As an undergraduate student pursuing medicine, I had a distinct feeling of being on the outside, looking in. I did my best to understand what exactly I was trying to get into, but there is an exclusivity to medicine that is hard to describe. The application process is somewhat mysterious, and the sheer volume of applicants means that great candidates get rejected every year. Trying to make sense of the whole process without spending large amounts of money felt impossible. There is no handbook that comes with your interview invite saying “hey girl, you should probably know the CanMEDs roles”. I think this all rings particularly true if you’re the first one in your family to go to medical school- my parents wouldn’t touch my application with a ten foot pole and had less of an idea than I did. The only advice I was getting was from the internet*, which had its own share of misgivings. I remember googling “what is carms” the night before my interview because I was terrified they would ask me this seemingly basic question and my idiocy would finally be revealed by not knowing the answer.
*This is not 100% true- there is a very special resident at McMaster who, many moons ago, was my swimming coach and morphed into my life/medicine mentor. Her advice is invaluable and I would be remiss not to mention her, and her inspiring blog, here.
This is to say that from the beginning, the medical community felt like a bubble- separate from the “real” world, and only truly accessible if you were in it. And now that I am in it (albeit only for a few months), I can say that it still kind of feels this way. A large part of this feeling comes from the time commitment. My days are consumed by being a medical student- classes, assignments, group work, extracurriculars, etc. Spending all this time in the same building with the same people exacerbates the feeling of being in a bubble and I assume this only becomes more true as you progress through the ranks to clerk or resident. While I felt prepared to make this time commitment, I don’t know if I ever processed what it would mean to feel the resulting disconnectedness from my loved ones. As the months go on, I feel myself becoming more and more invested in medicine, both personally and financially. It is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. But it is also now a huge part of my life that my closest friends and I don’t share- the responsibility, the financial burden, the commitment, the relatively planned out future. These were all things I wanted, and chose, but I didn’t expect these differences to feel so tangible in my relationships.
Side bar: It’s important to mention the relationships that I’ve developed inside this bubble- meeting friends who share the same goals as me and understand these huge life changes has been quite literally the key to my happiness in medicine. A whole separate blog post could be written on the joy of discovering this little world of friends who are into the same stuff as me. But that is not this post.
I recognize that it’s a transition, I’m only in first year, we’ll figure it out, etc. But there’s a feeling of profound sadness that comes over me when I think that medicine will take away from the relationships that matter the most. I think this speaks to a more deep-seated fear I have about being in the bubble- the fear that eventually I won’t exist outside of it. While the immense satisfaction I gain from finding a sense of purpose at school cannot be overstated, there is this parallel feeling of losing touch with the person I was before that has been on my mind a lot lately. Time spent “not being a medical student” is becoming a smaller fraction of my day to day life. And slowly, the part of me that is not a medical student will become smaller as well. Maybe someday I will achieve some kind of balance that I feel at peace with. Or maybe I’ll have to adjust my expectations and grow up a little more. Until then, I’ll deal with frequent identity crises and the irony of feeling like I’m now on the inside, looking out.