Year of Yes
Once you get into medical school, it is really hard to get out. I mean, it consumes you.
Every hour of every day you are studying or thinking about studying, and while you are studying one thing you are thinking about the other things you still have to study.
It is unlike anything I have ever done.
I learned quickly that if I did not take a break to get at least 45 minutes of exercise in, I would go crazy. Therefore, my first semester turned into studying, thinking about studying, and exercising while trying not to think about studying. Tests would happen and I would take the test and then go right back to studying for my next test.
You know, thus far I have said the word “studying” eight times. And that is only 132 words in.
You get the point.
That is why, after my first Christmas break, I knew I had to get out.
When I say get out, I mean get out of the “rut”. Obviously, I am in medical school for a reason and my priority is, essentially, studying. However, I was giving myself headaches and zits were appearing in places I had never had zits before. Talk about stress.
I truly could not think about anything else. My communication with some of my oldest and best friends effectively disappeared. Come the New Year, I wanted to make a resolution, but I didn’t have a specific one in mind - so I came up with a different kind of idea. I am calling it my “year of yes.”
Now if anybody knows Shonda Rhimes, creator of the television shows “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal”, and “How to Get Away with Murder”, they know she wrote a book with the same title. And yes, that is where I got it. It is such a good idea! (Also, such a good book.)
I recognized that I had to allow myself to say “yes” to things outside of studying and outside of medical school, because I felt myself becoming someone I did not particularly want to be. As I stated a few sentences ago, school is my priority and I still work really stinking hard. While I have learned how the heart works, how the lungs work, and that I definitely do not want to be a dermatologist, I have also learned that taking a break every now and then helps me to be even more successful.
Some people can do it -- the whole “study all day and all night” thing. Some people get stressed out thinking about not studying. While I do not want to try to convince people to change something that hopefully is working for them, I want those people to know that it is okay to take a break.
That is the one thing I have heard from just about every second, third, and fourth year student I’ve spoken with: “find time to do things for yourself.”
Finally, I decided to take their advice.
I started by trying to do little things, like reading for pleasure. I am not even halfway through a book.
I thought maybe studying outside would help, but… well, winter happened.
Thankfully, I found friends that were similar in their thinking and we made big efforts to explore this little city of Yakima. I will be the first to admit that Yakima was not exactly on the top of my list of places I wanted to move, but I have found this city has its perks, especially if you like to drink beer, hike, drink wine, and eat Mexican food. I have been lucky enough to meet people that are true Yakima natives who have shown me some hidden spots.
I would like to petition for a few more coffee shops to study at (and maybe a Trader Joe’s) but, for now, I’ll take what I can get.
I feel my stress level is maintained at a pretty high level being a medical student, but when I am driving in my car with the music loud to simply go and get dinner with some friends, I feel myself relax a bit. If nothing else, that is a break in and of itself. It feels strange to say, but I have even considered exploring the skill of mindfulness and meditation, although I do not think I have quite reached the “yogi” level yet.
Anytime I can feel my heart rate decrease – even if only for a short moment -- I know I’ve said “yes” to a good thing.
At the time of this writing, my “Year of Yes" has already led me to rock climb, learn how to ski, drive home for spontaneous weekends, and try some really good wine (shameless plug: we have a professor that can talk your ear off about wine, and he would recommend you check Grocery Outlet for good deals).
A few friends and I had a Super Bowl party, a few game nights, and even participated in karaoke (now that was a good time). I signed up for Paint Nite with a friend (aka Paint-n-Sip, aka paint a specific piece taught by an instructor while sipping whatever beverage you prefer).
I drove to Seattle for a day to see an old friend from undergrad. I spent time at the local animal shelter to walk dogs. I joined the leadership team of a couple of clubs on campus, which has already led me to interact with the Yakima community in a bigger way.
I am doing fun things and I'm still passing medical school.
It's funny thinking about how my “Year of Yes” got started, and sitting here writing this I am realizing how big of an impact saying “yes” to what seemed like silly things has really changed my attitude.
I would be lying if I said I was not thinking about a few of the things I should be studying right now, but I am home with my family. I’m taking a break.
I am saying “yes” to something else, for the sake of my focus and my sanity. As I type these final words, I’m not thinking about studying. Instead, I’m preparing to throw on a coat and take my dog for a walk.
I’ll still learn the nerve supply to the intestines, but it will have to wait for now.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences