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Lessons in Medicine: Remembering Today

In medical school, there’s a long list of things that vie for my attention and my schedule. There’s studying, class time, lab time, trainings, clinics, paperwork, assignments and tests. In between those tasks, there’s committees, meetings, volunteering, research and writing. And, occasionally, sleeping, eating, exercising, family, friends, fun and rest.

I am often overloaded by some of these things and don’t have nearly enough of the others. Balance is the goal, but keeping up is often the reality. At times, I wish it were different, but I also think I’m not the only one in my class who finds a little enjoyment in chasing this relentless pace.

There’s always something to say “yes” to, like an ultrasound clinic, a health advocacy committee or a science fair volunteer opportunity. Maintaining completion of the requirements for school becomes the measure for how many extra experiences I can add on. I’m always looking forward to what’s next as soon as I’ve completed what’s in front of me. At least that’s how I had been functioning.

Then, the end of this term happened.

Abruptly, I went from scheduling every 15 minutes of my day to being done with tests and having no immediate demands on my time. It felt like finishing a marathon by sprinting into a brick wall. I wondered what to do. Like muscle memory on overdrive, I felt the need to study, attend a meeting or work on a project. But I didn’t have to. Not right then. The next term would come soon enough and I’d be right back at it, hopefully with a better grasp of that elusive balance I am chasing.

But for a brief time, my classmates and I were in an oasis of calm. We went outdoor rock climbing; enjoying a spring day of sunshine without coats. We watched movies whose premieres had passed us by unnoticed. We had a potluck and decorated cupcakes to thank the amazing faculty and staff who guide us, in one way or another, toward our medical degrees. It was in these moments that I remembered something that’s been true since the very first day of class, but often gets covered up by endless to-do lists.

Every part of me loves being in medical school. And more than that, I love being at this medical school.

I know I’m supposed to be here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for more reasons than I have room to write. And really, it’s not “reasons,” it’s people. In the end, medical school isn’t wholly about completing the long to-do list. It’s about the people. Those I’m learning with and from today, and those I will serve someday in the future.

So, I will make my lists and pack my schedule in preparation for that future, but I will also remember these moments of clarity. I will remember that I am here for today. And today? Today was wonderful.

This article is part of an ongoing series focusing on Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, written by the medical students themselves. For more information visit medicine.wsu.edu

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