Looking Back at 2017
As another new year rolls around, I try to take some time to reflect on what went well in the past year and to look at the year ahead. This past year had its fair share of stressful moments, but what really kept me going were the small victories along the way. The power of positive thinking can really go a long way, if you let it. I remember everything from the sweat inducing anxiety of taking board exams to the relief when I found out my scores. I saw myself grow with each and every challenge in both medical school and out in my non-medical world.
Last year, I finished my second year of medical school and began studying for what was arguably the most important exam in my career: Step 1. This first part of the three-step medical board exam that all students are required to take would largely determine which specialty options are open to me. Just a little anxiety-inducing, am I right? As I’ve written in the past, the key to assuaging all of my worries was to attack with a plan and strategy. I’m the kind of person who needs to know what to expect, whether it’s on a daily basis or in the next few months. Feeling like I have control over the situation and believing that my hard work will be rewarded really helped me push through. Positive thoughts for the win!
My life was miserable (or so I felt at the time) during that focused season. I was studying from the minute I woke up until I was “done” for the day (but the day never really ended, because I thought about what I was studying right until I fell asleep). I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that it took a toll on my mental health, but having my family for support helped keep me grounded and calm. Luckily I was able to stay at home during my dedicated study time, and thankfully, it all paid off. Now I’m confidently able to share that my strategies worked!
Looking Ahead at 2018
I’m hoping to employ similar ways of thinking as I approach this year. I have many challenges that lie ahead: this year, I finish up my third year and my required clinical rotations. I also have to decide on a specialty of interest before applying to residencies. What I determine this year sets the course for the rest of my life. I’ve thought about the pros and cons of each specialty and how the specialty fits in my life, but the fact that the time has come for me to seal the deal is nothing short of terrifying. I’ll have to slog it out on a few rotations in whatever specialty I choose, hoping that I impress enough people in the specialty to convince them that I fit in there as well; it’s a two way street.
Next comes the stressful process of actually applying to residencies: submitting the complete application (letters of recommendation from the faculty in my chosen specialty, board exam scores, personal statements, etc). After a program decides it is interested, they send out an interview invitation. The average number of interviews that students attend can vary by specialty, but it ends up being around fifteen. Fifteen job interviews in three months, with many of them back to back will surely take a toll. But I’ll get to see what opportunities are available to me—the fruits of my years of undergraduate and medical school labor. After working so hard for so many years, there are people out there who are interested in hiring me as a physician. Such a satisfying thought!
Besides my residency quest, my personal life has also become more demanding recently as I am planning my upcoming wedding! My fiancé is in medicine as well—so planning becomes even more of a challenge—but I’m confident that we will get through it and come out stronger in the end. I know that if I survive this marathon of a year, I can do anything. What will help me along the way is celebrating my small successes, like making it through another interview or spending time with loved ones. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store, and I can only expect it to be a whirlwind!