Medicine was consuming this medical student. Was it worth it?

For as long as I remember, studying medicine has always been the goal I focused on the most. For years, I thought that I knew the path I was taking, and that I calculated the benefits and drawbacks. However, with time, I learned that no matter how much one assesses his decisions, one cannot have a full grasp of it, until he/she “begins” to experience it.

I wasn’t aware how much studying medicine was consuming me — until the first vacation came. I noticed that although I lived with my family, it’s like I wasn’t there for the four months.

On the first night of the vacation, the whole family gathered in the living room. They had new inside jokes and discussed a new advertisement on television, both of which I had no clue. I felt so detached because I couldn’t relate to what they were saying. When I tried to engage in the conversations, I noticed that I had nothing to say. If I did engage, whatever I said had a medical flavor. I felt terrible when I realized the type of person I have become, anti-social indeed. I was disappointed when I realized I had no new activities or ideas to share, which is not the person I used to be. Now, I feel like a programmed machine that only engulfs information. When I hugged my grandmother, I noticed how much I truly missed her. When she told me, it’s been a month and a half since I’ve last seen her, I felt horrible that I didn’t realize that it’s been that long; I’ve actually lost track of time. Feeling guilty, I hugged her even tighter.

This all got me thinking: Is studying medicine truly worth this detachment? Should it really consume me the way it did? If only just three months could change me this much, how can I predict the person I will be in a few years? I really couldn’t find answers to these questions, and the uncertainty frightened me. My thoughts led me to an even more frightening question: Was it the right choice to study medicine in the first place?

For one thing, despite all this, I still wouldn’t see myself studying anything else. The sense of satisfaction overwhelms me when I think that someday, I could be helping others and saving lives. However, now I understand that this satisfaction will require that I pay a big price; one cannot give life to others unless he loses a part of his own.

Feeling pessimistic, I decided to call one of my physician friends. I discussed with her my concern. She understood me and advised me not to be so hard on myself.

“It’s all new to you and what you are facing is normal. You need time to learn to manage and balance your life properly, but it is all in your hands. You have to try”, she said.

“You just have to try.” That sentence kept on echoing in my head. As I reassessed my actions in the past three months, I realized that because I was living with my parents, I, unfortunately, took their proximity for granted. I didn’t really try to have quality time with them. That, I believe, is the root of my problem.

I concluded that things need to change. The second module is coming up, and it’s my chance to improve. I promised myself that I will try my best to develop my time management skills in order to allocate time for my family. My physical presence meant nothing if I didn’t share with them their daily lives. Being focused on career goals is important but should be done in balance with other aspects of life.

Sarah B. El Iskandarani is a medical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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