On Being Complete

It’s easy to go through the motions of life until one day we wake up and wonder what we’re doing, who we are, or why we’re here.

Sometimes it’s not our goals and aspirations that are lacking but rather our feelings of self-worth in their absence. I took some time in my early 20s to figure out exactly what kind of person I needed to be in order to be fulfilled in the short-term while conquering my long-term goals. I’m even continuing to learn things now.

Here are some things I figured out: 

Try New Things

Trying new things can be difficult, even when we are consciously making an effort to venture out of our comfort zones. SO difficult, in fact, that most people don’t even think to make this a regular occurrence. While expanding your horizons almost always involves some form of risk and often requires some serious creative juices, it is well worth it in the end.

I made it my goal to try one new major experience a month. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – the experiences do not always “work out.”

Part of experiencing something new is learning to be okay when things don’t go the way you had hoped. One month I rode a beach cruiser on the streets of LA and felt on top of the world. Another month I went to a concert to dance alone and couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the freedom and solitude of being alone among a crowd. I found myself in a glass blowing class. I found myself shooting a T-shirt cannon into a crowd of hockey fans. I found myself on the top of a mountain at 2 a.m., staring at the Northern Lights and shooting stars.

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One of the most valuable things I learned from trying new experiences was that the things I was most afraid of ended up being the most rewarding.

Find Meaning

I think people dwell too much on this. Life doesn’t need to be anything more than what you think it is.

Let it be spiritual. Let it be happiness. Let it be love. Even if you find that meaninglessness is the meaning of life, let it be.

It doesn’t have to be some huge epiphany. As far as I know, the meaning of life is finding joy in small things, laughing, and showing others love. The great thing about the human condition is that we are free to believe whatever we choose. In “the end,” which implies your end, all that will matter is that you felt meaningful to yourself.  

Get Fit

Broken record, right? The funny thing about doing the healthiest possible thing for your body is that it brings along with it many opportunities to enhance your life in general.

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During a small downward spiral, I decided to join a rock climbing gym and started going to weekly organized runs. I won’t pretend that beginning a fitness journey wasn’t hard – it was.

I could hardly climb the easiest routes at the gym, and I could not run more than 8 minutes at a time. To my surprise, the people around me were willing to come down to my level in order to make sure I met my goals. As much as I hate running, I looked forward to the weekly runs because of the sense of community they gave me.

I pushed myself to try routes I assumed I couldn’t climb just because I had a crowd telling me I could. Have you ever been on the other side of a personal struggle with the impossible? There are few moments in life where I have felt as accomplished as when I looked down from the top of a route I never dreamed I could climb.

Getting fit is obviously a mode of becoming physically healthy, but it is also one of the best ways to take care of your mind. 

Make Time

I have never been as busy as I am now in medical school. During the first semester, just going to the store once every 2 weeks was a struggle because it was 1-2 hours in which I wasn’t studying or doing any of the necessary daily activities. I have learned to just “give up” when it comes to staying on top of everything.

Sometimes you need to sacrifice doing work for making playtime, no matter how guilty it makes you feel or how far behind you think you’ll be. I promise that if you do not make time to do the things you love then you will end up much more behind in the long-run.

Learn to Let Go

Quickly. Abruptly. Like scissors cutting a weight from a string. Let that sucker sink.

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Letting go of some elements of your life, no matter how toxic they may be, is hard. Toxicity doesn’t have to appear in a particular form, and it is usually inconspicuous until it suddenly makes itself as bright as day.

Maybe it’s a person who makes micro-aggressive comments toward the way you carry yourself. Maybe they lack appreciation or consideration for you. Maybe they’re perfect towards you but treat others like garbage. Whatever the problem is, know that dropping something from your life who makes you unhappy will only serve to make you happier. Sure, it is easier said than done. Then there’s this hole in your life where that thing once was. But take it from someone who has cut every person who has brought her down out of her life: no amount of fun or comfort you have with something toxic is worth the pain. 

Be Selfish

This encompasses all the points made thus far. These things are chores, and making them happen will come with some sacrifices. At no point in your journey of self should you feel that your needs are less important than someone else’s. Of course, be kind and loving. Be a good friend, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son… But never sacrifice the things that make you feel complete for the sake of somebody else. After all, how can you be there for that person if you’re not there?

You need to be your best self for you before you can be your best self for someone else. Cancel a plan with a friend to paint in solitude, if you must. Deny a phone call with your mother to go run, if you feel that’s what you really need. Tell your significant other their actions are bringing you down, even if it might hurt their feelings.

Never feel guilty for doing what you have to do to be complete.

Sarah Cain

Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Sarah Cain