Chronicles of a Med Student: One’s Not Such a Lonely Number

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

Medical school is becoming routine to me now—which is great. I’ve finally found my rhythm after a few months and feel comfortable with my learning style and studying methods. And it keeps me busy enough during the workweek. I try to accomplish most of my studying during the week so that I have the weekends to not study and actually have a life. But here’s the thing: my study habits don’t necessarily line up with those of my peers, which can leave me with some long weekends. Instead of wondering if am covering all of my bases (or if I’m forgetting to do this reading or that reading), I take a break. I can’t possibly study all the time, so I’m forced to have confidence in myself to do well. I understand that I sound quite crazy complaining about having free time, because who–especially a medical student–has ever done that?

Okay, it’s not really a complaint. Maybe it’s growing pains in learning how to be alone. I’ve highlighted before the importance of leaning on others, especially in these crazy lives we lead as med students. But at the end of the day, you’re all you have. That sounds terribly depressing, and I’m considering changing it to sound better even as I write this. But it’s true, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Be best friends with yourself, because who else knows you better? I’ve traced my personal journey of growth—which sounds a lot more philosophical than it really is—and I can definitely pinpoint major moments in my life that have spurred me to be who I am right now. Those are the moments that taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and to believe in myself. I used to sit in my room watching reruns of Gilmore Girls (quick shout out to the revival coming up soon!) but then I thought: hey, I’m here. I have some free time to do non-school related stuff, and I’m sitting here watching TV when there’s a whole city at my doorstep to explore! I don’t have to have anyone come with me—I can just go. Honestly that’s probably one of the coolest things I could ever do: fearlessly (but not recklessly!) explore things on my own.
One of my major goals is to not worry about being alone. The whole world always has me thinking that I need to be constantly engaged in some sort of contact with other people in order to be a functional human being. I mean look at how we live today: we are always either Snapchatting or texting or jumping on the latest social media bandwagon. I’ve made a promise to myself to break this cycle. I want to go out to a sit-down dinner alone at least once. I want to go to the movies alone. Why bother doing all of this? It inspires confidence. It makes you immune to the stares of other and teaches you to accept yourself exactly as you are. That’s what I want to do with my pockets of free time.
The self-confidence that comes from the ability to confidently be alone is an important skill for medical professionals. The more confident you feel, the more successful you are. That is always helpful, especially in medicine. Would you go to a doctor who confidently makes a decision, or would you rather have them stumble over what to do? I would totally go for the former—yes, the latter doctor probably also studied very hard, but studying hard is only part of being a confident doctor. The other part of the confidence comes in your ability to handle whatever any situation in life throws at you. Some of my good friends in medical school struggle with this—we sit running through all of our slide sets a few days before the exam and they know their stuff. But come exam time, the sheer fact that they might fail (but probably won’t) throws them off and they end up not doing as well as they’d liked. I knew they knew their stuff. But they need to know that as well. That’s where the confidence part comes in: everyone has to believe in themselves (including our resident and attending mentors)! I want to use my journey through medical school, and even well beyond to residency and practice, to gain that confidence. Because remember: if I believe I can help a patient, it makes it that much more likely that they believe I can help them.