar, but it was still informative and useful.

This seminar made me think about how my definition of excellence has changed since school started. If I had gotten into medical school the first time I applied, it was my goal to eat, sleep, and breathe med school in order to be the best physician I can be, because I thought that was the most important thing I could do. Thankfully, I am no longer 22 and so near-sighted. Sure, it would be wonderful to be first in the class, AOA, and the like, but those things are no longer my top priorities. I’ve learned so far that being all-consumed with schoolwork leads to burnout and is inconducive to how I learn. This doesn’t mean that I’m not committed to my education or that I’ll be a subpar physician-in-training. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t feel subpar these days. High school, college, and even graduate school were so much different than this type of educational program. I worked hard, things came to me fairly easily most of the time, but hard work usually paid off in excellence. I’m still struggling with giving my schoolwork my all and still feeling mediocre or falling short of my overall goals, even though I’m doing well. Friday’s seminar only reminded me that there are other things outside the classroom that also need to be done–in this ample free time that I have–to be considered competitive for our future first jobs as physicians-in-training. Just thinking about it is exhausting sometimes. (But, have you ever looked up a physician to see his or her background? Usually there are a lot of “and”s… “Chair of ___ and Chair of ___ and Dean of ___ …” And I used to think I was the Queen of And. *Sigh*)

I’ve made my personal philosophy (Always have at least one Ace up your sleeve at all times) known to a friend and fellow classmate, and then got accused to cheating due to stealing the Ace’s in the (hypothetical) deck. (/total sarcasm there– med students need a laugh every now and then too.) Medicine is one field where there has to be constant consideration of what’s to come… it’s not just about studying, Boards are looming a mere year now from now; after that, performing well in clerkships and then taking another Step of Boards; then applying for residency spots. What score do I need on Step 1 to boost my odds of landing interviews in 4th year? (This was mentioned in the seminar.) I fully understand the importance of being well-prepared for such things, but geez, right now I just want to focus on biochem and physio for awhile.

In speaking of Aces, in recent developments, the Distinction in Global Health track that I applied for is officially “on hold” due to unforeseen circumstances that happened after all of the applicants had interviewed. I’ve made some good contacts and had a few conversations, but until some things are straightened out, the DIGH track is indefinitely on hold. I cannot even describe my disappointment, as I had ideas for three projects, but I’m hopeful that the issues will be resolved before MS2 begins. We’ll see, I suppose.

The seminar also focused on summer plans. I am still brokenhearted that I will not be venturing to Ecuador, Kenya, Thailand, or Brazil this summer with my classmates to work in clinics where people need help. My summer plans are still unconfirmed, as I’m still waiting to hear back from several possibilities, and the earliest I’ll know anything will be March. Sometimes I think I should change the title of this blog to “Major Change in Plans”… but I guess that is to be expected. It seems as though my interests in global health will go unfulfilled for awhile; luckily, the programs that I’ve been investigating for residency all have global health programs, certificates, and rotations. Someday, that dream will be realized, just not when I want it to be, apparently.

My plans for today are to go over the material we would have had in class today, prepare some more for my CSE-1 Exam (and praying the weather holds out so I can take it at my scheduled day/time), work on my part of our first Biochem TBL (Team-Based Learning) session on Thursday, and work on my Aces. So far, I’ve accomplished several items on my To Do List already, but it’s time I quit procrastinating and get back to it.

Have I mentioned lately that I’m living the dream?

“Cast your net wide, and you just might catch a fish or two.” ~Me