It’s 8am on a bright Saturday morning.
With my yoga mat beneath me in the open, fresh air of the city park, I close my eyes and do my best to strike an impossible pose.
Everyone else around me is so perfectly balanced, and I look like a flamingo that has recently lost a toe. The instructor speaks softly and asks us to imagine the stress leaving our bodies. And while I’m picturing the stress exiting with every extended exhale, I can’t help but be painfully aware that there are insects crawling all over my mat and me. I know we were on their turf, but that doesn’t mean I have to spend this beautiful morning swatting at my arms and legs like a Girl Scout in the woods.
As of today, I’ve completed two months of my residency program. I’m excited every day to learn and hone the skills I’ll use for the rest of my life, but I’ve also felt more alive and motivated in other aspects of my life. With every evening of losing the scrubs and pulling off the beeper, I realize that somewhere between crossing the graduation stage and starting my wonderful job that I have entered the beginning of my adulthood. I’ve shut the door on my student days and quietly celebrated behind the curtain. The trip through the great medical student tunnel is finally in the rearview.
With the exception of a year, I’ve been a student nearly my entire life.
Even as a wee third grader I remember being scared stupid that I’d forget a homework assignment. I remember bursting into tears when I left the spelling list on my desk and my mother tried to calm me down while she called a classmate’s mother for the list.
I’ve always been a serious student. And up until now, I had a laundry list of excuses not to try new things, mostly because that meant that my studies would suffer. But now that the student phase of my life is perpetually over, I feel like I can relax a little bit and try to enjoy the finer aspects in life.
In the short amount time I’ve been a post-graduate resident physician, I’ve tried to embrace the little things I couldn’t do before. I go to the movies and the mall on weeknights. I watch my TV shows when they air, not when they’re replayed online with those annoying commercials.
On my days off from work, I go big. I got my hair done in the morning and spent the rest of the day buying groceries, making a big lunch, and then taking a nap. I didn’t have a care in the world, unless you count the hour of virtual shoe shopping. As far as adulthood goes, I can’t believe I waited this long to do it!
Part of ‘living for the day’ is exploring a new town. I was able to find cool outdoor yoga that only runs in the summer, and since I’ve only done yoga handful of times, I thought it would be fun to partake. Discovering something new can be very enlightening. I remember when I started college I felt the same kind of freedom, and I’d ride my bike around town scoping out the trendy coffee shops and unique food establishments. The only difference is now I drive my car around to find the trendy coffee shops and the unique food establishments. My next task is to drive around and look for a bike shop so I can buy a new bike and complete the cycle (get it?).
My friends who aren’t in medicine would read this article and laugh. They’d say, “Welcome to the real world, Liz. We’ve been having this kind of freedom and fun for years while you’ve been stewing away in your studies.”
Be that as it may, I’m sure they felt the same way when they discovered how great it is to not be so tied-down to a student regimen. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and no matter what age you awake to the world and throw off the covers, the excitement for what lies ahead is pretty darn titillating. We should all be so lucky to enjoy a midday movie or a beautiful new pair of shoes.
I challenge all of the working physicians out there, from all hospitals and specialties to take a few minutes a day for themselves, even if it’s to take a deep breath in the open air.
What we do is so important, and we should air out the stress no matter how bad it gets during the day. Appreciate and enjoy the time off that you will one day come to cherish. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
We evolve to live. Look closely, breathe deeply, and you’ll see that there’s something cool out there that you haven’t tried yet.