Four short years ago I nervously met a soon-to-be classmate for the first time. It felt like a blind date. We had met on Facebook, through our class group and we were both anxiously awaiting the next day, our first day of medical school orientation. I recall the evening started with half sputtered, nervous conversation as we exchanged standard pleasantries awkwardly over sushi. But now, I can’t help but look back on that evening with a smile. I smile as I remember an immediate bond developed with a complete stranger. I smile as I remember sharing our histories and our dreams. I smile as I remember the pride I had about entering the profession. I smile as I realize I had no idea what I was getting myself in to.
A blog post cannot prepare a new medical student for what lies ahead. The seriousness, silliness, belonging, exhilaration, loneliness, disappointment, fatigue, love, responsibility, and joy that you will inevitably feel in the next four years will shape your experience. Your narrative, like the humbling narratives of your patients, will be unique. Pay attention to the narrative. There will be a variety of characters, and believe me they will be characters, that are central to the plot. Learn from them, become friends with them, care for them. The settings of your tale will include lecture theatres, ORs, emergency departments, wards but also basketball courts, bars and back country roads – each projecting its unique beauty and imprinting some lasting memory. Hold on tight to those memories for when the time comes to illustrate your pages. There will be tangents to your story but the plot will realign, it always does. Take stock of where your story is headed, if you like the direction and make changes as necessary. Find honest editors to give you feedback. The tale will eventually weave itself but the first person narrative that results must be your own. It has to reflect your purpose – a purpose only you can define. Let your narrative be all you have imagined.
The continuation of my story, started on July 1st as I began residency. Appropriately, on June 30th I shared dinner with the same classmate I had dined with on the eve of medical school. We started our residencies together in emergency medicine the next day. Our dinner was less awkward but we were just as nervous, full-circle indeed.
Welcome to the family.