Medical training is over. What’s the next chapter?

Today is a strange day.

I treated myself to a slice of nondescript doughy hospital pizza for lunch today. If this was an actual pizza place, and I had a choice, I would never order this pizza. But today, the pizza tasted fantastic. In fact, it tasted like the best pizza I’ve ever had.

Why you ask?

Because this would likely be the last time I’d ever eat this hospital pizza. I enjoyed it and every memory associated with it.

Today is the last day of my formal education. The last time (I hope) that I will be called a student, intern, trainee, resident, fellow or “hey you.” OK, I will still probably be called “hey you.”

Thirty-one-plus years. Grade school, high school, college, med school, then six more years of “training.” But today feels different than some other chapters in my life. This feels different than graduations, officially receiving my degree or passing the never-ending board exams. Those felt like chapters in a book, but this feels like completing the first volume in a whole series of books.

Maybe it’s normal to be reflective in moments like these (or maybe not, and I’m weird). If we think of life as a story, maybe each of these reflective moments are titles of chapters in our book. Like chapter 12: “High School Graduation,” or chapter 14: “Summer of 2005.” But when I read a book, I never remember the chapter titles. I remember the heroes: family and friends who were there in down moments when confidence was lost and a helping hand was always there to lift you back up. The mentors who supported you and believed in you sometimes more than you believed in yourself, the villains, like the senior who knocked me over in the hallways during freshman initiation during high school and the events/memories: going to a national park but actually remembering the jokes in the car on the way to the grand canyon with your friends rather than the grand canyon itself.

But in the first volume of life, there always seemed to be a framework of what’s next. After four years of elementary school, there is middle school. And after four years of middle school, there is high school, then a job. But what now? What’s “Volume 2?” You mean there is no set next step? Strange.

But reading my life book again, I realize it’s about the people. The family, the friends, the mentors. The “heroes” in my story that have no idea the impact they made/make. At moments like these, I like to say thank you. And at moments like these, I realize as long as there are “heroes” in my life, “Volume 2” won’t be that scary.

And dang, that was some good pizza.

Manu Prativadi is a radiologist.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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