So the year 2013 draws to an end– a year I knew would be full of many changes. As I now finish my first semester of medical school, it is hard to believe that this was the same year that I graduated from my undergraduate college, went on vacation across Orlando with my family, and started medical school in a new city. College has truly been the best thing to happen to me, with the past four years being packed with new experiences and valuable life lessons. Medical school has proved to be no different on the “life lesson” front, though some of life’s happenings that once felt fresh and adventurous during undergrad have lost a bit of their luster simply because I have become accustomed them over the years. Nevertheless, medical school has managed to test my entire being in a way it hasn’t been before, allowing me to deeply reflect on myself and to alter some of my perceptions about the life I am now leading.
I have to reiterate– it simply blows my mind that in the springtime of this same year, I was still living in our old apartment, dragging myself out of bed to waste time in my last few classes to graduate, and lounging around on the living room sofa to watch Charlie play (and rage at) video games. Since then, it has been clearly evident that I have less free time than I did before. Interestingly enough, I thought I did not have that much free time even as a pre-medical student, but now the amount of work I did back then seems like a pittance compared to what I do now. I regularly start school at 8 AM and end at 5 PM, covering over a hundred slides a day– it’s a routine that I have very slowly become accustomed to. It just goes to show that a lot can change in a year.
The free time issue is something that my med-student friends and I really grappled with this semester. Even though it seems like “just another year” to people like me (and the majority of my friends) who did not take any break between high-school/undergrad or undergrad/med-school, there is a huge change in lifestyle akin to going off to college for the first time. It is pretty jarring, and when the novelty of “being at medical school” wore off, the realization that one does not have much free time anymore was a little… dampening.
[I’m] noticing my heart is less in it now . . . that the novelty has worn off
— Cameron, a former room mate, now at Hofstra Medical School
I would be the last person who would be influenced by others to “grow up” as I simply have never subscribed to the mindset that “once you are a certain age, you cannot do certain things anymore.” I have always done what makes me happy, or what captures my interest, while at the same time doing what I “need to do” in life such as maintaining my studies. However, I have also noticed that one tends to get somewhat pushed out of certain categories and into others as they mature (not grow older): for example, simply by virtue of medical school’s demanding schedule, I cannot just sit and burn time like I could in high school or some days in undergrad. This immediately rules out the possibility in participating in certain activities such as playing an MMORPG all day or marathoning a season of anime; it’s not that I would no longer like to do these things, but my obligations have essentially “outgrown” my capacity to do them.
Nmrn: Why do you feel you need a break from people?
Cmrn: [I] don’t need a break, i just have less interest in seeing them . . . [if I could] i’d rather play guitar or video games in [my] free time . . keep better contact with you . . . etc
— Conversation between me and Cameron
Medical students lead a very fast-paced lifestyle. At my school in fact, we have a test of some sort every 1-2 weeks which still manages to somehow feel like adequate time between tests (the schedule matches our momentum I suppose). The side effect of this however makes a lot of things seem slow in comparison… Take holidays for example: even one day off from school almost feels like I was on vacation for a week.
I recently had to stop and think carefully in order to make a few decisions on how to regard my free time. Part of the way people are able to cope with having less free time is by placing increased value on their work. To be honest, this was a little difficult for me (and Cameron)– don’t get us wrong, we feel very privileged to be in medical school, but the fact is that we got accepted in a far easier manner than most medical school applicants. Many people have to work their tails off to do extra years of schooling or clinical work before even getting admitted; the average age for an entering medical student is around 27 or 28. For these people, finally getting into medical school was a huge thing while for us it was just another year of school. Once again, I am not in any way taking my admission for granted, but I can also see how others may automatically value “medical school” more than I would at first glance. Thus, I sought to seek more joy in my work instead of seeking the majority of my satisfaction in my free time.
[I] know i really need to be more grateful . . i easily take it for granted
To help do this, I had to make a fairly large sacrifice in my social interaction. It just… wasn’t my place anymore to spend the majority of my free time with people whose lives were at a far slower pace compared to mine (do you recall what I mentioned earlier about “outgrowing” the capacity to do certain things?) so I instead opted to spend a larger chunk of my social time with my peers at school. This mainly applied to some of my internet friends, as my schedule did not particularly allow me much time to physically be social with people too much anyways. As a result, I ended up making the difficult decision to leave the IRC chatroom that I had been a part of since 2008.
I do not bear any ill will towards any of my friends there, but it would just be so frustrating for me to always come back to the channel where people are doing the same exact things that they have been doing for years. There were a number of people in there that I did respect (which incidentally would tend to be some of the ones that would talk least probably because they did not have time to kill on IRC) but there were a few (one especially) that were just such… losers… that it would be painful to stay in the channel for too long. It was a rather pathetic display– wasting away at home, just sitting and burning time all day to play games and watch anime, putting “work” into things such as MMOs diligently as if they were accomplishing something (also forgetting the fact that games should be a form of entertainment/recreation)… I just didn’t feel a part of that culture anymore and felt a little uncomfortable witnessing it go on. I still keep in touch with some of my closer friends from #Onigiri, but the experience overall was mind-clearing.
I understand everyone has their own reasons for the way they live, and again I do not dislike any of them because of their choices, but I realized that it was no longer a place for me. The IRC channel was not the only “subculture” that I have found myself waning away from– even gaming and anime subcultures have sort of lost their appeal. Digesting new anime, watching subs, caring about aspects of Japanese language/culture, nerding over gaming strategies, getting worked up over new releases… it all seems so petty to really bother with anymore. They feel like things from a by-gone period such as “highschool” when they still felt “important,” when I could still burn away my time thinking about them. Now when I see such communities online, I’ll browse through them but without the “magic” I felt when I used to– it just feels frivolous now.
It almost makes me want to apologize that real life is “getting in the way” of these things, but really I suppose it is the other way around. These side activities… they always were literally things to do on the side— things to do during free time. I apologize that I am unable to save my pay check (if I could even work) to buy the newest games and consoles.
Still though, it is very important to realize that I am not moving away from these things consciously or because I feel pressured to “mature.” It is a very automatic process where my obligations are beginning to encompass my spare time to the point that some of my previous leisure-activities are just beginning to lose their appeal. It is a bit of a startling dynamic which I guess ultimately pushes people further through life by spurring people to get married, have children, etc… ideas that cannot even compute in my head right now.
I do believe I have made the right choices (at least for the ones that actually were conscious choices) and I will probably come to be more thankful for doing so in the future; medical school is simply an investment after all for a stable career and lifestyle. It’s not like I am completely giving up the things I love to do– I just can no longer afford to mindlessly do them all day. I draw comfort in the fact that there are others feeling the effects of this cataclysm as well. It is a difficult time, but life progresses, I still have my friends, and medical school brings interesting experiences all the time. I believe that my life and my perception of it will continue stabilize this coming year (goodness knows it has already steadied from the tumult that it was originally) as medical school gets further assimilated into my being. Here’s to 2014– a lot can happen.
Cmrn: goodnight buddy . . . sleep well, when you get around to it
Nmrn: hehe eventually. Night.
— Conversation between me and Cameron